Aussie Fraser leads in return of Olympic golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2016, 9:44 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO - On a day of firsts for Olympic golf, Marcus Fraser of Australia had the one that mattered - the first-round lead.

Fraser ran off four straight birdies before the wind arrived and kept right on going until he had an 8-under 63, giving him a three-shot lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Graham DeLaet of Canada.

Better yet? He set an Olympic record Thursday, though that was hardly a surprise considering golf had not been part of the Olympics since 1904.

''That's pretty cool,'' Fraser said. ''So hopefully, that lasts all week.''

There was plenty for golf to celebrate in its return to the Olympics, from the opening tee shot by Adilson da Silva of Brazil to the first hole-in-one by Justin Rose, who wasn't even sure his 7-iron from 189 yards on the fourth hole had gone in the cup until he heard the crowd.

And yes, it was quite the crowd.

No one was quite sure what to expect from the gallery on the first day, in a country with very little golf heritage and with no medals awarded until Sunday. Padraig Harrington was surprised to see more than 6,000 spread out across Olympic Golf Course, holding flags along the fairway ropes and sending cheers from all corners.

It all started with da Silva, the only Brazilian in the 60-man field, so nervous over that opening shot that ''my head was everywhere,'' he said. His drive went straight down the middle, and golf was on its way.


Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos


''The end of a long journey,'' said Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation. ''Or the beginning of a new one.''

DeLaet, who has struggled with the yips in his short game so badly that he took six weeks off this summer, was in the first group to honor George Lyon, the Canadian who last won a gold medal in golf at the St. Louis Games. He didn't need much of a short game by hitting 14 out of 18 greens. And he knows his history.

''It's been awhile since we've won a gold,'' DeLaet cracked when he finished.

Stenson was in the last group and faced the strongest wind, but the Swede who set a major championship scoring record at Royal Troon dropped only one shot. His biggest struggle was with fans taking photos with their mobile phones.

''It was a patience test out there,'' Stenson said. ''I think we had to back off quite a lot of shots. There were more mobile phones and cameras than normal, I guess because it's a different crowd out there than we normally have.''

The biggest surprise came from the Americans.

Rickie Fowler said earlier in the week that with four Americans in the field - no other country has more than two - they could sweep the podium. After one round, Matt Kuchar at 69 was the only American to break par.

Fowler had a 30-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, and four putts later he walked off with a double bogey. It didn't get much better from there. Fowler shot a 75, beating only two players - Rodolfo Cazaubon of Mexico and Lin Wen-Tang of Taiwan.

Bubba Watson couldn't buy a putt and started his back nine with a tee shot into a native area with sand thick enough to host beach volleyball. That led to a double bogey and he wound up at 73. Patrick Reed made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch after making the turn and shot 72.

''Horrendous,'' Reed said.

More than half of the field was at par or better. Adding to the Olympic spirit is that the 10 players who shot 68 or better came from nine countries.

The vibe on the first tee was strong, not nearly the level of a Ryder Cup, but different from other tournaments with players dressed in team colors and being introduced by country.

''The nerves don't get me very many places. Here it was a little different,'' Kuchar said. ''I think I was the first American to tee off today. To hear my name announced as an Olympian and to go tee off, there were a few more butterflies than I anticipated.''

Harrington, one of four players chosen to present golf's case to the International Olympic Committee when it was voted back into the Games in 2009, said he was more nervous on the opening tee than when he played his first major. And then he opened with a bogey.

He rallied for a 69, but on this day, the score was only part of what mattered.

''I said it to the guys walking off, 'Now we are Olympians,' and nobody can take that away from us,'' he said. ''When you think about it, most weeks you have 156 guys playing, 155 losers. This week, you have 60 guys playing, and we are all winners.''

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”