Yim Leads Futures Tour
Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea carded a 1-under-par 71 today to quietly get the job done and stay on course while others appeared to self-destruct on The Pines Country Club's firm and quick greens and thick rough. But her four-under-par, two-round total of 140 required considerable effort.
'I just concentrated on every shot,' said Yim, 20, a rookie who has posted nine top-10 finishes and holds the No. 6 position on the Tour's money list. A win on Sunday would push her into the top five with three tournaments remaining, giving Yim a solid chance of earning one of the five LPGA Tour cards awarded to the season's top performers.
But first things first. She still has to close out her first professional win in the U.S. And she still has to get past some stiff competition hovering only one shot back.
Liz Earley of St. Catharine's, Ontario also carded a 71 to move into a tie at three-under-par 141 with Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, who struggled mightily today, but eagled the last hole with a chip-in from 15 yards. The former Duke star took her two-over 74 and was grateful that the day had mercifully ended.
'To be able to come back like I did is nice,' said Nirapathpongporn, who had five bogeys, one birdie and one eagle for the day. 'I finally woke up on the back nine and remembered what I was out here to do.'
As for Earley, she relied on her veteran's patience and a handful of 'safety putts' to roll her long putts 'anywhere near the hole.' The Canadian bogeyed the first hole when she pulled a pitching wedge and didn't get up and down for par, but she rallied with birdies on No. 5 and No. 8. With bogeys on No. 10 and No. 11, Earley knew she'd better find a way to stop the bleeding soon on a course in which the pin placements had plenty of slope and the greens rendered considerable punishment.
'On this golf course, patience is huge,' she said. 'I could have gotten ticked off and lost it but I knew there were some birdie chances ahead.'
Sure enough, Earley dropped in a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 16, took a solid par on the day's toughest-playing hole -- the 209-yard, par-three 17th -- and hit her 7-iron to six feet on the 18th hole for birdie.
Earley recorded 32 putts and was grateful. Malinda Johnson of Eau Claire, Wis., had 33 putts and was kicking herself all the way from the 18th green to the scorer's table. Johnson grabbed the tournament lead briefly with a birdie on the 11th hole. But the lefty promptly gave the lead back to Yim on the 12th, then double-bogeyed the 16th with a three-putt green that pushed her into a tie at two-under 142 with Anna Knutsson of Malmo, Sweden. Knutsson posted a second-round 70 on the par-72, 6,287-yard course.
'I hit it better than I scored,' said Johnson, a rookie, who hit 15 greens and 10 fairways. 'These greens are getting so fast that you have to stroke it perfectly to have a chance. I didn't hit it outside 10 to 15 feet all day and I struggled with the putter.'
But while a few players scrapped and clawed to stay in the game, a few others lost strokes early and never could catch up. First-round co-leader Melanie Holmes-Smith of Melbourne, Australia, stumbled with an 80 and dropped into a tie for 28th at 147. Michelle Simpson of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., carded a four-over 76 to go from three behind the leaders to six back. Only 14 players broke par in the second round and only Danielle Downey of Spencerport, N.Y., cracked the 70s, firing a 69 to move into a tie at even par-144.
All of this prompted veteran player Marianne Morris of Middletown, Ohio, to sum up the day's results: 'There's a lot of carnage out there today.'
Indeed, it wasn't pretty. But this 13th annual tournament nestled in the West Virginia mountains has a long history of surprise endings. Whether it will be the quiet Korean earning her first U.S. title, the veteran Canadian winning for the first time in two years, the former college star capturing her first win as a pro or any of the chasers snatching the victory in a come-from-behind charge, it's certain to go down in tournament lore. Now, if only the field can hold off those speedy greens and ruthless rough.
Seventy-five players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 151 (+7).
Sundays final round of the 54-hole tournament will begin at 8 a.m., off the first tee. The leaders will tee off at 11:36 a.m.
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
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.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
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.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
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.”
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.