Rocco rolls and weather roils

By Brian HewittJuly 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Follow the 137th Open Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
 
Open ChampionshipWhat we needed, I had written in this space and opined on GOLF CHANNELs air, was something different, something to make us forget that this 137th Open Championship was Tigerless.
 
Little did I know at the outset Thursday that Rocco Mediates summer of love affair with the game would continue late in the first round at Royal Birkdale.
 
When last seen at a major championship Mediate was taking Tiger Woods to the limit at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. Woods triumphed, but only after 19 holes of playoff golf on the Monday after the Sunday on which the championship was supposed to end. Then Woods shut his season down because of a bum left leg.
 
Rocco Mediate
Rocco Mediate is looking for redemption after a near-miss at the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
Sneaky good Mediate remained on a roll Thursday in England when he birdied the last two holes to gain a share of the first-day lead with Robert Allenby and Graeme McDowell at 1-under 69.
 
It has been, Mediate said, an amazing trip.
 
Before that, the story was the weather. And I can guarantee that none of the early risers Thursday looked out their bedroom windows at the wind and chill and rain and thought about Tiger Woods.
 
For the first half of the first day Birkdale presented players with the kind of conditions where the wind whips so hard the flagsticks double over in silent laughter at the futility of the prospect of anybody breaking par. The kind of weather where, years from now, we will still be talking about the gale that blew and the compellingly miserable conditions at a place that changed from Birkdale to Barkdale on the first day of the 2008 championship.
 
You knew something odd was up when you saw the name Shintaro Kai at the top of the leaderboard early. This 27-year-old Japanese journeyman arrived in England having missed his last two cuts in his native land. But when he birdied the first hole he sprinted ahead of the field.
 
Then you looked at some of the other early numbers: Vijay Singh 11 over through 13; Rich Beem 9 over through six; Phil Mickelson 7 over through nine. Those are all former major champions, folks.
 
My pre-tournament pick, Lee Westwood, who grew up not that far from Birkdale, was 5 over through 10. Westwood managed to bring it home in 75. Singh wasnt so lucky. He shot 80.
 
To repeat, nobody at this point was thinking very much about the recuperating Woods, snug in his cozy Florida home back in the States.
 
The game was on and the game was hard. Temperatures in the 50s. Winds in 20s, gusting up to 35. Rain blowing sideways. Dunes and mounds looming like frozen tidal waves. Rough that was wet and thick and nasty and unforgiving.
 
No, Toto, we werent in Kansas anymore. Or, for that matter, Augusta or Torrey Pines.
 
You cant believe the ball can go that short, said Retief Goosen when asked about playing into the wind after shooting a 1-over 71.
 
Youre trying to keep your grips dry and youre trying to keep your glove dry and that throws off your rhythm, said 5-time Open Championship winner Tom Watson after carding 74.
 
Today it gave us a big test, said Justin Rose, who returned 74.
 
You can get an ear ache out there because its blowing so hard, said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger from the sanctuary of the TV booth.
 
I felt like anything in the 70s was gonna be a good score, said world No. 2 Phil Mickelson after shooting 79.
 
So now the big question is: How will Fridays weather shake out? There is no guarantee that Thursdays pattern will be repeated. If its calm in the morning and ugly in the afternoon, half the field will have had what amounts to about a six-shot lead over the other half.
 
Weather, the joke goes, has been around a long time. Weather also doesnt know what day of the week it is. Weather quite often isnt fair. And theres scientific evidence to prove that weather knows a Tiger Woods from a Shintaro Kai, who by the way, signed for 80 Thursday.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 137th Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - 137th Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
    Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “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.”