Cameron Young is red-hot, and 4 other things we learned at the Open

Cameron Young raced out to an early lead on Thursday at the Open Championship.

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Most of America was still sleeping when Cameron Young emerged as the definitive tournament leader on Thursday at the Open Championship. It was still shy of 9 a.m. back in his hometown in Westchester, N.Y., but the 25-year-old Young had already claimed a lead that would go untouched for the remainder of the day.

But if posting eight-under 64 on the first day of deeply historic tournament had gotten to his head Thursday morning, he hardly showed it. When asked about his rags-to-riches story from the streets of New York City to the 18-hole lead at the 150th Open, he could barely stifle a laugh.

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“I think the streets of New York is probably a stretch,” he said with a chuckle, remembering his days as a student in the New York City catholic school system. “Fordham Prep is on the Fordham University campus. It’s beautiful. And I lived at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, where my dad is the head pro. I lived on the lower course out there.”

Young may be one of the brightest young stars in professional golf, but he is under no illusions about his privilege.

“I took the train to school,” he said. “But I also took the train back home to go practice.”

All that practice has paid major championship dividends. Now, Young is in the driver’s seat to see if it’s been enough to pay major championship winning dividends. All that, and more, in today’s Five Things.

5 things we learned at St. Andrews on Thursday

1. Cameron Young isn’t playing around

Young, who has yet to claim his first PGA Tour win, holds a two-stroke lead after the first day of play in St. Andrews. He did it with a dizzying array of birdies — eight of them, to be exact — an effort buffeted by both impressive ball-striking and beneficial course conditions.

Still, this is hardly Young’s first rodeo. He clung to contention into the weekend at the PGA in May, and though his first PGA Tour start in Europe came only a week ago, Thursday was hardly his first experience with Old Course jitters.

“The first time I got to be out here, my dad, I think, asked for permission to play from the back tees,” Young said. “So when we came out to hit our first tee shots with the R&A building right there, there were a bunch of R&A members presumably watching. And I’m glad I didn’t know; I’m sure I would have been nervous out of my mind. But I think there’s a picture of me hitting there with a bunch of those guys watching. That’s really my first memory of here.”

At the Open, Cameron Young is ready for the moment.

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He’ll be one of the last groups off on Friday, and should (like the afternoon groups on Thursday) see significantly tougher conditions down the stretch. Will the pressure shake Young from the lead on Friday afternoon? Don’t bet on it.

“I shot a million last week, and this week all of a sudden I’m pretty comfortable,” he said. “There’s been a lot of work and a lot of preparation in between, but I think things can change in an instant, especially out here given how important the bounces and the mindset that you have are.”

2. Tiger Woods struggles

The Royal Anointment of Tiger Woods came on Thursday morning at the Open Championship. The Royal Charge, however, did not.

Woods shot his most disappointing opening round since returning from injury at the Masters in April, a six-over 78 that never looked comfortable from the start.

After landing his tee shot in a pitch mark at the 1st, Tiger dumped just his second shot of the day in to the burn en route to a double-bogey 6. He never recovered from that opening start, showing only glimmers of confidence and struggling heavily with his putter.

With the majority of the field going low on Thursday, it was a disappointing afternoon for team Woods, though the Scottish faithful followed him reverentially. The four-time Open winner will have work to do on Friday just to make it to the weekend.

Tiger Woods looked awkward right from the very beginning on Thursday at St. Andrews.

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3. St. Andrews shines

There has already been plenty of conversation (and will certainly be more) surrounding the Old Course’s difficulty as a major championship host. Many of golf’s best players posting low scores in what John Wood called “very difficult conditions” on Thursday certainly didn’t help that argument.

But the course itself couldn’t be in better condition. The fairways are baked-out, bouncy and a devilish hue of brown. The greens are tough, but fair. The fescue and rough is up. The bunkers, as ever, are viper’s nests.

If anything, Thursday at St. Andrews was a reminder of the irrelevancy of par at the professional level. If the best players in the world are bunched together, competing on what is broadly considered a fair and reasonable test of their competency, what difference does it make if the scoring average is 69 or 76?

On Thursday, the golf course was damn good, and that’s all there is to it.

Whatever the scores, the Old Course certainly wasn’t the problem on Thursday at the Open.

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4. Oh, hey Rory!

It’s still early, and we’ve certainly been burned by this one before in 2022, but Rory McIlroy’s game looked scary good on Thursday afternoon.

The 2014 Open winner dazzled at the Old Course, raking in seven birdies to only a single bogey. McIlroy spoke at length at the U.S. Open about the frustrations that have come with finding a more consistent game in major championship play (namely: the lack of wins).

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At the U.S. Open, the PGA and the Masters, McIlroy looked like his pursuit of solid ground had neutered the lightning-strike potential that carried his game through its most successful days in the early 2000s. On Thursday at the Open, though, the opposite seemed true. Rory looked to have a higher floor and a higher ceiling.

Now, he’ll have to do that for three more consecutive days — avoiding, in the process, any of the multitudinous failures that creep around every corner (and tee shot) at St. Andrews. That has proven to be a thorn in McIlroy’s side in the past. Can the Old Course be the catalyst? It’s a dangerous proposition.

5. Lingerers

A quick round-up of the best of the rest.

Scottie Scheffler (-4) did the best of the 2022 major champions on Thursday, placing himself thoroughly in the hunt, like he’s done at what feels like every event this year. Justin Thomas dished an even-par 72, a disappointing round from a player whose game seems to come and go as it pleases. Matthew Fitzpatrick‘s round started with a chunked snap-hook off the tee and never quite recovered. He heads into Friday at even par.

Collin Morikawa, the reigning Open Champion, started his week with an up-and-down 72. Will Zalatoris, who nearly won all three of this year’s majors, has his work cut out for him on Friday after an opening-round 73. Xander Schauffele, winner of three consecutive events, did nothing to hurt his bid for four with a three-under 69.

Xander Schauffele remains in the hunt after Thursday.

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From the LIVers: Phil Mickelson (t-shirt and all) kept himself in the mix on Thursday, shooting an even-par 72 as part of the early wave. Bryson DeChambeau blasted his way to a three-under 69, by far his best opening-round performance in a major in 2022. Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood recorded the low rounds of the upstart tour, with matching four-under 68s to move four strokes back of Young’s lead. As opposed to his pre-tournament presser, Brooks Koepka’s 11th hole cast a black cloud over his tournament on Friday. He’s one over after 18 holes, his three bogeys and one double unseating what was otherwise a relatively sharp round.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.