Clark Moves Three Clear in South Africa
The 26-year-old played a flawless round with five birdies and no bogeys. After complaining about his putting in the first round, he appeared more satisfied with his performance heading into the weekend.
'I hit every green, like I did in the final round of the South African Open,' said Clark. 'I've got that level of concentration I had there. I missed it at the Dunhill Championship because, coming so soon after the South African Open, it's difficult to maintain that level of concentration.'
The Durban native notched his first European Tour win at the South African Open earlier this month. He earned his PGA Tour card after finishing third on the 2000 Buy.com money list.
A wrist injury forced Clark to miss most of the 2001 season. He will play the 2002 campaign under a medical exemption.
'When I was injured, I certainly didn't expect to be winning these events. But my game's obviously come around quite nicely,' he said.
Clark is scheduled to return to the PGA Tour at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am next week, although he remains uncertain he will make the trip due to his current lead in the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
'I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet,' he said. 'For now I'm just trying to win here, and hopefully that will seal the Order of Merit title for me. I just want to concentrate on the next two rounds, and I'll take it from there.'
A first-place finish in the Order of Merit would grant Clark an automatic entry into both the British Open and the World Golf Championship's World Match Play.
Don Gammon (68), Marco Gortana (68) and overnight co-leader Michael Kirk (70) are tied for second at eight-under 136.
Gammon made the cut at both the South African Open and the Dunhill Championship leading up to this event. The 31-year-old is eager to earn his first win on the Sunshine Tour this year.
'I'm just chipping away, hoping that one of these days I'll break through with a win,' he said.
A group of seven remained one-shot further back at 7-under 137, including overnight co-leaders Andrew McLardy (71) and American Bruce Vaughan (71).
England's Chris Williams had the low round of the day with a 64. He leads a group of eight knotted at 6-under 138.
Norman Mashada had an ace on the 221-yard 12th. The shot helped Mashada make the halfway cut which fell at 1-over 145.
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.