McIlroy cards 67 on Day 1, shares early BMW lead

By Doug FergusonSeptember 5, 2014, 12:06 am

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. - Rory McIlroy felt anything under par was a good score Thursday at Cherry Hills, even if he had reason to expect much better.

McIlroy ran out of par saves late in the opening round at the BMW Championship and had to settle for a 3-under 67, still enough for the world's No. 1 player to share the lead with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland.

Cherry Hills, one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour when factoring in the mile-high air, held up just fine.

''It's tricky. It really is,'' McIlroy said. ''The altitude, we've had a couple of days to adjust to that. It's fine. But these greens have gotten so much firmer over the last 24 hours. I think that's what is giving the guys just a little trouble out there.''

U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia were among those at 68, while Justin Rose wasted a fast start and was at 69. Phil Mickelson, who won the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in 1990, opened with a 70.


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''It reminds me of Augusta in the early '90s, where the course played very short but the greens were the defense,'' Mickelson said. ''And the greens were very fast, and very firm, and it was very difficult to get the ball close.''

McIlroy ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn to reach 5 under par. He appeared to escape trouble with one of his best par saves of the year, hitting a lofted pitch from the side of a mound that landed just on the green and rode the slope to about 8 feet. He avoided a three-putt on the next hole by making a 7-foot par save.

But that was the end of that.

McIlroy failed to save par from the bunker on the next two holes.

Spieth also ran into his share of trouble, though he countered with six birdies and figured out the nasty combination of soft turf in front of the greens and putting surfaces that felt like they had been mixed with cement.

He blasted driver through the fairway on the 382-yard seventh hole because it offered the best angle into the green. The trick was playing the wedge. It came out low and running, something one would expect to see more in links golf, and it had just enough speed to crawl onto the green and settle a few feet away.

''Today, I had a good short game,'' Spieth said with a smile, a strong comment from a guy with one of the best short games in golf.

Woodland made only one mistake when he three-putted from about 50 feet on the fourth hole. He birdied both the par 5s, missing an 8-foot eagle attempt on No. 11, and was equally pleased with a par on the 18th hole, which features a severely canted fairway toward the lake and an uphill approach. Woodland hit 2-iron off the tee and a 6-iron onto the green.

''Probably the firmest golf course we have ever seen,'' Woodland said. ''The greens, they're concrete out there. So if we don't get any rain, it can be pretty interesting by the weekend.''

Just his luck, rain arrived late in the day and suspended the first round with nine players still on the course. They will return Friday morning before starting the second round. The field is only 69 players and there is no cut.

Among those who did not finish was Henrik Stenson, who missed a 4-foot par save on his 17th hole - the par-3 eighth - and fell to 2 under. Jerry Kelly, whose eagle on the final hole at the TPC Boston on Monday enabled him to be the last of the top 70 qualifiers for the BMW Championship, was at 1 under with two holes to play.

The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where everyone will have a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus.

McIlroy has proven himself plenty this year, winning the British Open and the PGA Championship, with a World Golf Championship in between. He is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings behind Deutsche Bank Championship winner Chris Kirk, though he is assured a clear shot at winning the cup.

Boy Wonder has been saying during these FedEx Cup playoffs that his big year deserves a big finish.

He was hoping for a big round, and almost had one.

''The scoring isn't that good out there,'' he said. ''Not that it's not good, it's just not that low. It's tricky. It's playing a little bit like a U.S. Open. I wouldn't say it's quite as difficult as that, but it's thick rough, especially around the greens, and firm greens. That's what they need to keep the scoring the way it is.''

McIlroy wasn't the only player to reference a major championship.

''It felt close to it,'' Garcia said. ''Obviously, it's not a long course with the altitude and everything, but a lot of the shots had to be hit perfectly to be able to hit it close to the pin.''

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”