This Open looks like the last, with DJ, Spieth and Day

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2015, 4:46 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – There’s no need to adjust your televisions.

While Thursday’s action at the Open Championship may seem like a rerun, your programing is indeed live and original even though the only thing that has changed since last month’s U.S. Open is the arena, a lush and green Old Course compared to the brown and burnt out turf at Chambers Bay.

The cast, however, remains virtually unchanged; from Jordan Spieth, who won the U.S. Open, to Dustin Johnson, who lost the U.S. Open, to Jason Day, who gained a legion of fans for his gutsy performance last month as he battled the lingering effects of benign positional vertigo.

“I know. That's amazing, isn't it? Bloody hell, they just won't go away,” Day laughed after an opening-round 66 left him tied for second place, a stroke behind Johnson.

“Right now it's good excitement for the game of golf with how things are going. It's kind of extended on from the U.S. Open with Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth where they are right now, so it's going to be an exciting three days coming up.”

Spieth was another shot behind Day after a perfect opening loop that included seven hit fairways, nine greens in regulation, no bogeys, five birdies and just 14 putts that added up to a 5-under 31.

It’s nearly a perfect copy of the leaderboard after Round 1 at last month’s U.S. Open, where Johnson opened with a 65 for the early lead followed by Spieth and Day tied for seventh, three strokes back.


Open Championship tracker: Day 1

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The differences are the stage and the situation, with Spieth fresh off back-to-back major victories and looking to become just the second player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season.

The only question as a wet and windy 54 holes loom is whether the outcome will follow the script from Chambers Bay, where Johnson three-putted from 13 feet at the last to finish a stroke behind Spieth?

The way Johnson played on Thursday, which is being billed as the calm before Friday’s literal storm, a sequel seems unlikely. Just ask Spieth.

“If [Johnson] keeps driving it the way he is, then I'm going to have to play my best golf to have a chance,” he said after spending the better part of five hours grouped with the bomber on Day 1.

“It's hard to argue with somebody who's splitting bunkers at about 380 yards and just two-putting for birdie on five or six of the holes when there's only two par 5s.”

Not that the 21-year-old was conceding the claret jug to Johnson just yet. As humble as Spieth is he bristled when asked if he thought he could beat Johnson. “Yeah, I think I can. If I didn't, I would go ahead and walk off and take a flight back home tomorrow,” he said.

Considering the forecast for the next two days, which calls for heavy rain and winds that will gust to 35 mph, and his historic fortunes at Grand Slam events, it’s far too early for the engraver to start etching Johnson’s name into the claret jug.

What’s equally as certain is if Johnson comes up short again it won’t be due to any lingering baggage he picked up at Chambers Bay.

“Nothing bad happened at Chambers Bay. I wasn’t disappointed, really,” he figured. “I don’t really dwell in the past too much. You can’t really change it, so there’s no reason to worry about it.”

It almost seemed like an unsavory dig that R&A officials grouped Johnson with Spieth for the first two rounds this week (with Hideki Matsuyama in tow), but given the U.S. Open runner-up’s aversion to fits of nostalgia it doesn’t seem to have had an impact.

In fact, the move may have worked against Spieth, who averaged 286 yards off the tee on Thursday and spent the day some 40 yards behind Johnson (who averaged 322 yards from the launching pad).

On the par-5 fifth hole, for example, Spieth found himself more than 60 yards behind Johnson, who hit 7-iron to 10 feet for an eagle, yet still finished the day just two shots back.

It’s a testament to the Old Course’s agelessness that the two leading men arrived in red figures via vastly different routes.

While few, if any, can match Johnson’s firepower, Spieth is at peace with his divergent approach to the game if not his own considerable abilities.

“I've played enough golf with him to where I believe in my skill set that I can still trump that crazy ability that he has,” Spieth said. “I expect when he stands on the tee it's going to be up there miles down the fairway. I also expect that I can birdie each hole when I stand on the tee. It just happens to be a little different route.”

While familiarity may breed contempt, the competitive odd couple seemed to enjoy their stroll around the ancient links, to say nothing of the duo’s familiar position atop the leaderboard.

As one would imagine, there was not a lot of talk about Chambers Bay on Thursday between Spieth and Johnson.

“No chat about the U.S. Open at all other than talking about the differences in the course here and there,” Spieth said.

For at least one day at the Open Championship, the drastic differences between the Old Course and Chambers Bay were the only things that distinguished the two majors. Whether that distinction remains through Sunday is what makes this major so compelling.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."