149th Open Championship: The first-round stat that will strike fear into Rahm backers

The Spaniard could only manage a 1-over 71 in Thursday’s opener and, although there’s a long way to go, history is stacked against him coming back to win.

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Louis Oosthuizen at 15/8 to win 2nd Rd 3 Ball v Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry

Does it really matter what you shoot in round one of The Open Championship?

After all, those who like quirky golf facts may recall that Aussie Rod Pampling led the 1999 Open after 18 holes before packing his bags after 36. A second-round 86 meant the first-round leader missed the Carnoustie cut.

By contrast, Padraig Harrington could only manage a 74 on day one at Royal Birkdale but by the end of the week he was hoisting the Claret Jug for the second year running.

So, on that evidence, that first-round leaderboard doesn't matter too much.

Wrong!

Harrington is the big outlier when looking at how past Open champions started.

Beginning with Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2005, 13 of the last 15 Open winners opened with a round in the 60s. Apart from Harrington the only other who didn't was Francesco Molinari but only just: the Italian carded an opening 70 at Carnoustie in 2018.

Far from the first day being a case of gently jockeying for position, it's vital to make a quick start.

Another way of looking at it is noting where all the winners from 2005-2019 were on the leaderboard.

Score and 18-hole position of past Open winners

2019 Shane Lowry - 2nd (67)

2018 Francesco Molinari - 18th (70)

2017 Jordan Spieth - 1st (65)

2016 Henrik Stenson - 12th (68)

2015 Zach Johnson - 2nd (66)

2014 Rory McIlroy - 1st (66)

2013 Phil Mickelson - 9th (69)

2012 Ernie Els - 6th (67)

2011 Darren Clarke - 6th (68)

2010 Tiger Woods - 2nd (67)

2009 Stewart Cink - 5th (66)

2008 Padraig Harrington - 38th (74)

2007 Padraig Harrington - 8th (69)

2006 Tiger Woods - 2nd (67)

2005 Tiger Woods - 1st (66)

As well as 13 of the 15 winners shooting under 70, 14 out of 15 ended day one inside the top 20.

In addition, 10 of the last 15 were in the top six after the first round.

This is excellent news for the current top six but not for the pre-tournament favourite.

Rahm has it all to do

When Jon Rahm dribbled in his bobbly birdie putt at 18, he let out a sigh of relief.

Yes, it wasn't the day he wanted but at least that closing three meant no major damage had been done.

But, as noted, a 1-over 71 is putting yourself behind the 8-ball in an Open Championship.

With scoring low on day one, Louis Oosthuizen fired a 64 and Jordan Spieth a 65. Rahm is already seven and six shots back respectively of that pair of past Open winners.

The last player to win from seven back after day one: Mark O'Meara in 1998.

By close of play, Rahm was outside the top 70. The stats say he has a mountain climb.

READ MORE: Linksland draws the best out of shot-maker Jordan Spieth

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