For the first time in its 102-year history, the U.S. Open will employ split tees for the first two rounds on the 7,214-yard, par-70 Black Course at Bethpage State Park. USGA officials have forgone tradition this week in the hope that it will speed up play and try and avoid 6+-hour rounds with a 156-man field.
Thursday, Mickelson will start on the back nine, with no chance to ease his way into the round.
Starting at 10, 12, 13 ' those three are, by far, the most difficult three holes we have on the course ' and 15, he said. Its very difficult to start on the back side here because youre starting right with the meat of the golf course. You dont have an opportunity to get into a rhythm or a flow and feel confident.
The 10th hole is 492 yards ' the second longest par-4 in U.S. Open history. The fairway is separated by tall fescue grass, large bunkers and grass hollows. A subtle dogleg left will lead you to a small green fronted by a swale and guarded by several sandy demons.
The difficulty of the 11th is dependent upon the wind. Strong prevailing winds can accentuate the challenge of the 435-yard par-4. Players have to hit to a blind fairway, and then try and work their way onto one of the most troubling greens on the course. The putting surface is sloped steeply from back to front, meaning anything over the green is dead. A pitch shot from the deep rough is almost guaranteed to lead to another pitch shot from the opposite end of the green.
Take a virtual tour of the Black Course
Should Mickelson and company survive the first two holes unscathed, they are rewarded with the longest par-4 in Open history ' the 499-yard 12th.
The test doglegs sharply left ' with the prevailing wind blowing from the left and slightly into the players face ' after a massive cross-bunker about 235 yards from the tee. The green is one of the largest on the course, but it is heavy in pronounced undulations.
It would be a great start to play the first three holes in even (par), said Mickelson.
The 13th is the only par-5 on the inward half. At 554 yards, the hole may require three full swings into a prevailing wind. The fairway curls to the right about 260 yards off the tee, and there is a cross-bunker some 30 yards short of the green.
Normally, we look at par-5s as being birdie holes, as great opportunities to score low, but here at the Open, and on 13 more specifically, its a very difficult hole just to salvage par, Mickelson said.
The 161-yard par-3 14th may be the easiest hole on the course ' meaning par, not birdie, is a good possibility. A short-iron will be used to attack a large but undulating green.
Then its off to No. 15 ' possibly the most demanding hole on any of Bethpage's five golf courses. The drive on the 459-yard hole must be long and accurate on the slight dogleg left. A long-iron or fairway wood will then be used to reach a green that is perched on a hillside, 50 feet above the fairway. Players must not only find the green, but also hit it in the right spot, as the two-tiered surface slopes mightily from back left to front right.
To finish the back nine, players will encounter the 479-yard, par-4 16th; the 207-yard, par-3 17th; and the 411-yard, par-4 18th.
Starting on No. 10 is one hell of a start, said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. Youd better be warmed up.
Added Jose Maria Olazabal: Its not going to be easy, but everybody is going to have to do it.
And then its off to the front, which is no walk in the Bethpage State Park.
Full coverage of the 102nd U.S. Open
Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.
Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.
“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”
It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.
Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.
“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”
It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.
How The Open cut line is determined
Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.
The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:
• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.
• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.
• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.
The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.