Zach Johnson leads at sunny Muirfield, Woods lurks 

click to enlarge Zach Johnson snapped back from last week's tough loss to finish the first day of the British Open at Muirfield with a one-stroke lead. - SCOTT HEPPELL/AP
  • Scott Heppell/ap
  • Zach Johnson snapped back from last week's tough loss to finish the first day of the British Open at Muirfield with a one-stroke lead.

GULLANE, Scotland — Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods sure know how to start the British Open.

Now, they've got to show they can finish.

Bouncing back from a tough loss last weekend, Johnson opened with a 5-under-par 66 on a sunny Thursday at Muirfield — another brilliant start after a 65 at Lytham last year.

"I don't know what the secret is," Johnson said.

Can he keep it going? A year ago, the 2007 Masters champion followed up with a 74 on the way to a ninth-place finish.

"This game demands resilience," Johnson said. "That just comes with experience."

Woods has plenty of experience winning majors — he's got 14 of 'em — but it's been more than five years since he captured the last one, the longest drought of his career in the tournaments that matter most.

Woods also got off to a strong start, posting an impressive 69 in the increasingly difficult conditions of the afternoon.

"It was tough," Woods said. "The golf course progressively got more dried out and more difficult as we played. I'm very pleased to shoot anything even par or better."

Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, is still trying to recapture the form he showed last August, when he won his second major title with a runaway victory at the PGA Championship.

At the moment, he's not even close.

The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland hacked his way to a 79 — the second-worst round of his Open career and the continuation of a baffling slump that began after he changed equipment.

The greens were slick as ice, having baked in the unseasonably dry Scottish weather over the past few weeks, and several golfers — Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter among them — complained about the tough pin placements given the speed of the putting surfaces.

"The 18th needs a windmill and a clown face," Poulter griped.

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