Molinari's 62 leads after Day 1 of Scottish Open

By Associated PressJuly 12, 2012, 8:40 pm

INVERNESS, Scotland – Francesco Molinari tied the best round in the Scottish Open's 40-year history, shooting a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-shot lead into Day 2 of the British Open warm-up tournament.

The Italian rolled in 10 birdies in his first 15 holes in calm early conditions on the Castle Stuart links course, but missed out a chance to shoot the first 59 on the European Tour by finishing with three straight pars.

''I know it's not going to last for much longer,'' he said. ''I'll just try to enjoy the moment.''

Top-ranked Luke Donald looked set to finish close behind Molinari until he bogeyed two of his last five holes for a 67. Alejandro Canizares of Spain was second after a 64, with Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Raphael Jacquelin of France another shot behind.

Phil Mickelson had a 73 on a day he was supposed to be at the Vatican with his wife and daughter. He cut short his vacation to get more practice in ahead of the British Open.

Links courses have never been Molinari's friends. Only once in eight years as a professional has he made the weekend at a British Open, while his first round on links – as an amateur 11 years ago – will stay with him forever.

''I was living at St. Andrews and it was really windy and I shot 89 on The Old Course,'' said Molinari, noting he avoided a 90 with a birdie on the last hole. ''I saw a different kind of golf than I had seen before.''

He made five straight birdies from Nos. 5 to 9 and matched the tournament record set by Paul Curry, who shot 10 under in 1992 when the event was staged at the par-70 Gleneagles.

''The roll I'm getting off the putter is much better and I just feel more confident on the greens,'' said Molinari, who is in line to claim a spot in Europe's Ryder Cup team for September's match against the United States. ''Putting is the difference in my scores.''

Molinari dedicated his strong start to his brother Edoardo, who is rehabilitating after surgery on his left wrist two weeks ago.

Donald is defending the title he won here at last year's weather-disrupted tournament, which was reduced to 54 holes because of thunder storms and torrential rain.

Playing after a three-week break, he quickly hit his stride with six birdies in seven holes around the turn. However, he fluffed a short chip beside the fifth green to make bogey and also dropped a shot on No. 8 - his 17th hole.

''Usually you're pretty happy with 67, but I'm five back already,'' Donald said. ''But it was a good, solid round for me. It was perfect, ideal scoring conditions.''

With the British Open taking place on the links at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's next week, Donald said he wouldn't object to conditions worsening over the next few days.

''I wouldn't mind a bit of wind just to get in that feel for next week. It's doubtful we'll have calm days like this,'' he said.

Mickelson finished runner-up to Darren Clarke at the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's.

''I added this week because I need to play a little bit more, and I'm hoping to get a good round tomorrow so that I can play the weekend.''

Mickelson missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic last week. That came after a 65th-place finish at the U.S. Open in San Francisco and a withdrawal after a first-round 79 at the Memorial Tournament in his only events in June.

''My oldest daughter is really big into Greek and Roman history, so we have been over in Rome. They were at the Vatican today. I was supposed to stay with them until Friday, but I needed this,'' Mickelson said. ''I'm not just throwing one or two shots away on the golf course, I'm throwing away four, five or six. So I've got to try to get that resolved.''

Former No. 1 Martin Kaymer was among a bunch of players to shoot 67 along with Donald, while three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen signed for 69s.

Ernie Els needed four shots in a greenside bunker, and it nearly got worse when the South African was reported by an eagle-eyed TV viewer for a possible breach of rules.

The two-time U.S. Open champion was confronted by senior referee Andy McFee after his opening round of 70. He was told that a viewer thought Els grounded his club in the bunker on the sixth hole. Footage was reviewed, but Els wasn't handed a two-shot penalty.

''I was doing some bunker practice for the (British) Open next week,'' he said. ''I was slightly embarrassed out there.''

Els also made a double-bogey 6 on the 15th – his sixth hole after starting at No. 10 – but seven birdies allowed him to sign for 2 under, eight shots off the lead.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

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“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”