Z. Johnson (66) leads Open amid firm conditions


With firm and fast conditions causing many players to question the course's setup, the season's third major got underway Thursday at Muirfield Golf Club. Here's the skinny heading into the second round of the 142nd Open Championship, where Zach Johnson leads by a shot:

Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-5), Mark O'Meara (-4), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-4), Dustin Johnson (-3), Brandt Snedeker (-3), Miguel Angel Jimenez (-3), Tom Lehman (-3), Shiv Kapur (-3), Tiger Woods (-2), Phil Mickelson (-2)

What it means: Most of the lower scores Thursday came during the morning wave, including Johnson's, as the links venue became baked to a crisp by the time the afternoon players teed off. While the weather appeared ideal for spectators, players had difficulty holding the firm fairways or getting their balls to stop around the hole while putting. As a result, first-round scores were somewhat higher than anticipated.

Round of the day: Coming off a playoff loss at the John Deere Classic, Johnson played his first seven holes Thursday in 5 under, highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole. Riding a hot putter, the former Masters champ kept up the pace on the inward half, dropping only one shot all day while grabbing an early lead in this event for the second year in a row.

Best of the rest: Fifteen years after hoisting the claret jug at Royal Birkdale, O'Meara turned back the clock with a 67 that included holing a lengthy eagle putt at the par-5 17th hole. He caught fire early in his round, with birdies on four of his first six holes, and the 56-year-old remains near the top of the leaderboard despite a trio of back-nine bogeys.

Biggest disappointment: While Rory McIlroy likely gained the most attention for his 8-over 79, he still finished one shot clear of Luke Donald, who was unable to break 80. The Englishman's forgettable scorecard included six bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey. The 9-over 80 matched Donald's worst-ever score in a major.

Main storyline heading into Friday: What, if anything, will the R&A do to soften the grounds at Muirfield? With no rain in the forecast, conditions are expected to only become faster, and after a day where each of the top two players in the world were notably seen putting balls off the green, questions abound about the fairness of the first-round setup. Players that struggled through the afternoon wave Thursday will likely have the better of things Friday morning, including Woods.

Shot of the day: Ready to bring an underwhelming round to a conclusion, Charl Schwartzel gave the fans around the 18th green reason to cheer, holing out his third shot from a greenside bunker. The birdie salvaged a 4-over 75 for the former Masters champion, whose day will likely be better remembered for a shot on the 15th hole after which he threw his 6-iron, snapping the club in half. 

Quote of the day: 'The greens are dying, and the holes are on edges of slopes that the ball just simply won't stay. You drop it, it won't stay by the hole.” – Mickelson