Defending Champion Toms Opens Strong
Toms, the events defending champion, is hoping to take a page out of Leonards book from last weeks tournament at the Texas Open, when the hometown native won for the second consecutive year.
While Toms missed the cut, he must have been taking notes.
The Louisiana native came out smoking Friday, requiring only 22 putts and carding nine birdies against just two bogies over the course in historic Williamsburg, Va.
He leads by one stroke over five others, including Shigeki Maruyama and Neal Lancaster, and by two over four others, including first-year player Bryce Molder.
While Toms has only played in two events since his career-changing victory at the PGA Championship in August, he seems to be picking up right where he left off.
Starting on the back nine first, the 34-year-old six-time winner on the PGA Tour bogeyed his first hole of the day (No. 10), but crammed in five birdies over his next seven holes to get into negative-territory.
Making the turn at 4-under, he continued to blitz the course, canning four more red numbers, before a bogey-five derailed him at the par-4 8th.
As it was, his 64 marked his lowest score since his win in Mays Compaq Classic of New Orleans.
'I can't remember the last time I did anything like that,' said Toms of his incredibly low number of putts for the day.
While Toms has found great success in recent years on the PGA Tour, Maruyama recently won his first event on the circuit at the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Like Toms, the Japanese star also looks to be on top of his game, making seven birdies to offset a single blemish on his card Friday.
Also in good standing entering the second day is recently-turned professional Molder.
Molder, a collegiate standout at Georgia Tech, is competing in just his fifth event since turning pro.
While he has missed the cut in the last three events which he has competed, the 22-year-old has already shown great promise, finishing third in his first event as a pro, the Reno Tahoe Open in late-August.
On Friday, he had it to 7-under on the day with just two holes left and might have ended on top with Toms, but slipped with back-to-back bogies over his final two holes, the par-4 8th and 9th.
Meanwhile, playing in his first event as a pro this week, 17-year-old Ty Tryon bogied his first hole of the day and never recovered, shooting 76.
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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
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.
“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.