Willett avoids 'Armageddon' in second-round 69

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2015, 5:14 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Danny Willett expected the conditions at the Old Course to resemble “Armageddon” on Friday morning. 

Well, he was half right – a massive front blew through the area, with high winds and torrential rain, but the storm was so intense that huge puddles formed around the course and led to second-round play being halted for more than three hours. 

So instead of enduring a test of survival and patience, Willett took advantage of the easier conditions with four birdies in his first 10 holes to surge to the top of the leaderboard. He made two late bogeys but got up-and-down from just short of 18 green for a final birdie to post a 3-under 69 and reach 9-under 135.

When Willett finished his round, he was two clear of Adam Scott (67), Mark Warren (69) and Zach Johnson (71).

“I think we’re pretty fortunate we didn’t have to play in the rain,” Willett said. “That didn’t stop the fact that it was 20, 25 mile-an-hour winds, and we were just kind of hoping it hasn’t blown itself through. We’re hoping it stays to give it a relatively fair test.”

The 27-year-old Englishman is still relatively unknown in the States.

After dropping out of college in England after only a month, he spent two years at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. The structure of college golf – mandated workouts, team practices, training, qualifying, study hall – helped Willett’s development, and he was ready to flourish upon returning home.

“I went out there at 17, quite young, a little bit messy, kind of do everything your way, and then came back two years later, bigger, stronger, a little bit more disciplined in everything I did, and that kind of set up the amateur career that I had for the next year and a half after that,” he said.  

Willett won the English Amateur in 2007, a title that helped land him a spot on the GB&I Walker Cup team. The following year, he ascended to No. 1 in the World Amateur Ranking. 

Success has been slow on the European Tour, but he won the BMW International Open in 2012 and then captured another title in South Africa late last yaer. Two months ago, he reached the semifinals of the WGC-Match Play at Harding Park. With a victory this week, he could vault inside the top 15 in the world. 

“I think it’s a childhood dream, and looking up there (at the leaderboard) it’s still a little bit surreal,” Willett said, “but it’s something I’m going to have to get used to, otherwise there's no point in being up there.” 

Seems his mother needs to get used to it, too. 

Elizabeth Willett tapped out a message for her son following his two rounds here.

“Well done,” she wrote, “you’ve made the cut.”

And now he has the potential to do a whole lot more than that. 

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.