Odds are: U.S. Open favorites

By John HawkinsJune 12, 2012, 5:56 pm

When I asked my editor who he liked at this week’s U.S. Open, he quickly replied that he could feel a first-time winner looming on the not-so-distant horizon. As much as I like to disagree with those who get to put their hands on my copy, I had a hard time finding fault with his reasoning.

One veteran PGA Tour player told me years ago that The Olympic Club rewards mediocrity. Loosely translated, that makes it a hard golf course to score on – some monster venues chew up the average players but reserve a few 66s for those who earn them. With showers in the forecast for the first two rounds and clear skies/relatively light breezes on the weekend, we could see a kinder, gentler Olympic, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

However much this U.S. Open seems geared toward crowning an unlikely champion, my list of a dozen pre-tournament favorites has no room for a Steve Jones-type mystery guest. Until further notice, I’m counting on greatness rising. Then again, what goes up must come down. It’s all a matter of when. And how far.

Luke Donald – A terrific hard-course player and the world’s best putter, it’s something of a mystery as to why Donald hasn’t performed to his usual standards at the majors. Preparation? Nerves? At some point, the guy will figure it out. This tournament has a right-place, right-time kind of feel to it. Odds: 12-1.

Tiger Woods – The Memorial victory reminded us who wears the pants in this household, but Tiger’s return to premium form has been stunted by a lack of consistency. There’s no substitute for big-game savvy. That said, nobody will win at Olympic from the right rough. Odds: 15-1.

Hunter Mahan – He still flies under most radars, but with a pair of wins in 2012 and some awesome ball-striking stats – 12th in driving accuracy, fifth in greens in regulation – I find it very hard to look past the guy. As always, Mahan’s short game will determine his level of success. Odds: 18-1.

Matt Kuchar – He hits fairways, hits greens and avoids bogeys, which won him The Players and could make him a serious factor here. Kuchar has the perfect temperament for this championship: even keel with an accent on smiling. Don’t think that doesn’t matter in this grindfest. Odds: 18-1.

Phil Mickelson – A career full of U.S. Open heartbreak isn’t likely to get a kind bounce from Olympic, which has killed the popular storyline at each of its four previous turns hosting this event. History does have a way of surprising us, however, and Mickelson obviously has all the tools. Again, he can’t play from the high stuff. Odds: 20-1.

Dustin Johnson – Heaven forbid you should win the week before the U.S. Open, but the St. Jude triumph certainly doesn’t hurt Johnson’s chances this week. Is he trending north in a hurry or did he merely conquer a mediocre field in Memphis? My guess is, a little of both. Odds: 25-1.

Lee Westwood – They play golf on grass, not a computer screen, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Westwood finally picks up his first major title. His much-maligned short game will become too big a detriment at Olympic, where hitting two-thirds of the greens may prove too much a task for anyone. Odds: 25-1.

Rory McIlroy – A strong showing in Memphis (T-7) bodes well, but the Irish Lad still doesn’t look quite right to me. According to my untrained eye, McIlroy is swinging harder than before, costing him the rhythm and fluidity that made him so good. Just can’t see him defending his title. Odds: 28-1.

Justin Rose – The British version of Kuchar, a player who avoids mistakes and grabs opportunity when it arrives. What bothers me about Rose is his putting – 123rd on the PGA Tour this year. If the lead stays around even par and he doesn’t have to hole 20-footers to stay alive, this guy could factor deep into Sunday. Odds: 30-1.

Bubba Watson – The tree-removal project that occurred shortly after Olympic hosted the ’98 U.S. Open could help Watson, figuring that more breeze will increase the value of length off the tee. Distance didn’t matter at all 14 years ago – David Duval was the only long hitter in the picture. Gotta make those 8-footers, Bubba. Odds: 40-1.

Jason Dufner – His recent binge of superb play earns him a spot on this list, but for all the high finishes, which include a pair of victories, Dufner still ranks 95th in putting. Maybe we’re splitting hairs, but when a round of even par can move you 10 spots up a leaderboard, you’ll have to save par, sometimes outside your comfort zone. Odds: 40-1.

Sergio Garcia – Go ahead and laugh, but Sergio is quietly having a decent year and comes off a T-3 in Europe. His U.S. Open history is pretty strong, albeit a winless one, and through thick and thin, he has continued to drive the ball exceptionally well. Of course, if he’s standing over a 5-footer to win his first major, I might have to look the other way. Perhaps this one time, fate won’t. Odds: 45-1.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.