Published July 19, 2012
| Sports Network
Lytham St. Annes, England – The last player to win on the PGA Tour the week before the British Open, then go on to hoist the Claret Jug was Lee Trevino in 1971.
Zach Johnson wasn't even born when that happened, but he put himself in position to match Trevino's feat.
On Thursday, Johnson, who won the John Deere Classic on Sunday, fired a 5- under 65 and is tied for second, just one shot behind first-round leader Adam Scott.
"I had a good week last week with my coach, both on the range and on the golf course," said Johnson, whose coach Mike Bender carried the bag for Johnson while usual looper Damon Green was playing in the U.S. Senior Open. "We did some good things. Starting to see some of that work pay off."
Johnson's only major victory came at the 2007 Masters when the wind was blowing and conditions were demanding. He famously didn't go after a single par-5 in two shots.
If the wind blows like it was supposed to, Johnson could be an interesting name as the week rolls on.
ODD DAY FOR RORY
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy was cruising along on Thursday with six straight pars, then back-to-back birdies at Nos. 7 and 8. He bogeyed the 10th, but atoned with consecutive birdies at 11 and 12.
He was 3-under par and in great shape until disaster struck in more ways than one at the 15th.
McIlroy's drive headed right and hit a patron right in the head. The man was down, and in yet another unfortunate circumstance, McIlroy's ball bounced out of bounds.
"It was a bit unlucky," McIlroy said in a televised interview. "The most important thing was that he was OK."
McIlroy signed a glove for the shaken spectator, then made a seemingly disastrous double bogey.
Steamed after what happened at 15, McIlroy hit driver on 16 and made birdie.
"Driver was never the play for me on 16 all week, but I was a little bit frustrated," McIlroy said on TV.
The 2011 U.S. Open champion birdied the last to sign for a 3-under 67. He's right in the mix with players like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Masters champion Bubba Watson and good buddy Graeme McDowell.
The group is three behind Scott.
ROUGH DAY FOR PHIL
Phil Mickelson surprisingly contended for this title last year. That was a rarity, but he put in extra work for this week's Open Championship, including teeing it up at the Scottish Open last week, and good things were expected.
The four-time major champion was 1-under through four holes, but trouble loomed at the par-5 seventh. Mickelson drove into the thick stuff and took an unplayable. He walked off with double bogey, then the bad play ran down hill.
Mickelson hit an iron into the front of a pot bunker at the eighth and his ball narrowly escaped the sand. After a long search which saw Lefty on his hands and knees looking for the ball that barely advanced a few feet, he took a drop. Mickelson then hit a great shot and was able to save bogey.
He bogeyed nine, birdied 10 and bogeyed 12. When you finally add it up, Mickelson posted a 3-over 73 and is tied for 99th place.
"I putted poorly, and I drove it horrific and the chipping was below average," said Mickelson.
* Senior British Open champion Russ Cochran withdrew Thursday and was replaced in the field by Michael Thompson, who tied for second at this year's U.S. Open.
* Defending champion Darren Clarke, who won his first major title last year at Royal St. George's, struggled to a 6-over 76 on Thursday and will need a good round Friday to make the cut.
* Tom Watson, a five-time British Open winner, shot a 1-over 71 and is tied for 54th.
* Amateur Manuel Trappel is low amateur after a 4-over 74. The only other amateur in the field, Alan Dunbar, was one shot worse thanks to a 5-over 75.
* David Duval won the Open Championship the last time Royal Lytham hosted 11 years ago, and on Thursday, he shot a 4-over 74.
* Brandt Snedeker and Bob Estes made it through the first round without making a bogey. Snedeker is fifth at 4-under 66, while Estes shares 22nd at 1-under par.
* The most difficult hole in Thursday's first round was the par-4 sixth. It played to an average of 4.54.
* Thursday's easiest hole was the par-5 seventh, which played to an average of 4.75.