Free-for-all - except the top-ranked - at Erin Hills

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2017, 1:55 am

ERIN, Wis. – Brandt Snedeker glanced up at the leaderboard late Friday at the U.S. Open and momentarily struggled with the math, which is saying something considering the Vanderbilt graduate is normally one of the game’s best and brightest.

For everything this week’s leaderboard lacked in star power – with eight of the top 12 players in the world, including the top 3, headed for the airport after missing the cut – it more than made up for in sheer numbers.

It’s a quantity over quality deal for the 117th edition, with 14 players within three strokes of lead, and that’s not counting the four tied for the top spot at 7 under par at the Rush Hour Open.

The foursome atop the pack, Paul Casey, Brain Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka, is the most at the U.S. Open after two rounds since 1974 and represents the sum total of this week’s venue.

Despite the ridiculous length of Erin Hills – the tab came to 7,839 yards on Day 2 – and a modest breeze for much of the day that, in theory, should have started the process of separating the wheat from the chaff, there’s less clarity after 36 holes than there was before Thursday’s opening tee shot, which doesn’t seem possible.

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“I just don't know if we've found the golf course yet. You can see it getting there. Greens-wise in U.S. Opens you get firm, fast conditions and the fire's not quite there yet,” said Snedeker, who joined the pack with a second-round 69 that left him tied for eighth with five others. “Yesterday afternoon I saw it a little on TV. Saw it today a little this afternoon. I expect to see more and more over the weekend. So when that happens, it will really start the separating.”

Perhaps Snedeker is onto something. There’s no denying that the Erin Hills Open is different from your normal fare. There were 44 players under par on Thursday and the 42 players under par after two days are the most in U.S. Open history.

The last two years at the U.S. Open there were nine players within three of the lead at the midway point, 10 in 2013 and no one was within five strokes of Martin Kaymer in ’14, compared to the 14 would-be winners at Erin Hills.

Erin Hills will toughen, on this there is no doubt.

The USGA eased the bite back into the brute on Friday and if history holds the low scoring will subside the closer we get to Sunday afternoon.

“We knew it was coming today. That was no secret,” William McGirt said of Friday’s increasingly difficult conditions.

But it’s just not the ease some in the field have been able to navigate the course that’s to blame for the traffic jam. Despite a singular narrative in the days before this championship that Erin Hills was a bomber’s course – nothing more, nothing less – the leaderboard tells a vastly different tale.

Koepka, Casey, Fleetwood and Harman rank 16th, 78th, 86th and 120th in the field in driving distance, respectively.

“It would be nice if I could play from where Keegan [Bradley] drove for two days,” McGirt said. “It doesn't scare me to have to hit 3- or 4-irons. It's not that big a deal. There's a couple of holes out here that are a little over the top, but that's the way it is.”

Nor does Erin Hills seem to have much interest in the status quo. The world Nos. 1, 2 and 3 – Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, respectively – missed the cut for the first time in any major with a combined 19 over total, and there’s not a single major champion within three of the lead.

Instead there’s a potpourri of players from perennial contenders Rickie Fowler (T-5), Snedeker and Hideki Matsuyama (T-8) to bona fide dark horses like PGA Tour rookie Xander Schauffele (T-8) and amateur Cameron Champ (T-8).

There’s still plenty of time to restore order. Winds that are forecast to reach 25 mph on the weekend and increasingly crusty greens should thin the crowd and inject some much needed clarity into what after two days has looked more like a fire drill.

Until then it’s best that everyone stays calm and move in an orderly manner toward the 72nd hole.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

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

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”