Happy Return for Monty Not Tiger

By Associated PressJune 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Open gave Tiger Woods a rude welcome back Thursday.
 
For Colin Montgomerie, it was a surprisingly happy return.
 
Playing for the first time since his father died, Woods ended a nine-week layoff with bogeys on his first three holes that sent him to his highest start ever in the U.S. Open. He had to play the final six holes 1 under par to escape with a 6-over 76, leaving him seven shots behind Montgomerie in the toughest first round of this major in 20 years.
 
Woods looked somber at times, although that was more likely a product of Winged Foot that memories of his father.
 
Scorecard: Tiger already finished with Rd. 2
 
Everyone was looking for me to be more emotional, he said. But Im trying to put the ball in the hole and win the championship.
 
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie is in position to contend for an elusive first major.
No one did that better than Monty. A perennial contender at the U.S. Open in his prime, Montgomerie overcame a rugged start by relying on his strength'fairways and greens'and his 1-under 69 was the only round under par.
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson got off to a solid start in his bid for a third straight major, making a pair of 30-foot birdie putts and a bunch of short ones for par that proved equally important. He wound up at even-par 70, along with Jim Furyk, David Howell, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker.
 
Howell managed to make six birdies and was 4 under par with four holes to play. But he started missing fairways, which inevitably left him testy putts for par, and dropped four shots down the stretch, three-putting for double bogey on the 18th.
 
Once I calm down a bit, its still level par and its a good round of golf, Howell said. But right now Im frustrated, and Im fed up.
 
Mickelson didnt even bother trying to explain the degree of difficulty at Winged Foot, where 22 players shot in the 80s. The average score was pushing 80, the highest in the first round of a U.S. Open since Shinnecock Hills in 1986.
 
Youve had to go play it to grasp it, Lefty said. Its the toughest test we have all year.
 
It surely was a test of patience, including for Montgomerie.
 
He was 2 over after his first three holes, then holed a 10-foot par putt on the par-5 fifth that turned his fortunes. He started finding the short grass and kept his ball below the hole, and finished atop the leaderboard in the U.S. Open for the first time since 1997 at Congressional. Still, the 42-year-old Scot kept it in perspective.
 
My God, weve only walked seven miles, Montgomerie said. Theres a long way to go.
 
It felt like a marathon, players plodding along as they looked for relief from a course that demanded accuracy off the tee, precision to the greens and no time to breathe easy until the ball was in the hole.
 
Vijay Singh, coming off his first victory of the season last week at Westchester, had a steady round of 71 to join former Masters champion Mike Weir, John Cook and Fred Funk, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Wednesday.
 
Mickelson was wild at the start of his round in the morning, under cool, overcast skies. He missed six consecutive greens, but left himself in decent shape to save par and did that five straight times. Then came a 30-foot birdie on his ninth hole, No. 18, which showed how much his preparation paid off.
 
He started the ball well to the right, and watched the severe slope guide it back toward the hole until it disappeared, setting off a raucous cheer from the New York fans who again made the Californian feel at home.
 
I had hit that putt a bunch in practice, and the first couple times I stroked it, I missed it 2 feet left or low and 3 or 4 feet short, Mickelson said. I ended up playing about 8 or 10 feet of break and it swung right in there.
 
That was one of the few thrills on this day at Winged Foot.
 
Ernie Els saved a pedestrian round of 4-over by holing out from the ninth fairway for eagle and a 74. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen didnt fare as well, failing to make a single birdie in his round of 77.
 
It was a stern test, but there were few complaints that it was unfair.
 
Furyk was so close to the lip of a bunker on No. 3 that he used his putter to get out to the middle of the sand, and he was all too glad to make bogey. The 03 U.S. Open champion is playing well this year and has been mentioned as one of the favorites.
 
It looks good, suits my eye, he said of Winged Foot. But thats a small part of the battle. The other part is hitting the shots and executing, which is difficult to do out here.
 
Par had not been so hard to beat in the first round since 86 at Shinnecock. No one did it then.
 
You just try to play for par here, whether its Thursday or Sunday, Mickelson said. Even is a good score.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had trouble with the greens at the start of his first round.
Woods gladly would have settled for anything near that.
 
He last was seen inside the ropes on Sunday at the Masters, where a balky putter kept him from making a charge, and he had to settle for a tie for third. More than two months later, not much changed.
 
Woods hit only three fairways but was hurt more by missing par putts of 8 feet, 7 feet and 6 feet on his opening holes. He said the greens were slower than he expected for a U.S. Open and he failed to adjust.
 
The first three holes ... I cost myself three shots, Woods said. Just got off to a bad start. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was going to be hard to make up shots. And I didnt. I lost ground.
 
Woods hit one tee shot so far to the right at No. 9 that he chose to play a sweeping hook with a 9-iron from 195 yards around the trees, over a corporate tent and into the grandstand to the right of the greens, which allowed him a free drop. Everything worked perfectly until he flew his chip over the green, flubbed the next one and had to make a 6-footer to save bogey.
 
The biggest damage came at the 640-yard 12th, when his approach went into a bunker and he flew that over the green, making double bogey. But he was solid the rest of the way, and while history is hardly on his side, he wasnt ruling himself out quite yet.
 
Woods has won only one of his 10 majors when he shoots over par in the first round, opening with a 74 at the Masters last year.
 
Ive just got to plod along; shoot under par the next two days, Ill be right there, he said.
 
Considering there was only one round under par Thursday, that might be a tall order. Woods was told that only Ben Hogan in 1951 at Oakland Hills and Jack Fleck in 1955 at Olympic Club had started with a 76 and gone on to win the Open. That brought a rare smile.
 
Its been done before, hasnt it? he said.
 
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    Kisner (66) leads Open by 1; Woods 5 back

    By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 7:44 pm

    The course was playing firm and the winds never truly gusted, but it was still quite a mixed bag for some of the world's best during the first round of The Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things stand as Kevin Kisner moved into the lead in search of his first career major:

    Leaderboard: Kevin Kisner (-5), Erik van Rooyen (-4), Tony FInau (-4), Zander Lombard (-4), Brandon Stone (-3), Brendan Steele (-3), Ryan Moore (-3)

    What it means: Van Rooyen took the early lead in one of the first groups of the morning, and he remained near the top despite a bogey on the final hole. But that left a small opening for Kisner to eke past him, as the American put together a round with as many bogeys as eagles (one apiece). Already with two wins on the PGA Tour and having challenged at the PGA Championship in August, Kisner tops a crowded leaderboard despite never finishing better than T-54 in three prior Open appearances.


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    Round of the day: Kisner started slowly, as a bogey on No. 5 dropped him to 1 over on the round. But that proved to be his lone dropped shot of the day, and he quickly rebounded with an eagle on the par-5 sixth. Kisner added four birdies over his final 11 holes, including three in a row from Nos. 13-15, and successfully navigated the difficult closing stretch to post the only 66 of the day on the par-71 layout.

    Best of the rest: Van Rooyen held a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Irish Open two weeks ago, but he fell apart at Ballyliffin as Russell Knox rallied for victory. He's off to another surprisingly strong start after a 4-under 67 that included only one bogey on No. 18. Van Rooyen has never won on the European Tour, let alone contended in a major, but he's now in the thick of it after five birdies over his first 15 holes.

    Biggest disappointment: Two major champs were among the short list of pre-tournament contenders, but both Patrick Reed (4 over) and Dustin Johnson (5 over) appear to already be out of the mix. Reed has finished T-4 or better each of the last three majors but made only one birdie in his opener, while Johnson was the consensus betting favorite but played his last three holes in 4 over including a triple bogey on No. 18.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Kisner is no stranger to the top of the standings, but keep an eye on the chase pack a few shots back. The group at 2 under includes Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. Tiger Woods is just five shots off the pace after an even-par 71 that featured three birdies and three bogeys as Woods made his return to The Open for the first time since missing the cut at St. Andrews in 2015.

    Shot of the day: Stone put his head on his hands after pulling his approach from the rough on No. 18, but his prayers were answered when his ball rattled off a fence, bounced back in bounds and rolled to the front of the green. One week after winning the Scottish Open with a final-round 60, Stone turned a likely double into a par to close out his 68.



    Quote of the day: "I've been taped up and bandaged up, just that you were able to see this one. It's no big deal." - Woods, who had KT tape visible on both sides of his neck after a bad night of sleep.

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    Rory 'convinced' driver is the play at burnt Carnoustie

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 6:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – There are two distinct schools of thought at this week’s Open Championship - that Carnoustie is either best played with a velvet touch and a measured hand off the tee, or that it makes sense to choose the hammer and hit driver whenever and wherever possible.

    Count Rory McIlroy in the latter camp.

    Although the Northern Irishman’s opening 2-under 69 may not be a definitive endorsement of the bomb-and-gouge approach, he was pleased with his Day 1 results and even more committed to the concept.


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    “I’m convinced that that's the way that I should play it,” said McIlroy, who hit just 4 of 15 fairways but sits tied for eighth. “It's not going to be for everyone, but it worked out pretty well for me and I would have taken 69 to start the day.”

    From the moment McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, made a scouting trip to Carnoustie a few weeks ago, the 2014 Open champion committed himself to an aggressive gameplan, and there was nothing on Thursday that persuaded him to change.

    The true test came early on Thursday, with McIlroy sending his tee shot over the green at the 350-yard, par-4 third and scrambling for birdie.

    “That hole was a validation for me. It proved to me it’s the right way for me to play here. It was a little personal victory,” said McIlroy, who played his opening loop even but birdied Nos. 12 and 14 to move under par.

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    Report: USGA, R&A to 'severely restrict' green books

    By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 6:42 pm

    The detailed yardage books that many players rely on to help read greens at various tournaments could soon become a thing of the past.

    According to a Golfweek report, the USGA and R&A are poised to "severely restrict" the information offered to players in green-reading books, which currently include detailed visuals and specifics about the location and severity of slopes and contours on each putting surface. The change is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

    Green-reading books have come under scrutiny in recent years as their use has increased, seen as both an enemy of pace of play and a tool that can take the skill out of reading the break on putts.


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    "We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round," the R&A said in a statement. The USGA also reportedly issued a statement that they plan to update their review process on the books "in the coming weeks."

    Speaking to reporters after an opening-round 72 at The Open, Jordan Spieth seemingly implied that the rule change was all but official.

    "I don't think we're allowed to use them starting next year, is that right?" Spieth said. "Which I think will be much better for me. I think that's a skill that I have in green reading that's advantageous versus the field, and so it will be nice. But when it's there, certain putts, I certainly was using it and listening to it."

    According to the report, new language in the Rules of Golf is expected to address the presentation of the books and "end the current level of detail."

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    'Super 7' living – and loving – frat life in Carnoustie

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 6:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It’s not exactly “Animal House Scotland,” but it’s as close as the gentleman’s game allows itself to drift toward that raucous line.

    For the third consecutive year, some of golf’s biggest and brightest chose to set up shop on the same corner of the Angus coast, a testosterone-fueled riff session where feelings are never spared and thick skin is mandatory.

    Among the eclectic “Super 7” who are sharing two houses in Carnoustie this week are defending champion Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Kevin Kisner – a group that ranges in age from 24 (Spieth) to 42 years old (Johnson).

    The tradition, or maybe “guy’s week” is a better description, began in 2016 at Royal Troon when Spieth, Fowler, Thomas, Walker, Johnson and Dufner all roomed together. Kisner was added to the mix this year and instead of baseball – the distraction of choice in ’16 – the group has gone native with nightly soccer matches. Actually, the proceedings more resemble penalty kicks, but they seem to be no less entertaining.

    “I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

    For the record, his flat mates will attest to Dufner’s abilities as a goalie, although asked about his chances to make the U.S. national team Thomas was reluctant to go that far.

    “As a U.S. citizen, I hope he does not make our team, but he's a pretty good backyard goalie,” Thomas said.



    The arrangement comes with a litany of benefits, from the camaraderie to the improved logistics of having so many VIPs under the same roof.

    “Honestly, it just makes everything really, really easy because there's a lot of cars going to and from the golf course. They know our address. We have food essentially at our beck and call. And we have friends. I mean, we have some women [wives] in there to keep the frat house somewhat in order,” Johnson said. “But I mean, every individual there is great. It's fun.”

    But this goes well beyond some random male bonding for what at the moment represents nearly one-third of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. This is a snapshot into a curious side of golf that’s as rare as it is misunderstood.

    Unlike team sports, golf is a lonely pursuit. A player can collect as many swing coaches, sports psychologists and handlers around them as they wish, but there’s a connection between athletes at this level that creates a unique flow of ideas that’s normally only present during the annual team events, be it a Ryder or Presidents cup.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

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    At this level, players talk a language only they understand that’s littered with the kind of insider give-and-take one would expect from PGA Tour winners and major champions. Between the two houses, which are adjacent to each other, there are eight major victories.

    “I have zero, so I don't know how many they have,” Kisner joked when asked about his accomplished roommates.

    Kisner is southern like sweat and sweet tea and can trade good-natured jabs with the best of them, but given the pedigrees assembled between the two houses he seems to understand the importance of listening.

    “Everybody is just really chill, and it's a lot of fun to be around those guys. There's a lot of great players. It's really cool just to hear what they have to say,” Kisner said. “Everybody's sitting around at night scratching their head on what club to hit off of every tee.”

    It’s worth pointing out that The Open winner has come from this group twice in the last three years, including 2017 champion Spieth, who took no small measure of inspiration from Johnson’s victory at St. Andrews in ’15.

    Nor is it probably a coincidence that four of those players now find themselves firmly in the mix and all within the top 20 at Carnoustie, including Kisner who will have bragging rights on Thursday night following a first-round 66 that vaulted him into the lead.

    “I probably get to eat first,” he smiled.



    In their primes, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player would occasionally share a house, they even vacationed together from time to time – you know, SB1K68 – but the practice fell out of favor for a few generations. It’s hard to imagine Greg Norman enjoying a friendly kick-about with any of his contemporaries and even harder to think that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could share a cab ride, let alone a house for a week.

    Some say this type of fellowship is the product of a new generation who grew up playing junior golf against each other and logically took their bond to the big leagues, but that ignores the 40-somethings (Johnson and Dufner) in the frat.

    Maybe it’s a byproduct of America’s Ryder Cup rebuilding efforts or an affinity for non-stop one-liners and bad soccer. Or maybe it’s a genuine appreciation for what each of the “7” have to offer.

    “[Kisner] is good friends with all those guys, he likes to cut up and have a good time and talk trash. It’s a good little group,” said Kisner’s swing coach John Tillery. “This last year or two and the Presidents Cup and being on the teams with those guys has just escalated that.”

    Some seem to think these friendships run a little too deep. That sharing a bachelor pad and dinner for the week somehow erodes a player’s competitiveness. But if the “Super 7” have proven anything, other than American golfers probably aren’t the best soccer players, it’s that familiarity can be fun.