J.B. Holmes Shoots 5-Under, Grabs First Round Lead at the Open Championship

Posted on: July 19, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: July 18, 2019, 02:15h.

J.B. Holmes shot a 5-under-par 66 to take the early lead after the first round of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

British Open Championship Holmes
J.B. Holmes shot a 66 to grab the lead after the first-round at the Open Championship. (Image: Getty)

Holmes holds a one-shot advantage over Ireland’s Shane Lowry, with more than a dozen players including betting favorite Brooks Koepka tied for third at 3-under.

Holmes Has Previous Open Championship Success

While Holmes wasn’t pegged as a likely winner heading into the British Open, his early success has seen his odds tighten to 33/1 at William Hill. But while the world at large might be surprised to see him near the leaderboard after missing seven consecutive cuts earlier this season, Holmes says he came into the tournament feeling like he could perform well.

“I’ve been practicing the last couple of weeks. I’ve been playing great,” Holmes said after the first round. “So actually, I felt great coming in.”

Holmes has had success at the Open Championship before. Back in 2016, he finished third in the event, behind only winner Henrik Stenson and runner-up Phil Mickelson.

“That was a great week for me,” Holmes said of that experience. “So that’s definitely a boost. I learned a lot playing in that event.”

McIlroy, Woods Struggle at British Open

The opening round didn’t go nearly as well for two of the biggest names in the field. Rory McIlroy shot a 79, virtually playing himself out of contention on Thursday. The round started with a quadruple-bogey on the first hole, and finished with a triple-bogey on the last, meaning the pre-tournament favorite – now listed at 200/1 to win – will have his work cut out for him just to make the cut.

It was obviously a disappointing day,” McIlroy said afterwards. “I didn’t put it in the fairway enough to play. I kept saying that in the [Wednesday] press conference, ‘You need to put the ball in the fairway here if you want to do well,’ and I didn’t do that enough today to create enough scoring opportunities.”

Tiger Woods (250/1) had nearly as bad a start, posting a 78 on Thursday. It’s his worst first round ever at the British Open, and Woods appeared to be struggling with physical issues throughout the day.

“I’m just not moving as well as I’d like,” Woods remarked after the round. “And unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it.”

The day wasn’t bad for everyone, however, as 42 players managed to post scores below par despite the windy and sometimes rainy conditions.

Koepka Now Favored to Win at Portrush

Chief among those is Koepka, who is just two shots off the lead. With McIlroy out of contention already, Koepka has become the clear favorite, with William Hill now posting him as a 7/2 pick to win the tournament heading into Friday’s play.

The second choice is now Jon Rahm (13/2), who is also sitting at 3-under par. Tommy Fleetwood (12/1), Justin Rose (14/1), and Lowry (16/1), all of whom are below par after Thursday, round out the top five favorites according to William Hill.

Friday will be a critical day both for those fighting for the lead and those far down in the standings. After the second round, only players who are in the top 70 (including ties) will make the cut and continue on to the final two rounds over the weekend.