GULLANE, Scotland — A blue sky and a gentle breeze usually means ripe scoring conditions at the British Open. Just not on the brown links of Muirfield.
Zach Johnson handled it better than anyone Thursday. Helped along by a 45-foot eagle putt and only one bogey despite trouble lurking around every pot bunker, Johnson had a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead, the first time he has been atop the leaderboard at any major since he rallied to win the Masters six years ago.
Tiger Woods more than survived the late end of the draw, after the sun had thoroughly baked out the crispy greens and allowed only eight of the 20 rounds under par. He knocked one putt clear off the green, but 10 one-putts – most of them for pars – carried him to a 69.
And for all the talk about Muirfield's men-only membership, at least the club doesn't discriminate against age. Mark O'Meara, the 56-year-old who won his claret jug in 1998 at Royal Birkdale, shot a 67 and nearly tied Johnson for the lead until his 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th took a hard spin out of the cup. Another former champion, 54-year-old Tom Lehman, opened with a 68.
It was an eclectic group who broke par, from major champions to players making their British Open debut. What they all had in common was finding a way to get through a firm, fast and frightening test at Muirfield that figures to get even harder if the Royal & Ancient doesn't put some water on the links course.
Phil Mickelson opened with a 69 and felt as if he got off easy by playing in the morning. Mickelson was concerned about some hole locations being too close to the edge of slopes, and he pleaded with the R&A to let go of its ego and "just set the course up the way the best players can win."
Rafael Cabrera-Bello joined O'Meara at 67, while the group at 68 included Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker. Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who lost in a playoff at the Masters in April, and 19-year-old Jordan Spieth were in the group at 69.
SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) – Alison Walshe, chasing her first victory in four years on the LPGA Tour, shot a 6-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the steamy Marathon Classic.
Walshe, in the top 20 on tour in putting statistics, needed only 22 putts to negotiate hot and humid Highland Meadows. Paula Creamer, the 2008 winner of what used to be known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, played later in the day and shot a 66 that left her tied with Lexi Thompson and Canadian Jessica Shepley.
Top-ranked Inbee Park birdied her final two holes for a 67. Defending champ So Yeon Ryu had a 68, and Se Ri Pak, a five-time winner of the tournament, opened with a 69.
SANDERSON FARMS CHAMPIONSHIP
MADISON, Miss. (AP) – Daniel Summerhays rebounded from a disappointing finish last week in Illinois to take the lead in the rain-delayed first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Four days after squandering the final-round lead in the John Deere Classic, Summerhays shot a 9-under 63 to open a three-stroke lead. He had an eagle and seven birdies in a bogey-free round in steamy conditions at Annandale Golf Club.
Will Claxton, Michael Bradley and Jonathan Randolph shot 66.
The entire afternoon group was unable to finish because of storms that hit the course in suburban Jackson. Kevin Kisner was the top player in the afternoon session, playing the first six holes in 4 under.
U.S. AMATEUR PUBLIC LINKS
LORTON, Va. (AP) – China's Dou Zecheng beat fellow 16-year-old Sam Horsfield of England 1 up in the U.S. Amateur Public Links to advance to the quarterfinals.
Dou took the lead with a par on the par-3 16th at Laurel Hill and matched Horsfield with a par on the par-4 and a birdie on the par-5 18th to close out the match.
Dou will face Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, Wis. Niebrugge beat Canada's Justin Shin 5 and 3 in the third round.