Players rave about 'ideal' scoring at Pinehurst

By Ryan LavnerJune 13, 2014, 1:00 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – On Wednesday, Martin Kaymer was asked what he would take for a 72-hole score at Pinehurst.

“8 over par,” he said.

So much for that. A day later, he posted the lowest score ever here (65) in a U.S. Open.

Fast, fiery and unforgiving earlier this week, the restored Pinehurst No. 2 was surprisingly gettable during the first round of this 114th Open.

A few of the tees were moved up. Morning cloud cover locked in the moisture. There was little, if any, wind.

“We had ideal scoring conditions,” Jordan Spieth said, “if that’s such a thing at a U.S. Open.”

Said Brendon de Jonge (68): “I definitely felt like if you’re going to get it, today is the day.”

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Fearful of a course that had already become firm, crispy and right on the edge, and with the women also coming to town next week, the USGA met for its 2:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday and decided to put very little water on the course in anticipation of an overnight storm. There wasn’t a drop, so the setup crew applied “ample” water on Thursday morning. A similar plan is in place for Friday.

The result was more birdies than anticipated, and a bunched leaderboard that held until Kaymer birdied three of his last five holes to take a three-shot lead.

“Pinehurst played beautifully,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We couldn’t have been happier for Day 1 of the U.S. Open.”

At one point Thursday, there were 96 players within four shots of the lead. Now, there are 15. When the Opens were played here in 1999 and ’05, there were 23 and nine under-par scores in Round 1, respectively. Thirty-five rounds were at par or better Thursday. The opening-round scoring average was 73.23.

“What we saw is probably the most scoreable it’s going to be all week,” said Rory McIlroy, who shot 71.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Matt Kuchar (69) said.“It was quite playable.”

And it stayed that way in the afternoon too, when we once again dodged the pop-up thunderstorms that are so common this time of year.

Those in the afternoon wave had an added benefit: TV coverage. Able to watch how balls were reacting on the greens, players going off late adopted a more aggressive mentality than the morning-wavers who had seen in practice rounds how scary a firm-and-fast Pinehurst can be.

Harris English said he watched the coverage for only 15 minutes and knew that he needed to change his approach. No longer did he have to hit his second shots short of the hole and wait for the big bounce. If he was playing from the fairway, and he had a short iron, chances were good that he could stop the ball somewhere near the hole.

“It wasn’t crazy out there,” said English, who shot 69. “It wasn’t unfair by any means.”

Said Kaymer, “It was more playable than I thought. I think that made a big difference, mentally, that you feel like there were actually some birdies out there, not only bogeys.”

Though he currently sits at 5 under, even Kaymer knows he is unlikely to stay there. Friday is a new day, with different tee boxes and hole locations and conditions. The weekend will get firmer still.

The winning score at the past two U.S. Opens was over par. The winning score at Pinehurst in 1999 and ’05 was 279 (-1) and 280 (E), respectively. It’s a safe bet the 72-hole total here will be around that number, too.

“Hopefully I’m not right with the plus-8 (prediction),” Kaymer said, smiling. “I would be disappointed.”

And Pinehurst would have won again.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”