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The previous two big winners of the season will need a turnaround if they are to make a brace in 2021, with Mickelson shooting a 10 of 80 – his worst ever start to a major – and Rahm battling for a 1 in 71.
The man the duo both conquered – South African Louis Oosthuizen – began his quest to improve on his back-to-back main finalists with a 6-under-64. This left these players on the wrong side of par with an uphill battle as 73 of 154 players opened the championship at par or better.
Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Fitzpatrick and defending champion Shane Lowry were among those who joined Rahm at 1, while Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed are at 2. Recent PGA TOUR winners Garrick Higgo (73), Patrick Cantlay (74), Marc Leishman (75), Harris English (75) and Lucas Glover (75) also struggled.
Rory McIlroy needed a birdie on the last hole to shoot a par 70.
Mickelson’s 80 was his worst round at the Open – which he won in 2013 – since an 85 in the third round of the 1998 tournament. These represent just two of the 93 rounds of the Open where the veteran did failed to break 80.
Five bogeys out of the top nine started to hurt as the six-time major winner hit 40 and five more abandoned shots in his last six holes, including a closing double bogey, left him tied for the last in the peloton of 154 players.
Spaniard Rahm was the pre-tournament favorite after his impressive US Open win at Torrey Pines last month, but he got lost at the ninth hole when he failed to escape a fairway bunker on the first attempt and made a double bogey.
Playing with Oosthuizen, Rahm felt like his wheels were spinning despite plenty of grinding pars, until a birdie from the last hole gave him something to smile about.
DeChambeau was unable to set his radar off the tee. He had four birdies on the lap but hit the same number of fairways in settlement, meaning he was crippled by five bogeys.
“The driver sucks. He’s not a good face for me and we’re still trying to figure out how to make him good on misses. I live on a razor’s edge, ”DeChambeau lamented after the round.
“It’s quite difficult for me because it’s a fairly short golf course, and so when I hit the driver and he doesn’t go down the fairway, it’s first cut or it’s in. hay, it’s hard for me to take it out to the green and control that… I couldn’t control my wedges.