D. Johnson leads at Riviera; Walker one back

By Doug FergusonFebruary 14, 2014, 2:24 am

LOS ANGELES – Dustin Johnson moved down the coast of California and brought his game with him Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.

So did Jimmy Walker.

Johnson made six birdies on a warm, sunny day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead when the opening round was suspended by darkness. Walker birdied his last three holes and was in the large group at 67 that included Francesco Molinari of Italy and Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings.


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Four days ago, Johnson closed with a 66 in the gray, cold weather of Pebble Beach to finish one shot behind Walker. In conditions that could not have been any different - and could not have been any better - he made birdie on all of the par 5s at Riviera and only had one bogey on his card, at the long par-3 fourth.

The only comparison was the quality of his golf.

''It was cold, windy and wet at Pebble on Sunday. Here, it's not a lot of wind and perfect conditions. It's sunny and a really nice temperatures,'' Johnson said. ''It's still golf, though. You've still got to adjust no matter what you're doing.''

That was no trouble for Walker, whose victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his third of the season. He drove his RV down from the Monterey Peninsula, got up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to appear on Golf Channel, and then went right back to work.

Walker was in the middle of the pack until his tee shot on the par-3 16th settled just over a foot from the cup. He nearly reached the par-5 17th in two to set up a simple birdie, then finished with one of his best shots - an 8-iron from 184 yards out of a flyer lie in the rough to the back of the green and a 30-foot putt.

''It's four more days of golf,'' Walker said. ''You can ride the momentum of really good play. But everyone started at even and you just have to be like, 'Let's go get it again.'''

It was a glorious day off Sunset Boulevard, and Riviera was in ideal shape - firm and fast, particularly on the greens.

The warmth meant a little more distance, such as the 349-yard tee shot Johnson hammered down the middle of 13th fairway, a slight dogleg left framed by eucalyptus trees. That left him only 97 yards, and he stuffed it. And on the par-5 17th - 608 yards up the hill, no help from wind - he reached it in two and had a two-putt from just over 20 feet. His only glitch was coming up just short of the green and in the bunker on the 225-yard fourth.

Johnson isn't playing a lot this season, but when he does, he plays well.

He already has a win at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He shared the 54-hole lead at Kapalua and tied for sixth, and then took off four weeks before returning at Pebble Beach. That was a good sign for Johnson, who said he doesn't have a good history of playing well in the first event after a long break.

''This time, I stayed with it. I worked hard at home,'' Johnson said. ''It was tough at Pebble because of the weather, and it was hard to keep your concentration.''

Life is bliss right now for Walker, who is going for his third win in California this season, starting with the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in October. The only struggle was a bogey on the par-5 11th when his tee shot just missed the fairway and buried in a small indentation in the long grass. He followed that with another bogey on the tough 12th, and then rallied at the end.

''I don't know what it's like for some of those guys that are winning 40 times and they have done this a ton,'' Walker said. ''But right now, enjoy it. It's fun. It's a good place to be.''

Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler were among those at 68.

Jordan Spieth looked as though he might be among the leaders after holing out from 125 yards for eagle on No. 7 to reach 3 under. He was in position for a birdie on the 11th until leaving a shot in the greenside bunker and missing the par putt. Spieth caught a huge break on the next hole when his tee shot was hooking out-of-bounds until hitting a tree, though he had to scramble for bogey.

He also made three par putts in the 5-foot range to hold it together, but dropped a shot on the 18th when he tried to punch a hybrid around some Eucalyptus trees. He had a 73.

Spieth was playing with Fred Couples - the 20-year-old Texan was born a year after Couples won the Masters - and the old guy held his own. Couples had a lost ball on his second shot at No. 11 and made double bogey, rallied with two birdies and then made bogey on the final hole for a 72. Couples is playing the Northern Trust Open for the 32nd time.

DIVOTS: The 10th hole was perilous as ever at 314 yards, especially for Scott Verplank. He took two shots from the front bunker and three from the back on his way to an 8. ''That was fun,'' Verplank said. The rest of the day wasn't. The 49-year-old Verplank, who has been battling injuries the last few years, withdrew with a bad back. ... Billy Hurley missed last week at Pebble Beach because his wife, Heather, gave birth to their first daughter (and third child), Madison Joy. Then, he got in as an alternate when Harrison Frazar withdrew. Hurley opened with a 70.

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”