Spieth, Simpson among quartet of Hyundai leaders

By Will GrayJanuary 4, 2014, 2:54 am

With the Kona winds cooperating this year moreso than last, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions got underway on schedule Friday at the Plantation Course. Here is how things stand after one round in Maui, where four players sit tied atop a crowded leaderboard:

Leaderboard: Webb Simpson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Chris Kirk (-7), Michael Thompson (-7), Jason Dufner (-6), Kevin Streelman (-6), Zach Johnson (-6), Ryan Moore (-6)

What it means: As is often the case, the scores were low Friday along the Hawaiian coastline as players took full advantage of scoring conditions. While Kirk and Thompson were the first into the clubhouse with rounds of 66 on the par-73 layout, they were soon joined by Simpson and Spieth as the limited field has yet to show much separation, with eight of the 30 participants set to begin Saturday's second round within one shot of the lead.

Round of the day: One of 13 first-timers in Maui this week, Spieth is also the youngest in the field at age 20 - though he showed no signs of inexperience Friday. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year carded seven birdies without dropping a shot during his opening round, capping a closing stretch that included four birdies over his final five holes with a 12-foot putt on No. 18. Spieth missed just two greens and three fairways Friday, and as a result is once again near the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard.

Best of the rest: Kirk started slowly Friday, as a bogey on No. 10 dropped him to just 2 under on his round. He closed in a flurry, however, with a birdie at the par-4 14th hole the first of five such red figures with which he closed his round. A winner at the McGladrey Classic in November, Kirk missed only one green during his opening-round 66 and as a result finds himself firmly in contention as he seeks his third career PGA Tour win.

Biggest disappointment: It's tough to make a case for 67s ever being a disappointment, but for Streelman and Dufner that might just have been the case Friday. Streelman appeared poised to take the clubhouse lead at 8 under thanks to a hot putter, but errant approaches led to bogeys at both Nos. 17 and 18 to close his round. Dufner, meanwhile, began the day 6 under for his first nine holes and seemed ready to threaten the course record before finishing his round with nine consecutive pars on a back nine that yielded birdies by the bunches Friday.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: It remains to be seen how this packed leaderboard will begin to thin, but likely the player to keep an eye on is Spieth. After a rookie campaign for the history books in 2013, the Texan appears poised to shake off any notion of a sophomore slump with a fast start in Hawaii. Should he falter, though, major champions Simpson and Dufner headline the group of current contenders on a course where birdie will continue to be the name of the game for the next three days.

Shot of the day: After a strong drive left him just 212 yards from the hole on the par-5 fifth, Jason Dufner took dead aim and barely missed. His approach cleared the native area in front of the green and rolled to within four feet of the hole, setting up a kick-in eagle that helped spark the reigning PGA champion to an outward nine of 6-under 30.

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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.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.”