The Open leaderboard: 4 overreactions to the first round at Royal Liverpool

HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Tommy Fleetwood of England acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green on Day One of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Tommy Fleetwood of England acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green on Day One of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20, 2023 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

The Open leaderboard: Overreactions to the first round of The Open Championship featuring Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy and more. 

It’s only early on Thursday evening in the United States, but 25% of The Open Championship in 2023 is now completed with the conclusion of the first round at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. And if you had Christon Lamprecht — a graduated amateur from Georgia Tech who looks NBA ready if he added 30 pounds — and Emiliano Grillo being tied atop The Open leaderboard after the 18 holes of action with one of the second-tier favorites, Tommy Fleetwood, then good on ya.

With that said, it was a bit of a surprising day. Hoylake didn’t give the players much to really attack as a solid 80% of the field, give or take, ended up not being able to break par on the day. As windy and conditions are expected to take more hold throughout the weekend, that could make chasing a bit more difficult.

But enough of that. What did we see today that will make us prognosticate and speculate wildly about the three rounds at The Open Championship still to come? Let’s overreaction, but only after we take a look at the top of The Open leaderboard after Thursday’s first round.

The Open leaderboard after Round 1

Let’s run through the Top 20 on The Open leaderboard (and ties) after the first 18 holes at Hoylake.

  • T1. Christon Lamprecht (-5)
  • T1. Tommy Fleetwood (-5)
  • T1. Emiliano Grillo (-5)
  • T4. Antoine Rozner (-4)
  • T4. Adrian Otaegui (-4)
  • T4. Brian Harman (-4)
  • T7. Stewart Cink (-3)
  • T7. Wyndham Clark (-3)
  • T7. Alex Noren (-3)
  • T7. Mas Homa (-3)
  • T7. Shubhankar Sharma (-3)
  • T7. Michael Stewart (-3)
  • T13. Matthew Jordan (-2)
  • T13. Jordan Spieth (-2)
  • T13. Si Woo Kim (-2)
  • T13. Alexander Bjork (-2)
  • T13. Guido Migliozzi (-2)
  • T13. Oliver Wilson (-2)
  • T19. Patrick Reed (-1)
  • T19. Thomas Pieters (-1)
  • T19. Patrick Cantlay (-1)
  • T19. Brooks Koepka (-1)
  • T19. Hideki Matsuyama (-1)
  • T19. Scottie Scheffler (-1)
  • T19. Xander Schauffele (-1)
  • T19. Richard Bland (-1)
  • T19. Romain Langasque (-1)
  • T19. David Lingmerth (-1)
  • T19. Keegan Bradley (-1)
  • T19. Sungjae Im (-1)
  • T19. Viktor Hovland (-1)

That leaves us with 31 players under par at The Open Championship after the first round. But now let’s get into the meat of this as we get into making fools of ourselves with some overreactions to what we saw in the first round on Thursday morning (in the states).

The Open Championship: X overreactions to first round at Royal Liverpool

4. Sorry, Tommy Lad — the leaders will fade

One thing that I often look for when it comes to major championships from the best players in the world is for their ball-striking to be there. And when it comes to Fleetwood, Lamprecht and Grillo, all three were inside the Top 20 in the field on Thursday in ball-striking strokes gained.

Here’s the thing, though. Fleetwood, though he has plenty of yellow on his Wikipedia page for Top 10 finishes at majors, has rarely, if ever, been in the front of the pack. That is definitively true for the other co-leaders in this type of tournament as well.

Leaderboard gravity is a dumb term a lot of the time, but it’s easy to buy into at majors. That’s especially true when you consider that all three guys are going to be playing later in the day on Friday for the second round, which could mean more wind and tougher conditions.

Fleetwood would probably be the only player in this group that there would be some pushback on about fading on Friday or going into the weekend. While his ball-striking numbers were good, though, Tommy Lad was also fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Thursday. That’s hard to sustain, even for a good, fine putter. And it has me believing that he’ll fall back a bit, though probably not as hard as his top-of-the-leaderboard peers.

3. Should Justin Thomas be on the Korn Ferry Tour?

Obviously, this is hyperbolic. But man, it’s ugly right now for Justin Thomas.

Completing his round by carding a 9 on the final hole on Thursday, JT is now +11 and sitting at T153 on the leaderboard, meaning that only one player in the 156-player field (Taichi Kho at +12) shot worse than a guy who won the PGA Championship last year. If that weren’t eye-popping enough, after his blow-up at LACC, his last two rounds in major championships have been in the 80s.

Outside of a T9 at the Travelers, Thomas has seemingly no clue where his game is. He was below-average but fine on approach in the first round at Royal Liverpool, but the putter was an unmitigated disaster, losing nearly 4.0 strokes on the greens, and the driver wasn’t too much better.

JT has long been a player who has some pretty big variations and swings to his game. But this is a new low for him right now and, though I do believe he’ll pull out of this funk at some point, it’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel with the way that he’s currently playing.

2. Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, heavy-hitters are lurking for a run

Let me go ahead and rattle off to you some names that were Top 30 in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking on Thursday and are within five strokes of the lead at Even or better: Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Wyndham Clark, Shane Lowry, Max Homa, and Cameron Young.

That’s, uh, quite the chase pack. And that’s a group that could be dangerous.

While I remain dubious of Scheffler’s chances because the putter looked awful on Thursday as it’s been a problem for him for some time now (which makes his run of seven consecutive Top 5s all the more incredible), the fact that Hovland, Rory, Lowry and Young all lost strokes on the greens today tells me that they are lurking.

All four of those guys, with maybe the exception of Young, are a bit volatile with the flat stick, whereas Young is more in line with Scheffler where it’s just been an outright problem. And with them striking the ball tee-to-green the way they are right now, if they get something rolling, they could be the ones to post scores that others don’t and get themselves in the mix to lift the Claret Jug.

1. Give me in-course OB in every single tournament, my word

This really isn’t related to anything about the way the tournament could shake out, but rather just an observation: My word, I f**king love in-course OB. Watching guys like Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, among many, many others, hit it too far right into the rough on the 18th hole, while heartbreaking to some degree, was absolutely sick.

When it comes to the highest level of golf, which is what major championships should be all about, you want to see players rewarded for good and great shots while being penalized for substantial misses. Too often, because of the way these courses, even in majors, are set up, that isn’t the case. Guys can blast a drive off of the planet and still be able to find and play their second shot — but not with these boundaries, and it’s costly if that does happen too.

Give me this at the 3M Open, The Masters, the damn PNC Championship with Charlie Woods; give it to me every single time. This makes golf an even bigger test on the biggest stages and it truly helps to identify the best golfer of the week.

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