Sorenstam Big Winner on Day 1
Phil Mickelson won four skins and is in second place with $100,000. Fred Couples, the all-time money leader in Skins Game history, took a skin on the opening hole and is in third with $25,000.
Defending champion Mark O'Meara did not win a skin on Saturday, when the quartet played the first nine holes at Trilogy Golf Club. The final nine holes will be played on Sunday.
There were no skins won from the sixth hole on, so the par-5 ninth was worth $175,000. None of the four players reached the green in two. Sorenstam was in a bunker 40 yards from the hole but blasted out and watched as the ball fell into the hole for an eagle.
After congratulating the No. 1 player in women's golf, the three remaining competitors tried to duplicate Sorenstam's magic but none could hole out from the rough.
'Under the circumstances, I would have been happy to get it within 10 feet. I would have been really happy,' said Sorenstam. 'It seems like it's my year. It's amazing. I'm enjoying it.'
Sorenstam dominated women's golf the last three years, completing the career Grand Slam in 2003 with wins at the LPGA Championship and Women's British Open.
But her biggest accomplishment of the season was her play at the Colonial on the PGA Tour. She became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour when she missed the cut at the tour stop.
Couples started out with a 12-footer for birdie at the first after he drove into fairway bunker. That putt earned him $25,000 after none of his fellow competitors could find the bottom of the cup before him.
Mickelson had the best chance to win at the short, par-3 second but his 15-footer slid by the hole. It was on to the third hole, which was now worth $50,000, that Mickelson took advantage. He knocked a lob-wedge to three feet and Sorenstam had the best chance to top him, but her eight-footer stayed on the edge. Mickelson rolled home the birdie putt to win the skins.
Mickelson continued his strong play at the fourth. He holed a left-to-right 25-footer for birdie but this time Sorenstam was able to answer. She sank an 18-foot birdie putt of her own to carry the skin over to the fifth hole.
At the fifth hole, O'Meara was in great shape to make birdie and take the two skins. His approach bounced up to five feet but once again it was Mickelson who upstaged the closer player. He drained a 35-footer for birdie and O'Meara pushed his birdie try so Mickelson upped his total to four skins and $100,000.
O'Meara and Mickelson both made birdies at the sixth to carry the skin over to No. 7. Couples and O'Meara holed short birdie putts at the par-5 seventh to make the eighth worth three skins. For the second time in three holes, O'Meara and Mickelson halved a hole to set up No. 9 and Sorenstam's amazing shot.
Sorenstam hit driver off the tee at the 524-yard hole, then knocked a 7-wood from 255 yards into the bunker. Her sand-wedge shot skipped across the green and went in. Then it was a hug from her caddie and congratulations from the men.
'To see it was fantastic,' admitted Couples, who set a Skins Game record with his 10th appearance. 'It was absolutely perfect. You have to be in that bunker to know how hard it is.'
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”