Open Championship 2013 blog

It’s clear from the early exchanges at Muirfield that putting is going to be the key to success this week. Now that sounds an obvious statement and it could apply for every tournament, any week. But there’s a little more too it on the links here.

With the ground so firm and the greens fast-running, particularly downhill and away from the hole, it’s extremely difficult to set the ball dead. Watching the early play, so many pitches and first putts are just running an extra couple of feet, leaving players with much more work to tidy up. Anyone with a slightly dodgy stroke, or tender nerves, is going to seriously struggle this week.

In addition, the speed of the surfaces means the subtle slopes are exaggerated. There seems to be quite a bit of movement on even some of the shortest putts.

So, yes, putting will be important but not in the usual tournament fashion. Avoiding three putts and holing the scrambled chances for par will be as key as rolling in 20 and 30 footers for birdies. I’m expecting to see those good at holing out near the top of the boards – think Snedeker, McDowell and Poulter.

Rory McIlroy still doesn’t look totally at ease out there. Now I know he’s had his issues in recent months with equipment and personnel changes, but I can’t help thinking he’d feel a lot more comfortable if he wore some proper clothes. Today’s outfit comprises a pair of sludge-grey trousers that look too tight but aren’t fitted, a very shiny white polo shirt with toxic-waste green trim and two black dots on his collar-bones that look like holes. The icing on this sartorial Eton Mess is a pair of golf shoes that look like something Mo Farah would wear if he were entering a fancy-dress fun run.

Could somebody please run out and hand Rory a nice pair of brogues, some tailored slacks and a soft cotton polo shirt. He could change in one of the players’ lavs and I reckon he’d play the back nine in 31.

Phil Mickelson’s looking pretty calm and composed. He’s confident that this will be his week and, given he’s one of the very few players in the field that I haven’t put any money on, he might just be right.

Lloyd Saltman’s finished with a 79 after starting with two balls out-of-bounds from the first tee. Can you imagine how that would feel? You’ve been preparing for the Championship for weeks in advance, your practice has gone well, you’ve managed your emotions and you’re ready to rock. You stand on the first tee and make two wild swings and you’ve immediately given the field a five shot head start. His mind must have been scrambled after that and, to be honest, I think he did bloody well to break 80.