HOYLAKE, England (July 17, 2014) – A rough stretch on the front nine at Royal Liverpool Golf Club could have left Rhein Gibson reeling, but the Oklahoma Christian alum rebounded with an exceptional back nine on Thursday in the first round of the British Open.
Gibson ended his round – his first-ever in a major championship – at even-par 72, a score that put him in tie for 49th in the 156-man field for the world’s most prestigious tournament. The 29-year-old Australian, who now lives in Edmond, Okla., shot 3-under-par on the back side at 7,312-yard Royal Liverpool on a sunny day with little wind.
Gibson would seem to be in position to make the cut if he posts another solid round on Friday. He trails the leader, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, by six shots. Among the players he’s leading are the last two British Open winners, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
"I’m very happy with even (par) for my first round in a major," Gibson said. "Luckily my putter saved me today and I was able to right the ship and shoot even."
Gibson, who was inducted into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame in January, started well Thursday, recovering after hitting his tee shot on No. 3 into the high grass on the links course and sinking a 25-foot birdie putt.
But then came a difficult four-hole stretch of bogeys, starting on No. 5, a hole on which more than 60 players recorded a birdie. At the par-3 No. 6, Gibson hit into a pot bunker and couldn’t get up and down.
"I was pretty nervous on the first tee," Gibson said. "I’m happy I made contact and made a great par. I had a couple of bad breaks and poor shots let to four straight bogeys."
He steadied himself with a par on the par-3 No. 9 before drilling a 340-yard shot with a 3-wood on No. 10, leading to a birdie that put him back at 2-over for the round.
At the par-3 No. 13, Gibson hit a tee shot to within 20 feet, then made the birdie putt. He saved par at No. 16 with a 15-foot putt after hitting into the rough. On No. 17, he recorded another birdie to move back to even par, and at No. 18, he hit into a greenside bunker but escaped with a par.
Gibson will tee off at 3:55 p.m. (9:55 a.m. Oklahoma time) on Friday and will again play in a group with Brian Harman of the U.S. and Hyung-Tae Kim of South Korea.