Prepare for a close finish
This course is absolutely perfect for Jim; a relentlessly accurate driver with a world-class short game.
Paul Krishnamurty is settling down for three days of in-play drama going on the evidence of the first day at Whistling Straits.
Before play started, there were two almost unanimous predictions - that Whistling Straits would prove a superb venue, and that this was the most wide-open major in living memory. Both look spot on.
Whistling Straits didn't disappoint, from either an aesthetic or golfing perspective, offering the perfect mix of birdie chances and severe penalties. As in 2004, it looks set to produce a cracking punting heat. Then, 23 players finished within five of the lead, with the Wanamaker Trophy settled via a three-way play-off. When play was curtailed with roughly half the field yet to complete their round, five shared the lead, with only three shots separating the 46 players under par. Get set for another bunch finish.
One widespread assumption that looks a little less certain now concerns the fate of Tiger Woods. Layers who forced his odds out to their biggest mark in a major since he turned pro may be less sure of themselves now. Yesterday's Tiger was unrecognisable for the sorry figure seen hacking around Firestone four days earlier. At -1, he is right in the hunt, although I still have huge reservations that this unforgiving course is ideal.
Both Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy had their share of problems out there, but managed to fight back to the same position as Tiger, albeit with respectively seven and five holes of their first rounds remaining. The only really big name who looks out of it is Padraig Harrington, whose persistent inaccuracy led to a three-over 75. Indeed, accuracy off the tee looks pivotal this week. Mistakes are punished around this course, but for the player who can keep bogeys off his card on the toughest holes, there are red numbers available elsewhere.
Player of the Day
It has to be Ernie Els, who will resume his opening round this morning with a share of the lead. Ernie's long game looked in supreme nick, setting up birdie chances on virtually every hole. His only scrape with bogey came right at the end of play, and he managed to hole a tricky par putt. Indeed, for once, the flat stick behaved yesterday and if he keeps it up over the weekend, he must rate the man to beat. One word of caution, though. Els still has the tough four closing holes to play, where much can be undone. I would wait until he's finished his round before backing him.
With such a tightly packed leaderboard, it makes no sense backing short-prices. In fact, this could be an ideal opportunity to lay everyone who trades below [3.0], or some similarly short target.
My pre-tournament picks enjoyed mixed fortunes yesterday, but the one man I couldn't be happier with is Jim Furyk. This course is absolutely perfect for Jim; a relentlessly accurate driver with a world-class short game. He will surely trade well below his current [29.0] mark, so I'm pressing up on this bet.
Similarly, it will take very little to see the odds about Ryan Moore and Jason Day shorten up. While neither have much previous form in majors, both have won on the PGA Tour in the past twelve months, and can boast solid recent form. Because the finish to this course is so difficult, I doubt more than a couple of players will overhaul the -4 leading score in their first round, if any at all. Nor does this look like the type of course where someone will pull away, so by the time they tee off late tonight, both players should be in a strong position at -3.
Jim Furyk @ [29.0]
Ryan Moore @ [38.0]
Jason Day @ [65.0]