Casey, two more co-lead Hero World Challenge

By Doug FergusonDecember 3, 2015, 9:55 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Paul Casey is off to a good start in his final chance to win a tournament this year.

Casey birdied the final hole at Albany Golf Club on Thursday for a 6-under 66 that gave him a share of the first-round lead with Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson in the Hero World Challenge.

The scenery and tropical sunshine made it feel like a working vacation, and a gentle breeze off the tip of New Providence island only added to the relaxation. Hideki Matsuyama (75) was the only player in the 18-man field who didn't break par.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the second hole and finally added a birdie on a par 5 to join a large group at 67 that included Bubba Watson and Adam Scott, who lives at Albany and still holds - barely - the course record of 65.

Casey is among five players in this field of top-50 players who has yet to win this year.

''The only blemish I can think of is maybe I left a putt short on line, which is a little criminal,'' Casey said. ''Other than that, I played some really, really nice golf.''

He wasn't alone. Walker made quick strides with a new move in his swing and produced eight birdies, six of them in an eight-hole stretch on the back nine.

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Johnson recovered from a slow start that could have been worse. He originally was penalized one shot for marking his ball off the green at the par-5 third, only for the penalty to be rescinded when officials determined it was too difficult on some holes to determine where the putting surface ended.

''When we started rolling the greens and mowing them down at tournament height, and then the sun came out, we had a situation in a lot of places where you couldn't differentiate between the collar and the green,'' said Mark Russell, the tour's vice president of competition. ''Rather than put the players in a situation where they were going to have a problem, we took care of it.''

The weather played a big role in the low scoring. Still, there was one noticeable difference from past years. This was the fewest number of rounds over par on the first day, and there had been no shortage of rounds in the upper 70s and 80s.

Part of that might be the first time the World Challenge has been played at Albany Golf Club. It was at Isleworth last year in Florida, and at Sherwood Country Club in California for 14 years.

Then again, players have been competing around the world - Spieth and Scott in Australia last week, Johnson at Sea Island two weeks ago.

There were a few exceptions. Walker hasn't played since Las Vegas in mid-October and he has just begun to work with Butch Harmon on a move in which his head moves down the target line, similar to how David Duval swung the club.

''It's something he's been trying to get me to do for a while, and it's tough,'' Walker said. ''I told him I was going to make a really tough commitment to try to do it. I've been swinging a certain way for a long time and it's a hard habit to break.''

It didn't go so well in the pro-am, mainly because there was a lot of standing around. In twosomes, Walker found his groove.

Scott started par-birdie-eagle until losing some momentum with a bogey, and then he added three birdies on the back nine. Spieth's start was sensational, a 6-iron that landed in front of the hole and dropped in the cup.

''Absolutely flushed it right at the hole and didn't think it went in,'' Spieth said. ''I started walking because balls have been sticking on the green, so I thought it stuck. But I guess it just crept forward that extra 2 feet.''

He didn't get much help from the crowd reaction, mainly because there wasn't much of a crowd. No more than two dozen fans were with any group.

Dustin Johnson might have had the largest gallery when he added his coach, a social media consultant, his wife, her brothers and their girlfriends. He was happy just to be playing after he cut his right heel coming out of the water from diving on Tuesday.

''I thought it was just a scratch,'' he said. ''Then I was just sitting in the boat, looked down and there was blood everywhere.''

He played the opening round in tennis shoes and managed just fine with a 68.

Anirban Lahiri of India, playing on a sponsor exemption had a 69 that included a bogey on the par-5 ninth when he hit a sand wedge out of the dunes that went over the green and over some 25 yards of water near the 18th fairway.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.