Open at Troon should restore a sense of order

By Rex HoggardJuly 13, 2016, 3:56 pm

TROON, Scotland – By comparison, this week’s Open promises to deliver a measure of competitive clarity to a season defined by distractions and dissension.

After weeks of waiting, the Olympic torch has been doused, rather than lit, by those who chose not to make the trip to Rio.

The surreal spectacle of last month’s U.S. Open has quietly faded into the background.

And the wildly premature declarations of a Big 3 have at least been tempered by parity and a party crasher.

If Jason Day is the byproduct of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy having a baby, as the Australian joked last year, Dustin Johnson has evolved into a freakish hybrid of all three in recent weeks.

Johnson overcame the demons of past major misses at Oakmont last month, with or without a one-stroke penalty, and added a World Golf Championship to his resume in his follow-up start.

That Johnson seems just as adept on the links of Scotland as he is on the fields of Oakmont only makes his status as a potential game-changer that much more imposing.

Last year at St. Andrews, Spieth was paired with Johnson for two deflating days and watched as DJ took a one-stroke lead after opening with rounds of 65-69.

“I played with Dustin the first two rounds and thought, 'Man, there’s nobody beating him this week,'” Spieth said. “He was just absolutely tearing it up.”

Imagine what the bomber can do now, without the weight of so many near-misses heavy across his broad shoulders.

But as impressive as Johnson’s run has been, the other members of golf’s foursome de jour could just as easily be considered the favorite, including McIlory, the 2014 champ who was dubbed the Ringo Starr of the game’s Fab Four by some in the U.K. media this week.

“Those guys are having a great run at the minute,” McIlroy said. “I'm pretty confident that if I go out and play my best golf, I'm going to win more times than not. I've got four major championships, and I'd love to add to that tally, just as those guys would love to add to their one or two majors that they have and just keep going.”


The Open: Full-field tee times | Photo gallery

Full coverage from the 145th Open


Lost in the Dustin hype are Day’s three victories this season, including his triumph at The Players. Day's seven-win, year-long run was sparked last year at St. Andrews when his birdie bid to join the impending playoff came up inches short. He's been a different player ever since, and his close call last year would suggest the Australian has found an answer to his links questions.

“It was just a strange feeling that I felt so calm about things, and no matter what happened, it was going to be OK. I think subconsciously I just finally got over the hurdle that, it's your time to start winning and play well,” Day said when asked to describe last year’s loss at St. Andrews.

Spieth, separately, rebounded from a spring swoon with his second victory of the season at Colonial. He finally seems to have worked his way through a two-way miss that cost him a second green jacket in April.

And even McIlroy, who has now played five majors since last he overpowered a major field, has flashed signs of his familiar form, with a victory at the Irish Open in May and top-5 showings at The Memorial and French Open.

For those who have waited patiently, the stars seem to have properly aligned for the new wave of young ... well, stars. This Open appears to have providence after weeks of chatter about Olympic no-shows and condensed schedules.

And while the Big 4 will dominate the dialogue, Royal Troon’s penchant for identifying otherwise obscure champions – Todd Hamilton, for example – makes it unwise to dismiss the other 152 players in the field.

When Justin Leonard won The Open in 1997, he’d been on the PGA Tour for just three years. He wasn’t exactly a household name. The same could certainly be said for the aformentioned Hamilton.

Although the club’s pedigree includes plenty of heavy-hitting champions, most notably Tom Watson in 1982 and Arnold Palmer in ’62, the strength of Royal Troon is in its competitive simplicity.

“I don't think it's a bomber's course, as such. I think our motto here, “tam arte quam marte,” which [in Latin] means ‘as much with skill as by strength,’” said Colin Montgomerie, who grew up playing Troon. “This course demands both, strength and skill.”

Royal Troon is widely considered the Open’s fairest test, and perhaps the greatest compliment one can pay to the layout is that it’s adept as a venue, not as a talking point.

Royal Troon will stand as a stage and not a distraction, unlike some other major championship venues. It also seems certain there will be no rules snafus or blunders like those that marred last month’s U.S. Open or the 2010 PGA Championship.

“The referees that we have here are highly experienced referees. A lot of them work on the major tours and the major amateur events all year around,” said Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A. “Our feeling is that the standard of the refereeing that will be out there this weekend is second to none.”

In other words, there will be no rules entanglements, no golf course set up issues, no distractions - just a sense of order that only the chaos of a Scottish summer can cause.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

Getty Images

After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1