Tanaka Quigley Set Pace in Hartford
'The greens are good and they had some pretty tough pin placements,' said Quigley, who like Tanaka is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour.
Scott Verplank, who fired a tournament-record-tying 61 in last year's final round en route to a tie for 17th, opened with a 65 on Thursday for a share of third place with Tim Herron, Briny Baird, Kaname Yokoo, Jonathan Kaye and Skip Kendall.
'I played very well actually,' said Verplank, who hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens in regulation and putted 27 times Thursday. 'I finally started rolling a few putts in. I haven't been doing much of that lately and for some reason I got a little better feel today and made a few.'
Peter Lonard, 34, a three-time winner on his home circuit in Australia, is competing in his first season on the PGA Tour after tying for 10th at the 2001 Qualifying Tournament. He has yet to miss a cut in 14 events played and was well on his way to making it 15 with a bogey-free 66 in first-round action.
Alongside Lonard at 4-under par were Kirk Triplett, Steve Pate, Glen Hnatiuk, Mathew Goggin and Steve Allan.
Notah Begay III, hampered by a bad back since winning in Hartford two years ago, shot a three-under 67, just his second sub-70 round in a year in which he's missed all 11 cuts.
Begay was in 15th place with Scott Hoch, Corey Pavin, Jim Carter, Deane Pappas, Brandt Jobe and Peter Jacobsen, who captured the 1984 Greater Hartford Open, the first held at River Highlands.
Paul Azinger, the winner here in 1987 and '89, finished four shots off the pace with 10 players, among them Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia and Joe Durant.
Although a tournament will often have problems drawing a quality field the week following a major championship, five of the top-10 players in the world decided to make the short trip from Long Island's Bethpage State Park, site of the last week's U.S. Open, to the suburbs outside Connecticut's capital.
Phil Mickelson, the second-ranked golfer in the world and the 2001 GHO champion, turned in a 1-under 69 as he began his quest to become the first player to successfully defend this title. Also with 69s were No. 3 Ernie Els and No. 4 Sergio Garcia, while Vijay Singh, the world's eighth-ranked player, carded an even-par 70.
Seventh-ranked David Duval continued his season-long struggle on Thursday. The man who will defend his British Open title a month from now made eight bogeys in a three-over 73. Should Duval fail to qualify for the weekend after Friday's round, it would mark his fourth missed cut in his last five starts.
Quigley, 32, the nephew of current Senior Tour star Dana Quigley, was caddying for his uncle when he set the tournament record of 61 at Wethersfield Country Club in 1982. While the younger Quigley didn't enter record territory on Thursday, his 64 was his best round of the 2002 campaign.
After starting strong with four birdies over his first six holes, Quigley rolled in a 20-foot birdie at the 11th. He moved atop the leaderboard with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 13th.
Quigley made bogey out of a bunker at the 16th but returned to 6-under courtesy of an 18-foot birdie putt at 17.
'I think I've tried too hard this year. I've come out feeling like I should be able to take it to the next level,' said Quigley, who registered his best showing on the PGA Tour when he finished second at last year's Greater Greensboro Classic. 'As a result, I think I've tried too hard, and certainly the last few months it's been pretty frustrating.'
Quigley missed seven cuts and was disqualified once, at Bay Hill, in his first 11 starts of 2002. Although he missed only one cut over his next six events, Quigley's highest finish in that span was a tie for 30th in Greensboro.
Tanaka, who has 15 victories worldwide, including 10 on the Japan Golf Tour, hit all 14 fairways and took just 25 putts in the first round.
'I didn't have too many big mistakes, and my putts and my shots were very good,' the 31-year-old Tanaka said through an interpreter.
The purse for the event was increased by a healthy $900,000 from last year to $4 million. The winner will take home $720,000.
Full Field Scores from the Canon Greater Hartford Open
PGA Tour Statistics
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.