Johnson back in contention, Day fires at Open
Dustin Johnson just will not go away and nor does he want to.
A month after experiencing a third Major Championship heartache, Johnson bounced back to lead The Open Championship at St Andrews.
Dustin Johnson is back in contention following the first round of the 2015 Open Championship (Credit:www.golffile.ie)
The big-hitting American fired a seven under 65 over the Old Course for a one-stroke advantage over the field, but Jordan Spieth – the man who denied him in the US Open at Chambers Bay – is only two shots back as he chases a historic calendar grand slam.
Paired together by the R&A following their final round tussle in the US Open, which saw Johnson three-putt the final green as Spieth won his second Major of the year, they matched each other virtually shot-for-shot over the first 12 holes.
They were tied at six under until Spieth, who is also the Masters champion, was the first to blink with a bogey at the 13th.
Johnson extended the gap to two with a birdie at the only par five on the back nine, the 14th, and produced important saves at the 16th and 17th.
His advantage over Spieth was stretched to three when his compatriot went into the Road Hole bunker and subsequently missed a five footer for par.
However, there was one last sting in the tail at the last – although not as painful as last month’s 72nd-hole drama – when Spieth sank a curling 20 footer for birdie and Johnson saw his effort from a similar position roll across the face of the hole.
Such were the scoring conditions for the morning starters there were a host of players in the clubhouse at six under – another Chambers Bay combatant Jason Day, Robert Streb, Retief Goosen and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie – with amateur Jordan Niebrugge, Kevin Na, 2010 winner Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel a further shot back with Spieth.
But the main focus was the enthralling contest between Johnson, who carded the day’s only eagle with a brilliant approach to the 570 yard fifth, and Spieth.
Johnson said on Monday he had no hang-ups about his Chambers Bay near-miss and his opening round at the home of golf suggested as much.
“Nothing bad happened at Chambers Bay, so I wasn’t disappointed, really,” Johnson said.
“I did everything I was supposed to. I couldn’t control what the ball was doing on the greens there.”
“There’s really no bad feelings from that, only good. I played really well and then it carried over to today.”
“Any time you shoot 65 it is very pleasing. I thought I played well today I made two key par putts on 16 and 17.”
With all the focus on Spieth as he seeks to become the first man to win the first three Majors of the year, the 21 year old was satisfied with the way he opened up, having arrived late on Monday following his trans-Atlantic flight after victory at the John Deere Classic.
“I am very pleased with the start. It was certainly nice to finish that way,” he said.
“If Dustin keeps driving the way he is I’m going to have to be at my best to have a chance. He doesn’t really play badly, ever.”
Fellow American Zach Johnson, meanwhile, overtook Spieth on his way to six under through ten holes to gain a share of second place.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 winner at St Andrews, continued his return to form after his runners-up finish in the US Open with a 67 to move himself to five under.
He has not shot worse than 71 in his last 11 rounds on the Old Course and is a combined 48 under par for the historic links in that time.
Jason Day leads the 15-strong Aussie attack after firing a bogey free 6-under 66. The Queenslander sits in a tie for second and just one shot behind Johnson.
This is the first time Day has shot a number in the 60′s in his four appearances at The Open where his best finish has been a T30 in 2011.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of eyes on me. I just wanted to make sure I played solid out there,” said Day.
“I feel good. I’m not thinking about falling over on my face again. It’s good,” Day added. “I’m not worrying about it.”
Matt Jones is another two shots back in equal 13th after a 4-under 68 while Greg Chalmers, Steven Bowditch and Adam Scott all opened their accounts with rounds of 2-under 70.
“Under par was important for me today as far as the big scheme of this tournament goes,” said Adam Scott after his round.
“Because if I finish 5, 5, 4, all of a sudden I’m just grinding to even make the weekend tomorrow.”