One marathon day down, two more to go at U.S. Open

By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2016, 1:46 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – After 13 hours of nonstop golf, Andrew Landry is still atop the leaderboard at the 116th U.S. Open, even though he struck just one shot Friday. Only now he has company, with Dustin Johnson bombing his way into a share of the lead after a near-flawless display at Oakmont.

After firing the first bogey-free round in an Open here since 1994, Johnson putted for birdie on all but two holes in the second round. Opting to finish in darkness, Johnson’s stress-free 69 pushed him to 4-under 136.

“I felt like I played really good all day,” he said. “Very pleased with how it went today.”

More than a quarter of the way through this disjointed Open, the leaderboard lacks some of the familiar names – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are a combined 20 over par – but it has reignited the best-player-without-a-major debate and also turned the spotlight onto a familiar protagonist.

Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, with 26 top-5s in majors between them, all were inside the top four when the second round was suspended.

Their early standing should come as little surprise. 

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Star-crossed at golf’s biggest events, Johnson was still one of the pre-tournament favorites based not only on his recent form (consecutive top-5s on Tour), but because of a venue that so perfectly fit his brawny game. A long, straight driver enjoys a massive advantage at Oakmont, and Johnson has been lethal off the tee, finding 71 percent (20 of 28) of the fairways while leading the field in driving distance, at 318.8 yards a pop.

“He played awesome,” Garcia said.

Westwood, now 43, shared second place two months ago at the Masters, while Garcia has regained his form, winning last month at the Nelson. The Spaniard closed out his day with a 50-footer for par on a course he described as the most difficult he’s ever played.

The rest of the picture here is less clear, with an eclectic cast of characters from major rookies to grinder-types to promising Europeans. Yet as Day 2 drew to a close, it was instructive to keep these early results in perspective: Only 47 of the 155 players have completed 36 holes, and half the field hasn’t even started its second round.

That’s why Landry, ranked 624th in the world and playing in his first major, was still at the top. Early Friday morning, he didn’t even bring his staff bag or his caddie to the course. His only task was cleaning up a 10-foot birdie putt that gave him an opening 66, the low first-round score at an Oakmont Open. 

Prior to this week, Landry hadn’t been inside the top 20 after any round this season, but now he’ll sleep on the lead at his national championship for the second consecutive night. Cooped up indoors after his early finish, Landry, sporting a new, clean-shaven look, returned to the course late Friday afternoon to spend about an hour at the practice area. His second round begins at 7:11 a.m. ET Saturday.

Among those who have yet to begin their second round: two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (1 under), defending U.S. Open champion Spieth (2 over) and world No. 3 McIlroy (7 over). 

No U.S. Open is complete without a chorus of complaints, of course, and so it was Friday that some of the early-late starters groaned about their misfortune, as they endured three weather delays in one round while the other half of the field (including Johnson, the co-leader) played as many as 36 holes in a single day on a soft, gettable course.

The numbers suggest their grumblings were at least somewhat justified: The scoring average for the early-late starters (75.22) was nearly two shots higher than the afternoon wave (73.27). There were five more under-par rounds on the course when play was finally called, at 8:42 p.m. ET, after 13 consecutive hours of golf.

Oakmont’s slick, sloping greens have frightened members and Open competitors for years, but they haven’t been as fearsome over the first two days here, after nearly three inches of rain in a 36-hour span. The greens are rolling about a foot slower than the USGA hoped, allowing players to putt more aggressively. And the surfaces are soft and receptive, eliminating any fear that well-struck wedge shots would take a firm bounce and bound over the back. It’s a testament to Oakmont’s classic design – and its long, dense, penal rough – that only six players who have started two rounds remain under par.

Over the next two days, Oakmont will only get firmer, speedier and scarier, with a forecast that calls for low humidity and high temperatures in the upper-80s. (Hello, mud balls.) It’s a safe bet that Daniel Summerhays’ second-round 65 will stand as the low score of the week. One of the last players into the field as an alternate, Summerhays surged into a tie for seventh, just three shots off the clubhouse lead. “I need to think about that round, just sear it right into my memory,” he said. More importantly, he’s already signed two scorecards while the rest of the field is playing catch-up.

Indeed, another marathon day looms Saturday, with golf scheduled from sunrise to sunset. In 24 hours, the leaderboard figures to look much different.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.