Els Maintains South African Lead
Els stands at 11-under-par 133. Lee Westwood, who lost to Els in a playoff at this event a year ago, is one shot back. The Englishman posted the low round of the day, a 7-under 65.
Mike Weir (67) and two-time Nedbank winner Bernhard Langer (67) are two shots off the pace at 9-under.
'I wasn't at all sharp on the front nine,' said Els. 'But once again the back nine was totally different. I missed a 12-footer for eagle at the 10th but got the birdie and then birdied 11,12 and 14. I played really well in that stretch.'
His only mistake came on the par-4 15th after a poor drive into the right rough resulted in a bogey.
Westwoods day consisted of seven birdies and no bogeys. He went out in 32, which included a birdie at the par-4 eighth ' a hole that the 12 competitors played in 7-over on Friday.
'I've got my confidence back and I felt like the Lee of old out there again,' said Westwood, who didn't win on the European Tour for the first time since 1995. 'I don't know whether I've been mentally drained this year but I've just been going through the motions.'
Spains Sergio Garcia had a triple-bogey 7 at the eighth. His tee shot went left of the fairway and hit the brick path that runs alongside it. The extra bounce caused his ball to shoot into the rough where, after a lengthy search, it was discovered, though deeply buried.
It took the 21-year-old two shots to find the fringe of the fairway, and two more to reach the green. He did recover, however, birdieing his next two holes en route to a 1-under 71. He is 5-under for the tournament, tied with two-time champion Nick Price for eighth place.
Retief Goosen shot his second successive 68 to finish 36 holes alone in fifth place at 8-under. Hes followed closely by 1996 winner Colin Montgomerie, who carded a 69 to move to 7-under.
Jim Furyk, the lone American vying for the $2 million first-place check, is at 6-under following a 67.
Irishman Padraig Harrington (72) is nine back of Els, while Darren Clarke (68) and Thomas Bjorn (72) are tied for the final position at 1-under.
Clarke played impressively Friday. He rediscovered the strength that had deserted him Thursday because of low blood sugar to shoot 6-under 30 on the back nine at the Gary Player Country Club.
'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.