GULLANE, Scotland —
“Every hole is playing hard,” Johnson said. “You don’t get any breaks. You’ve really got to grind it out. It’s tough off the tee. It’s tough on your approach shot and it’s tough putting.”
Phil Mickelson was in range of the lead until a four-putt on the 16th hole, his second double bogey of the day. That was one hole after Mickelson made a par putt that would have gone 15 feet by if he had missed.
Zach Johnson couldn’t think of too many poor shots he hit in the blazing sunshine, except maybe for a pitching wedge he punched from 158 yards that bounded over the back of the 15th green. He chipped to 10 feet and took three putts from there for a double bogey, and he dropped one more shot on the final hole for a 75.
“I enjoy difficult tests,” said Johnson, who won the 2007 Masters in the toughest conditions at Augusta in more than 50 years. “I think everyone does. ‘Fun’ ... you’ve got to use that term loosely. What’s fun about it is that we don’t see this but once a year.”
The reference was to links golf, though such brown, brittle conditions have not been seen at the Open since Hoylake in 2006, and the greens there weren’t nearly that quick. Mickelson said the Muirfield greens in these conditions were faster than Augusta.
Jimenez, who was at 3-under 139, has his own definition.
“The fun does not mean you have the biggest smile and start laughing all day,” he said. “Fun is when you enjoy what you’re doing. I play golf and I enjoy it. And it’s fun to me, no? Sometimes you can see me serious because of a situation, but having fun doesn’t mean that you are falling on the ground and start laughing.”
What about leading the British Open, with a chance at 49 to be the oldest major champion in golf history?
“Then you put the smile on the face,” he said.