The Norman Transcript

National Sports

July 19, 2013

Zach Johnson handling the brown links of Muirfield

(Continued)

GULLANE, Scotland —

Phil Mickelson opened with a 69 and felt like 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.”

Some of the best did just fine.

“Anytime you shoot under par in an Open — or a major, for that matter — you have to be putting at least somewhat decent,” Johnson said. “And I putted great. I made some nice birdie putts and obviously that one for eagle. But I struck some really nice, solid par putts. That’s what you’ve got to do to stay in it.”

Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain joined O’Meara at 67, while the group at 68 included Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, who each have contended on Sunday over the last two years in the Open. 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.

It was a beautiful day along the Firth of Forth. And it was hard work.

No one felt safe until the ball stopped bouncing along the crusty fairways, and no one was sure when that would happen.

“I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Snedeker, who tied the 36-hole Open record a year ago at Lytham. “I’ve played in, I think, five Opens. This is completely new to me — foreign to see a 2-iron going 300 yards. You have got to be wary of how you’re shaping your golf ball, and what shot selections you’re using on the greens.”

O’Meara thought he hit a reasonable bunker shot on the 15th until it kept rolling — and rolling — off the green and into another bunker.

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