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Here’s Ewan Murray’s day one report from Carnoustie …
And that’s your lot on a great day for Kevin Kisner, and a very promising one for much-fancied stars Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Zach Johnson and Tony Finau. See you tomorrow!
-4: van Rooyen, Finau, Lombard
-3: Stone, Moore, Steele
-2: Southgate, Willett, Kang, Perez, Rahm, Henley, McIlroy, Z Johnson, Thomas, Reavie
Par for Matsuyama, who signs for a four-over 75. A three-putt bogey for a disappointed Russell Knox, who has shot 73. And two putts for par for Tiger, who ends level par after an up-and-down 71.
The moon is in the sky, and the seagulls are giving it plenty. Late evening in Scotland. Tiger and Knox find the heart of the green with their second shots; they’ll have outside chances of birdie.
Pars for Woods, Knox and Matsuyama at 17. They’re level par, +1 and +4 respectively. Matsuyama just hasn’t got going at all. All three of their tee shots at 18 find the fairway.
Par for Brooks Koepka at the last. He’s very close to making a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the hole, but he’ll have to settle for a one-over 72. Seeing he was out in 41 strokes, after a run of 6-5-5-5-5 coming up to the turn, he’ll be pretty happy with the rescue mission he launched. A two-over 73 for Ian Poulter.
Tiger’s tee shot at 16 ends up in a tight lie to the right of the green. He does extremely well to get up and down for his par. Leaderboard, anyone? Warning: there is not much movement on it.
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (F), Finau (F), Lombard (F)
-3: Stone (F), Moore (F), Steele (F)
-2: Southgate (F), Willett (F), Kang (F), Perez (F), Rahm (F), Henley (F), McIlroy (F), Z Johnson (F), Thomas (F), Reavie (F)
Bogey for Ian Poulter at 17: he’s +2. His playing partner Brooks Koepka passes him going the other way, the result of a delicious approach bundled up the left-hand side of the green, pin high to eight feet. He’s +1 again, and this is some comeback. His drive on 18 toys with the Barry Burn and then two bunkers on the right, but somehow stays on the fairway.
Tiger can’t save his par at 15. He throws his hands up in despair. He slips back to level par … and there are now only 31 players currently under par for the 147th Open Championship. None of them are still out on the course.
Brooks Koepka can’t make his par-saving putt at 16, and slips back to +2. Ian Poulter manages to save himself, though, and remains at +1. Poulter’s been quiet today: just the one birdie, at 6, and a couple of dropped shots at 7 and 11. His best finish at the Open: runner-up at Birkdale in 2008. His chances of equalling or bettering that: not done yet.
Tiger, perched on one knee at the edge of the bunker, can only take his medicine and knock his ball back onto the fairway. He’s got the funk on: he’s been a bit sloppy during the last hour or so, and is in danger of letting a good round slip away from him. He sends a sand wedge into the heart of the green, but unless he drains a 30-footer, he’ll be back where he started, at level par.
“God dammit!” Tiger whistles an iron from the 15th tee into a bunker down the right. It’s only just crept into the left of the trap, so good luck with the stance. Meanwhile up on 16, more sand-based shenanigans, with both Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter right up against high faces. They take turns to smash wondrous shots to ten feet, giving themselves unlikely opportunities to salvage par.
Trouble for Tiger down the par-five 14th. His second slam-dunks into the bunker front right of the green. There’s a tall face on the bunker, and he needs to blast hard, up and out. The ball comes out, but flies 30 feet past the hole. His putt back up stops six feet short … but he makes the par saver. Far from ideal, but so much better than the pain of dropping a stroke on one of the easiest holes on the course. His partner Russell Knox meanwhile rakes in a monster for eagle, and he’s suddenly +1 after a very nondescript day.
Chez Reavie wedges his second at 18 into the heart of the green. He’s then inches away from rolling in his birdie putt. Not quite, but after that escape on 17, he’ll be very pleased to end the day with a 69. He’s one of 35 players currently in red figures … but only four of them are still out on the course, and all of them are only a single shot under par. That old-school defender of Carnoustie’s honour: the wind.
A three-putt bogey for Tiger on the par-three 13th. He took an absolute age to size up the three-footer that lipped out. You have to wonder sometimes whether the painstaking prep is worth it, or if it ends up addling the mind. Anyway, he slips to -1. Brooks Koepka’s revival continues apace: a third birdie in a row, and the fourth in five holes, comes at 14. He wasn’t too far away from rattling in his eagle chance. He’s +1, and this is a turnaround that puts some uncommon mental fortitude on proud display.
A quite outrageous par at 17 for Chez Reavie. His tee shot sailed off to the left, and looked sure to be swallowed up by the Barry Burn. But somehow the ball skipped over the hazard and settled in the rough on the other side. He then carved his second into a deep bunker guarding the front right of the green … before looping his ball out of the dangerous trap to kick-in distance! That keeps him at -2. A marvellous nonsense.
Tiger is an inch away from chipping in crisply from the edge of 12. No birdie, but that was a delightful touch, and he remains at -2. Jason Day and last year’s third-placed sensation, Haotong Li, end the day with level-par 71s. Here, we haven’t had a leaderboard for a while. I can field that one!
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (F), Finau (F), Lombard (F)
-3: Stone (F), Moore (F), Steele (F)
-2: Southgate (F), Willett (F), Kang (F), Perez (F), Rahm (F), Henley (F), McIlroy (F), Z Johnson (F), Thomas (F), Reavie (16), Woods (12), Zanotti (10)
Justin Thomas booms long down 18. He’s got a short wedge in, but sends it 30 feet past the flag. He can’t make a final birdie, though it was close, lipping out slowly, just missing on the left. He looks happy enough with his two-under 69. Francesco Molinari pars too for a one-under 70. The final member of the group, Branden Grace, made history at Birkdale last year by shooting a major-championship 62. Today it’s a 74.
Another birdie for Brooks Koepka! This time at 13, and the US Open champion isn’t taking this lying down. Here’s Jamie Cadman: “Have to agree one million percent with Gary Naylor (6.12pm). I’m in Arbroath four miles away and not a soul is going. Mates in Carnoustie also not interested. And we are in golf-mad country. Horrendous pricing!”
Brooks Koepka isn’t a two-time major winner for nothing. His run before the turn – 6, 5, 5, 5, 5 – would have killed off most players. But he’s bounced back with birdies at 10 and 12, the latest the result of a 30-foot right-to-left curler that was exquisitely paced. He’s +3 and smiling again. Meanwhile Tiger responds to that dropped shot at 10 by guiding in a 25-foot left-to-right slider at 11. Bounce-back birdie! He’s -2 again.
Brendan Steele’s record at the Open is miserable: three previous appearances, and not a single cut survived. But he’s in good shape to break that run this week. The current Safeway Open champion isn’t too far away from rolling in a long birdie putt from the back of 18. Not quite, but after a closing run which included birdies at 14 and 17, he’s signing for a three-under 68. His playing partner Zach Johnson meanwhile has responded well to that sequence of three bogeys around the turn. Birdies at 14, then at the closing hole, see the 2015 winner scribble his name at the bottom of a two-under 69. Adam Scott makes up the group, and he birdies the last for a level-par 71.
Justin Thomas manages to get up and down from the sand at 17. That’s a street-fighting par. He stays at -2. His partner Francesco Molinari also salvages something from the hole: a bogey, but it could have been much more painful had he not wedged from the rough wonderfully to four feet and holed out. He’s -1. “It’s £80 on the gate today,” reports Gary Naylor. “No wonder the crowds are thin. That’s big money by London standards, but outside London, it’s ridiculous. Shame (again) on the R&A.”
This closing stretch is beginning to take chunks out of some extremely talented players. The wind’s got up a bit, you see. Francesco Molinari has bogeyed 16, found the ditch down the left of 17, then sent his third into deep rough along the same side of the hole. Meanwhile his partner Justin Thomas also dropped a shot at 16, and needs a good up and down from a greenside bunker to save his par at 17. They’re both -2, but for how much longer? Meanwhile Tiger drops his first shot of the day, at 10, the result of finding sand from the tee. He’s -1.
It’s all gone south for the world number one too. Because it’s Dustin Johnson meltdown time! He hoicks his second shot out of bounds coming up 18, then takes three putts on the green, the last one pushed wide right from short distance. A triple bogey to finish, and he’s signing for a 76. He’s +5, and already participation at the weekend looks in the balance.
On 10, Sergio performs an ersatz tribute to Jean van de Velde, driving his ball into the Barry Burn, then getting in and literally splashing out. That was what van de Velde was considering on that fateful afternoon in 1999, but the tide submerged his ball at indecent speed, rendering the idea moot. Anyway, it’s a fine escape from plugged sludge – and Sergio didn’t even have to take off his shoes – but the ball squirts into a bunker, from which he can’t get up and down. Bogey, which follows a bogey at 9, and suddenly Sergio’s chances of going one better than 2007 are getting slimmer: he’s +3.
Rory McIlroy wedges his second at 18 to ten feet … but he can’t guide the left-to-right slider into the cup. That’s another chance gone begging, but he’ll be happy enough with his opening round of 69. Thorbjorn Olesen three putts to bogey the hole; he’s signing for a two-under 69 too. And it’s a par for Marc Leishman, whose initially promising round crumbled to a one-over 72. Meanwhile Tiger reaches the turn in 34, without a blemish on his card.
Thorbjorn Olesen hasn’t done much in the Open since his breakthrough performance at Lytham in 2012. He finished in a tie for ninth place that year. Could he go better this time? He’s certainly in good form, having won the Italian Open, tied for second at the BMW International, and finished tied sixth in Ireland. He’s going well today, at -2, and he’s only one turn of the ball short of another birdie at 17. Meanwhile a late move up the leaderboard by the hotly tipped Francesco Molinari. The Italian is in excellent nick too, after winning the BMW PGA and coming second to Olesen in his home open. Having just birdied 13 and 15, he’s -3.
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Henrik Stenson rattles in a missable par putt on 18, and he’s signing for a one-under 70. A strong finish to the 2016 champion’s round. Hubert O’Hearn again: “As soon as I criticise someone in golf or football, they’re going to bomb in either a long putt or an absurd volley. I really should hang out a shingle. You’re right that you can’t straddle the line of the putt. Sam (and I) had the ball just off my right foot, so a very very very open stance. And frankly, the USGA and R&A can lump it as far as criticism goes. This game is hard enough without disallowing a little ingenuity.”
Turf accountancy’s Sean Ingle (4.13pm) look away! Your man Marc Leishman is doing a number on you! That stumble around the turn really did take the wind out of his sails: he’s now bogeyed 12, 14 and 16 to drop to +1. Going in the right direction: Sergio, with birdie at 6 to rise to +1, and Big Dustin, who is on the same mark after birdie at 14.
Rory McIlroy curls in a right-to-left par saver from the edge of the par-three 16th. He’s hanging on in there at -2. Apologies to Hubert O’Hearn, then, for the awkward timing of this email: “The Open naturally breeds nostalgic memory and Rory’s putting difficulties caused me to remember Sam Snead’s side saddle/croquet stroke. I can speak from personal experience that it works, in much the same way that the now illegal ‘chin’ putter works. I wonder why no one uses it since Snead? I only quit putting side saddle because people gave me strange looks. I never again putted well. But I’ll tell you, to win a million pounds? I’d put up with all kinds of strange looks.” I stand to be corrected, so don’t quote me on this, but the croquet stroke is banned; however side saddle is fine so long as players don’t straddle the line of the putt. But the authorities don’t like it much. Bryson DeChambeau copped a lot of heat from the USGA when he tried it.
Tiger can’t convert his big drive on 6 into birdie. A distinctly average 7-iron into the green stymies his chances. On 18, Ryan Moore pars to finish with a 68. And if you thought Brooks Koepka had already hit a wall, his round is seriously unravelling now. His tee shot at the par-three 8th dribbles into a bunker. He’s forced to play out while outside the trap, on his knees. Inevitably, the ball only just gets over the face, and topples back into the sand. He can’t get the next one out. Third time lucky, to a couple of feet. But that’s a second double bogey in four holes. The double US Open champion has just gone 6-5-5-5. Having looked in total control of his game at the start of his round, he’s now tumbled to +4. Links golf, ladies and gentlemen!
An eagle for Bryson DeChambeau on 6. That takes him up the leaderboard to -1. He’s alongside Padraig Harrington, the winner here in 2007: the three-time major winner has sandwiched a bogey at 5 with birdies at 3 and 8. And Brooks Koepka’s frustrations continue: a yip from close range on 7, and he’s just gone 6-5-5. He’s +2. “Whenever I see McIlroy ruining his chances by putting like an 18 handicapper, I’m always reminded of Lee Westwood in the last round of the 2012 Masters,” writes Chris Miners. “Everyone remembers Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross, but fewer remember that Westwood missed makeable/easy putts on literally every single hole on the back nine that day. Imperious from tee to green. Hapless with the putter. Which wouldn’t sting so much if he hadn’t lost by just two shots. Jordan Spieth would have made at least four of those putts.”
Tiger takes driver for the first time today, at the long par-five 6th. And that’s a controlled effort as well, splitting the fairway, and long. Way too early to get properly excited … but let’s allow ourselves to get a little excited, what’s the point of sport if we’re not allowed? The early signs are promising for the 2000, 2005 and 2006 champion. A serious challenge could be forthcoming! Speaking of which … Rory McIlroy has just made another birdie, this time on the par-five 14th. He had been pin high with a fairly straight 25-footer for eagle, so the flat stick isn’t quite behaving perfectly yet. But he’s -2 now, and in a much better frame of mind.
Brooks Koepka’s misery continues. He blooters a huge drive down the left of the par-five 6th, but his second finds sand, and though he splashes out well to eight feet, the birdie putt lips out. He’s just gone 6-5 after a brisk start. Meanwhile what a par save by Tiger on 5! He’s on the wrong side of the swale, and elects to putt through it, down and up. There’s a massive right-to-left break as well. And he hits it perfectly – or as near as dammit. He’s one dimple away from making a jaw-dropping birdie … but the ball teeters on the edge and stubbornly refuses to disappear. For a second, you wonder whether there’s going to be a crowd-teasing pause, then a crowd-pleasing topple into the cup, a la the 16th at Augusta in 2005. But no. Tiger surveys the scene in a 360-degree sweep, but that ball’s not dropping. He taps it in. So unlucky! But so brilliant. Tiger’s in the mood, folks. That was his first error of the day, and he’s passed the resulting test with flying colours.
“Ti-gerrrrrrr!” Woods admonishes himself as he makes his first mistake of the day, pushing his second at 5 down a swale to the right of the green. He’ll have a chance of getting up and down from there, but there’s not a lot of green to play with. Meanwhile back-to-back birdies for Henrik Stenson, at 14 and 15, and suddenly the 2016 champion is in red figures.
Rory McIlroy misses another makeable birdie putt, this time at 13. He remains at -1. Dustin Johnson continues to go the wrong way: bogey at 12, and he’s +2. And Zach Johnson has tumbled back down the leaderboard: bogeys at 8, 9 and 10 have him clattering back to level par for the tournament.
Tiger makes his birdie putt! The very picture of grace and serenity right now. He’s -2. If he sticks to his gameplan and keeps going like this, there’s a very real chance of a repeat of his measured win at Hoylake. Just the 68 holes to go. Birdie for Ryan Moore on 16; he returns to -3.
Rory finally gets his putter working! He rolls in a left-to-right slider from 30 feet on 12, and suddenly he’s in the red again, with a little bit of spring in his step for the first time in a while. On 5, Koepka elects to putt down from the top of a huge bank – there’s no rough in between – and requires a couple of stewards to hold up some TV cables running along the ground. He sends his putt barrelling under the cables, down onto the green, and miles past the hole. He’s got a 40-footer coming back for his par. He can’t make it … and then he pulls his short bogey putt left! A double, from prime position in the middle of the fairway. That was a very weird second shot. And it’s cost him. He’s back to +1.
Tiger toys with disaster at 4. Taking another iron for safety, he sends his ball hurtling towards the ditch running down the left of the hole. For a second it looked sure to drop into the hazard, but the camber of the fairway took the ball back to safety at the last. That’s a huge break. And he grasps the situation with both hands, wedging delightfully to three feet, setting up a wonderful birdie chance. Ahead on 5, a very strange shot by Brooks Koepka, who from the centre of the fairway launches his approach miles over the green. That’s quite odd. He doesn’t know his own strength. He’s got a lie on flat ground, but he’s high above the green, and it’ll take quite a chip to get close from there.
Tiger pars 2, then 3, in pretty much the same style: a conservative iron from the tee, a controlled approach that sets up a half-chance, and a putt that doesn’t quite drop. At -1 he seems happy enough with the way things are going so far, not least because his partners Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox are struggling along at +1 and +2 respectively. Meanwhile Sergio’s dream of redemption for 2007 is that little bit further out of reach: he’s followed bogey at 1 with another at 3: he’s +2. “I’m on Leishman to be first round leader at 50-1, six places each way.” The latest dispatch there from our senior sports writer Sean Ingle. “That double bogey on 10 was like a hard toepunt to the swingers.” When the fun stops, Seanie …
Marc Leishman responds to dropping three strokes in two holes by making birdie at 11. He’s back to -2. Justin Thomas rattles in a monster across 9, and he’s turning in a blemish-free 33. And up on 18, Zander Lombard pars and signs for a 67, one off Kevin Kisner’s clubhouse lead.
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (F), Finau (F), Lombard (F)
-3: Stone (F), Thomas (9)
One of the shots of the day from Rory McIlroy! He’s waist-deep in total nonsense down the left of 11. Surely all he’ll be able to do is hack out? But he lashes at the ball, scythes through the tall grass, and from 100 yards out, bumps it up, pin high, to four feet! That’s glorious! And then he yips the short birdie putt. McIlroy’s putting is little short of abysmal these days, unreliable enough to suggest he’ll never win another major unless he sorts it. The flat stick certainly cost him the Masters this year; cast your mind back to Sunday, and that eagle chance on 2. On Sky, Butch Harmon suggests he’s way too mechanical now and needs to get back to basics quicksmart.
Brooks Koepka batters another huge drive, this time over the back of 3, and chips back to 12 feet. His birdie putt horseshoes out. He stays at -1, all the while looking very dangerous indeed. Meanwhile it’s a double bogey for Marc Leishman at 10; he slips back into the pack at -1, having been a shot off the lead a few minutes ago. “Well that’s Tiger gone won it, then, isn’t it?” suggests Simon Farnaby, co-author of the screenplay for Paddington 2 as well as this slightly less successful venture. “Considering he usually triple-bogeys the first in majors? I’m not even joking. Can’t remember the last time he opened with a birdie. The less said about Sergio the better.” Yes, probably a wise move, this is a family newspaper after all.
Dustin Johnson responds to bogey on the par-three 8th by crashing a 408-yard drive down 9. Then he seriously overcooks his chip. He can’t make the 25-footer coming back, and that’s a frustrating par. After that mammoth tee shot! He turns in 37. Up on 10, Leishman’s round is beginning to unravel after missing that short par putt on the previous hole: he sends his tee shot into rough down the right, then finds the burn up the hole on the same side. That’s a dreadful shot. He’ll do well to stem the bleeding here.
Hideki Matsuyama is this close to birdie at 1, but his 25-foot right-to-left slider stops one turn short of the cup. He clacks his tongue in annoyance. His partner Russell Knox isn’t much happier, having taken an unfortunate kick to find a greenside bunker; forced to splash out sideways, in and out of the trap, on one knee, he ends up with bogey. But the third player in the group – one T Woods – rolls his birdie putt confidently into the centre of the cup! That’s a perfectly played opening hole, and the 14-time major winner has begun his quest for that elusive number 15 in style!
Tiger has some tape on the back of his neck. According to Rich Beem on Sky, it’s nothing serious, he “just slept on it funny”. Admittedly it’s a small sample size, but it’s certainly not causing him any problems so far, as he wedges his second to 12 feet. Meanwhile on 9 it’s a three-putt bogey for Marc Leishman, who drops back to -3. And up on 18, Tony Finau curls in a big right-to-lefter for a birdie and a 67!
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (F), Finau (F), Lombard (17)
-3: Stone (F), Leishman (9)
Oh Sergio! A perfect tee shot at the opening hole. Then he pushes his second long and right, chunks a chip coming back, and ends up with an utterly needless bogey. What a start. Back up the hole, Tiger’s out on the prowl and, reprising the tactic that won him the 2006 event at Hoylake, clips an iron 258 yards down the track. Meanwhile Rory reaches the turn in level par.
Mark Tallentire is in Carnoustie … and here’s his take on Jordan Spieth’s miserable finish.
Brooks Koepka’s eagle putt on 1 slips past the hole on the low side. That really wasn’t far away from dropping, and he gave it every chance, because it’s run a good four feet past. In goes the one coming back, and he’s off to a flyer. Here’s his record in his past six majors: tied fourth, tied 11th, first, tied sixth, tied 13th, first. Throw in three other top-ten finishes between 2014 and 2015, and this Floridian – schooled in golf on both sides of the Atlantic – is the real deal. Like pointing that out about the two-time US Open winner is breaking news. Still, that record in the majors!
The PGA champion Justin Thomas isn’t far away from draining a long eagle putt on 6. He’ll be happy with the fuss-free birdie, his second of the day following one at 3. His playing partner Francesco Molinari, many a pundit’s dark-horse tip, also nearly makes eagle, but settles for birdie. That’s his third, after picking up shots at 1 and 4 and bogeying 3. They’re both -2, just like Adam Scott: the 2011 nearly man has birdied 3 and 6.
There’s another birdie for Marc Leishman. He rolls in a 30-footer across the par-three 8th, and he’s totally in the zone right now. There could be a fair bit of leaderboard movement this afternoon, because the wind that was expected hasn’t turned up. There’s very little breeze. Carnoustie is yours, if you want it.
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (18), Lombard (15), Leishman (8)
-3: Stone (F), Finau (16), Moore (11), Z Johnson (6)
The 2015 victor Zach Johnson looks even happier than Rahm, and no wonder! Having already birdied 2, he’s just holed out from a bunker at the par-five 6th for an eagle that whisks him up the leader board to -3. Rickie Fowler finishes his day with a much-needed birdie: that’s a 70 and he’s in the red, just, at -1. And back on the 1st tee, the double US Open champion Brooks Koepka unsheathes the big stick, and batters the drive of the day onto the green, a perfectly aimed howitzer that threads its way past the bunker and stops 15 feet from the hole. What a chance for an opening eagle!
The Masters champion Patrick Reed has been uncharacteristically poor today. He went into this week on the back of a high finish at the US Open, and a decent showing in the Scottish version last week at Gullane. But a double-bogey six at the 2nd took the wind almost immediately from his sails, and he’s never regained any momentum. He’s recently dropped another stroke at 16; he’s +3. Meanwhile up on 18, Jon Rahm is a dimple’s width away from making a 25-foot birdie putt: he drops his head for a moment, but is soon his bouncy self again, very pleased with an opening round of 69.
Spieth is not alone. Chesson Hadley went out in 33 strokes this morning, but on the way back he took 40, dropping shots at 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18. Carnoustie’s infamous closing run really took a chunk out of the man from Raleigh, NC. The veteran Bernhard Langer will be cursing that finishing stretch too: the two-time Masters champion, who narrowly missed out on the Open in 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1993, 2001 and 2005, bogeyed 16 and 17 to end the day with a two-over 73.
Jordan Spieth can’t make his par putt. That’s a dismal denouement to his round: four shots gone in the final four holes. He signs for a one-over 72. His partner Justin Rose birdies: that’s the same total, but he looks a lot happier with his lot than the reigning champ. It’s a three-over 74 for Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Meanwhile Dustin Johnson is clinging on a bit right now. It’s six pars in a row for the world number one, the latest salvaged with a long rake across the par-five 6th.
A no-fuss birdie for Marc Leishman at the par-five 6th. He moves to -3. Ryan Moore prods gingerly at a short one on 9; that’s a bogey but he’s out in 33: that’s -3. Nothing’s quite going for Tommy Fleetwood, meanwhile: after birdie at 2 and bogey at 5, he’s just let a very makeable one slip by at 8 for birdie. He’s level par. As is his playing partner Henrik Stenson, who had been in credit after birdie at 6, but has just yipped a tiddler to drop back to where he started.
Jordan Spieth’s disintegration continues apace. Having steadied the listing ship slightly with par at 17, he’s just flayed his drive on the last straight right. It’s gone into the Barry Burn. After taking his penalty drop, he lashes a fine third into the heart of the green: he’s pin high, but facing a 25-footer to salvage his par. Meanwhile another birdie for Zander Lombard, this time at 14, and he’s back to -4. And Byeong Hun An birdies 9 to reach the turn in 34: he’s -2.
It’s been a difficult day for a couple of former champions. The 2001 winner David Duval shot 80; the 2011 champ Darren Clarke carded an 82. Clarke will be hoping to do an awful lot better this time next year, when the Open wagon rolls into his home town of Portrush. Meanwhile another birdie for Tony Finau, his third in a row, at 15, and at -4 he’s just a shot off Kevin Kisner’s clubhouse lead.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat has just made birdie on 17, holing out from 100 yards. One bounce, bang, in. As clean as a whistle! Only problem is, he’s coming off the back of a run of four bogeys in five holes. The extremely popular Thai – there’s more than a hint of John Daly jump-the-rope everypunter about him – is +3. And despite having a poor day, he’s still ready to engage the gallery with a wave and a grin.
Marc Leishman is due a big break. His recent record at the Open is superb. As well as finishing in a tie for second behind Zach Johnson at the 2015 event at St Andrews, he came joint fifth the year before, and tied sixth last year. Throw in a recent top-ten finish at the Masters, the 34-year-old Aussie has been knocking at the door for a while. He’s started very nicely today, with birdies at 3 and 4. Meanwhile Ryan Moore is still at -4 since we last heard from him, but only after bogeying 7 and nearly making a hole-in-one at 8. Another birdie.
Tony Finau is going along very nicely. Responding to bogey at 12, he’s just birdied 13 and 14 to rise to -3. Few would bet against the big man making it three top-ten finishes at the majors in a row, and at some point he’s surely going to boom his way to one of the big ones … so why not now? Meanwhile Rory McIlroy gives back the stroke he picked up at 3 with bogey at 5. He’s level par again, and already cutting the frustrated, muttering, frowning figure we’ve become used to in the big tournaments during the last few years.
Jordan Spieth’s mechanism has temporarily gone. At the par-three 16th, he sends his tee shot sailing wide right. He’s in thick rough, with no view of the green and a bunker in between himself and the flag. He does extremely well to stab a pitch out to 15 feet, but he really needs to hole this par saver to arrest his sudden downwards momentum. He can’t make it, and after four hours of hard work, he’s handed all his shots back in 15 minutes or so. He’s back to level par, and seething.
Ryan Moore is hot, hot, hot. The man who won the 2016 Ryder Cup for the USA at Hazeltine, and pushed Rory McIlroy all the way in the Tour Championship during the same year, has quietly built a decent record in the majors. He’s got top ten finishes at the Masters, the US Open and the PGA under his belt, as well as a tie for 12th at the 2014 Open at Hoylake. And the 35-year-old from Las Vegas looks in the mood to do something special this week. He’s just birdied 6: that’s three on the bounce, and his fourth in the last five holes. He’s right in the mix, at the top of this USA-South Africa dominated leader board:
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: van Rooyen (F), Moore (6)
-3: Stone (F), Lombard (12)
Thanks to John, a gentleman and a scholar. Now then … Jordan Spieth has been going well. But he’s in the process of making an awful balls of 15. Having sent his tee shot into the rough down the left, his next went a-whistling into a bunker front right of the green. He’s right up against the face, so can only chip out sideways. And he sends that one back into the thicker stuff on the left. His fourth bounces 30 feet past the flag, and out of nowhere that’s a double-bogey six for the defending champion. Much of his good work today undone in an instant: he’s -1. Bogey for Tommy Fleetwood on 5, meanwhile, and he’s back to level par.
Right, that’s it from me. Scott is returning to take you through the rest of the opening day at Carnoustie.
So Kevin Kisner still leads. There’s a group of four players at two under and a slew of big names – Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinai – at one under and still in the opening stages of their rounds.
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: Van Rooyen (F)
-3: Stone (F), Spieth (14), Lombard (10), Moore (5)
McIlroy rolls in a birdie on three, his first of the day. Spieth, after his fun and games on 14, escapes with a par five.
Ryan Moore has made a terrific start. He birdies the fifth – thanks to a long, snaking putt – and moves to three under.
“No, no, no,” moans Spieth as he crashes out of the rough on 14. His ball winds up on the 5th tee. Zander Lombard’s momentum has slowed – he drops a shot on 10 and goes back to three under – while Perez has bogeyed the 16th and drops back to two under.
McIlroy begins with a couple of safe-and-sound pars.
Meanwhile, Matthew Southgate has been speaking after his two-under-par round of 69: “I don’t think you can ever know a golf course too well but I think it helps when you know, if you miss a green, exactly what you’re faced with next. I think that’s kind of settling – you walk another 100 yards knowing what’s coming up next.
“We sort of sprung to life with an eagle on the sixth and started playing really nice stuff after that. I’ll enjoy the rest of the day with my family and come out and do the same sort of thing tomorrow. I’ll just get the ball around as good as I can tomorrow and try and stay in for the long haul.”
Cracking shot from Spieth, splashing out of the bunker and sending the ball to within a couple of feet of the pin. He’ll rescue his par from there.
The top of the leaderboard is still dominated by South Africa and the US:
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: Van Rooyen (F), Lombard (8)
-3: Stone (17), Spieth (11), Perez (15)
Spieth finds the bunker with his tee shot on the par-three 13th. It’ll be tricky to get up and down from there.
Zander Lombard, playing in only his second major (following his appearance in the 2016 Open), birdies the 8th to go to four under. What a start. He tied for sixth at the Irish Open earlier this month but that’s his only top-10 finish of the year – indeed it was only the third time he has made a cut this year.
Pat Perez makes birdie on 14 to join the group at three under. Spieth and Rose both find the green at 12, while Fowler bogeys at 11 to drop back to level par.
To one of the biggest cheers of the day so far, Rory McIlroy steps onto the 1st tee.
Meanwhile Erik van Rooyen, who signed for a 67 this morning, has been chatting with reporters. “It was playing as easy as it was going to play this whole week this morning, no wind at all, so you had to go out and take advantage of it,” he said. “I was obviously a little nervous, you know, but that’s natural. I’m really proud of how I handled it.”
Spieth rattles in his birdie put at 11 to move to three under. That’s quite an effort after his wayward tee shot.
-5: Kisner (F)
-4: Van Rooyen (F)
-3: Stone (15), Kang (14), Spieth (11), Lombard (6)
An Byeong-hun sinks a long put at the 2nd – he’s started with back to back birdies. Spieth, meanwhile, crashes the ball out of the long grass and to within 20 feet of the pin.
Spieth spanks his drive right on 11, while Rose shows as American playing partner how it’s done with a beauty down the left of the fairway. Stone sends a putt right on the 15th green – that’s a bogey. He drops back to three under.
Kevin Kisner sets clubhouse lead at -5
Kisner duly rolls in his putt and is in the clubhouse at five under. Tough to see many going past that today.
Jordan Spieth has a 15-footer for birdie at 10 but slides his putt to the right. He stays at two under. Meanwhile, up at 18, Kisner has chipped out of the bunker and has a tiddler for par and a round of 66.
Birdie for Brandon Stone on 14! The 25-year-old South African moves to four under. Sung Kang has dropped a shot on 13, so all of a sudden Yusaku Miyazato is all alone at three under.
-5: Kisner (17)
-4: Van Rooyen (F)
-3: Miyazato (13)
Jon Rahm, fourth in the Masters this year, has made a solid start with birdies at 3, 5 and 6 sandwiching a bogey at 4. He’s in the bunch at -2, but Patrick Cantlay isn’t – a double bogey on the last sends him rattling past Rahm and co and back to -1 in the clubhouse.
Cantlay, somehow, was rescued by a bridge. The ball pinged away from the wet stuff but it was out of the frying pan and into the fire – he has to lay up out of a bunker.
Patrick Cantlay, three under, goes right on 18 and he’s in the burn by the looks of it. Kisner, meanwhile, maintains his lead by fizzing his putt in on 17.
In fact Kisner’s ball has rolled into the bunker at the front of the green – he splashes out but faces a 20-odd footer to save par.
Kisner slices his drive on 17 right and sends it deep into the rough stuff but a solid second shot has the ball rolling up to the front edge of the green. Also off-roading is Justin Rose back at 9 … but he manages to send his second shot into the heart of the green.
As it stands
-5: Kisner (16)
-4: Van Rooyen (F)
-3: Cantlay (17), Stone (13), Miyazato (12), Kang (12)
Hello all. Spieth has just rolled in his put for a remarkable par, while Kisner has also holed a par putt on 16.
With that, I’m going to hand over to John Ashdown … and I’ll see you again later!
Pat Perez tied for 20th the last time the Open was contested at Carnoustie. The 42-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona obviously likes the place, and he’s just joined the group at -3 with birdie at 10. Thomas Pieters is going along nicely, too: birdies at 10, 14 and 15 have taken him up the leaderboard to -2. Chesson Hadley drops his first stroke of the day at 11; he’s -2. And Kevin Chappell followed up that eagle on 14 with dropped shots at 15 and 16. He ends up with an acceptable but ultimately disappointing 70.
What a shot by Jordan Spieth! He’s sent his tee shot at 7 into a bunker with a large, looming face. He doesn’t have much room for his backswing, either, the ball having only just toppled into the sand. There’s a fair chance he’ll wheech that straight into the face. If your average punter tries to reach the green, instead of taking their medicine and chipping out, the ball would almost certainly come flying back towards the teeth soon to be uprooted from their startled face. But he manages to lift the ball up quickly, out and over the bunker, and into the heart of the putting surface! That’s quite astonishing from where he was. Nerves of steel. He really is quite the showman. His clean-cut apple-pie image tends to obscure his swashbuckling brilliance. You can bet Seve would have approved. He can’t quite make the 20-footer he’s left with, the birdie putt stopping just short of the cup, but you get the general point.
Kevin Kisner has already tasted a little success in 2018, reaching the final of the WGC Match Play. He eventually lost that one to Bubba Watson. He’s never done a great deal at the Open … until now! Three birdies in a row, at 13, 14 and 15, and he’s the new leader of the 147th Open Championship!
-5: Kisner (15)
-4: van Rooyen (F)
-3: Cantlay (15), Stone (11), Miyazato (10), Hadley (10)
Jordan Spieth leaves his chip well short of the flag, and the ball comes toppling back down a slope. He’s left with a 12-footer for his par … but no worries, in it goes. That’s a highly decent save in the end, because that was a real battle. Justin Rose yips a tiddler for birdie, and responds by bollocking someone in the gallery. But really there’s no excuse for that, even if the crowd had broken out into an impromptu ceilidh. Meanwhile there’s back-to-back birdies for Patrick Cantlay, at 13 and 14. And the Japanese veteran Yusaku Miyazato, who has never made the cut in his previous three appearances at the Open, has followed up his opening-hole bogey with birdies at 2, 6, 8 and now 10.
Willett can’t make his par saver. It’s a bogey-bogey finish, and in that context he’ll be disappointed with his 69. But given his troubles since winning the Masters, this is a most acceptable return to major-championship form. Jordan Spieth meanwhile is struggling his way up Hogan’s Alley. His drive at the par-five 6th finds a bunker on the right. He can only splash out. Then he slices his third into rough to the right of the green. He’ll have to work hard if he wants to get up and down from there.
Danny Willett’s fine round is in danger of ending in anticlimactic fashion. He’s whistled his tee shot at 18 into thick cabbage down the left, and dumped his second into the bunker guarding the front left of the green. A splash out to ten feet; he’ll at least have a chance to save his par. Back on 5, Jon Rahm’s up-and-down start continues, rolling in a 30-footer for a birdie that brings him back to -1.
Van Rooyen sends his third at 18 down a small bank to the left of the green. He elects to putt up, but leaves his par effort a good five feet short. That’s left a nerve-tickler. He knocks it in, and that’s a decent bogey given where his drive ended up. He’s the early clubhouse leader with a 67. And his partner Matthew Southgate scribbles his name at the bottom of a 69. Meanwhile after a steady start by Justin Rose, Hartley Wintney’s finest guides in a 12-foot left-to-right curler for birdie on 5. He’s -1. Jordan Spieth was inside him, and had a read, but doesn’t hit his birdie chance and the ball dies to the right. He remains at -2.
Jordan Spieth is beginning to purr: a birdie at 4, and this is a fast start by the defending champion and three-time major winner. He’s -2. Tony Finau has sprung out of the blocks too: birdies at 1 and 2, for a player who finished in the top ten at the Masters, then the top five at the US Open. Jon Rahm hands back his birdie immediately with bogey at 4, the result of an errant drive down the left that found a ditch. And after missing that short birdie chance on 16, Danny Willett lets another short one slide past, this time for par on 17. He drops to -3.
Trouble for the leader Erik van Rooyen. He hasn’t put a foot wrong all day … but now he’s found a bunker down the right of 18, and can only take his medicine, wedging out. He’ll need to get down in two from distance if his card is to remain free of blemishes.
At the long par-three 16th, Danny Willett bumps his tee shot to six feet, leaving a little left-to-right breaker coming back. But he prods at the putt tentatively, letting the chance slip by. Kevin Chappell sends a tramliner into the cup from 50 feet on 14. An eagle that catapults him up the leaderboard.
-5: van Rooyen (17)
-4: Willett (16)
-3: Chappell (14), Stone (9), Hadley (8)
Rickie Fowler makes his first move of the week! He’s facing a snaking 50-footer on 3, and sends it dropping, perfectly weighted, into the cup! He raises his putter in the air as the gallery salute a very popular player. The new Sergio? Well, everyone’s desperate for him to break his major duck. God speed, Rickie! His playing partner Jon Rahm makes birdie too, though he’s very close to making eagle, having crashed a driver onto the green to 15 feet, then left his putt an inch or so high on the right. They’re both -1.
Brandon Stone, Mr 60, rolls another confident birdie putt straight into the middle of the cup. He rises to -3, along with Chesson Hadley, who adds birdie at 7 to those earlier efforts at 3 and 4. The 31-year-old North Carolinian has only played in one previous Open, missing the cut at Hoylake in 2013. He’s looking to make a huge improvement to that record in short order. Meanwhile Jordan Spieth can’t convert his good birdie chance at 3, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat leaves the scene having made double bogey.
The first man out is the first man back in. Sandy Lyle had been -1 at the turn, but on the way back he bogeyed 10, 17 and 18, and doubled 13. That’s a very disappointing 75 for the 1985 champion. At 60 years of age, this could have been his penultimate round in Open competition. The great man gave it a good go. Meanwhile a pair of 71s for his partners Martin Kaymer and Andy Sullivan. That’s particularly disappointing for Kaymer, who had been gingerly feeling his way back into form, but bogeyed 16 and 17.
Here’s how quickly things can go wrong on a links course. Kiradech Aphibarnrat made a brilliant birdie at 1. He was an inch away from guiding in another birdie putt from distance at 2. And now he’s making a real pig’s lug of 3, having taken one club too many off the tee and carelessly finding a pot bunker. Going aggressively for the green, he dumps his second into Jockie’s Burn. Meanwhile Jordan Spieth takes advantage of his good fortune again – hey, this is what true champions do – by wedging to ten feet.
That birdie’s not settled Spieth down totally. He’s just hitting a 7-iron off the 3rd tee, but pushes it right. Again he gets a lucky bounce out of some thick rough, the ball kicking left and back onto the fairway. Things are going his way at the moment. They’re certainly going Erik van Rooyen’s way: he trundles in a monster on 15 to reclaim sole ownership of the lead at -5! And the big-hitting Gary Woodland keeps on truckin’, with his third birdie in four holes, at 6. Here’s the top-ten countdown, pop pickers.
-5: van Rooyen (15)
-4: Wilett (14)
-3: Southgate (15), Woodland (6)
-2: Cantlay (11), Kisner (10), Cabrera Bello (9), Stone (7), Hadley (6), Perez (5)
If you want to win the Open, you need a couple of good breaks along the way. Jordan Spieth will know that as well as anyone, after those shenanigans on 13 at Birkdale last year. And having sent his drive into the thick rough down the left of 2, he then pulls his second into the green. But his ball takes a bounce off a hillock, kicks right, and stops six feet short of the hole! You’ve got to take those bonus opportunities, and his defence is off nicely after a slightly shaky start! He’s -1.
Matthew Southgate eagled 6 earlier on. And now he’s eagled the other par five, the 14th. He’s been on quite the run since the turn: birdie, birdie, bogey, bogey, eagle. He’s one off the lead at -3. And that lead is shared by Erik van Rooyen and Danny Willett, the former making a disappointing three-putt par on 14 after finding the green with two long irons, the latter rolling in a big one across 13 to pick up a stroke. Meanwhile a dropped shot for Martin Kaymer at 16, and another birdie for Mr 60, Brandon Stone, this time at 6. To steal Danny Boon’s catchphrase: it’s all happening!
-4: van Rooyen (14), Willett (13)
-3: Southgate (14)
-2: Chappell (11), Kisner (9), Stone (6), Woodland (5), Hadley (5), Perez (4)
Spieth’s ball is perched atop some fluffy grass on the fringe of 1, 30 feet from the flag. He’s got no right to be shaving the hole from there, but he judges it wonderfully, and that’s exactly what he does. That’s a good par save. Par for Justin Rose, too. Meanwhile the third member of the group, the ever-entertaining Kiradech Aphibarnrat, battered a drive miles down the hole, then wedged to 12 feet. In goes the birdie putt! Aphibarnrat has an appalling record at the Open: played four, missed cuts four. He’s so much better than that. The only way is up.
Kevin Kisner rattles in a long birdie putt on 8, having previously bogeyed 5 and eagled 6. Back-to-back birdies for Chesson Hadley at 3 and 4, and for Martin Kaymer at 14 and 15. They’re all at -2. Spieth meanwhile plays a loose one into 1, sending a 9-iron long and left. He’s on the fringe, but it’s a slightly uneasy start for the reigning champ.
Jhonattan Vegas is in the house! He’s made it to Carnoustie in time for his 10.31am match, having suffered all sorts of problems with visa clearance, delayed flights and lost clubs. He’s on the range, testing some irons, while his caddy rips the cellophane off a brand new bag from the pro shop. Out come big hunks of cardboard, Silica gel packets, etc., from the pockets. That was close. Also in the area: the defending champion Jordan Spieth! The hero of Birkdale claps an iron down the right of the fairway, and is one joule of energy from rolling into a bunker. A fair bit of adrenaline powering that one. But he’ll be fine. His partner Justin Rose finds the middle of the parched fairway.
Kevin Chappell turns in 34, having birdied 1 and now 9: he’s -2. Gary Woodland birdies 3 after crashing his drive over Jockie’s Burn and the back of the green! He moves to -1, then to -2 with another at 4. Bogey for Matt Southgate at 12; he drops back to -2. And Yuta Ikeda is going along nicely: after that birdie at 2, he dropped a shot at 3 but has bounced back with birdies at 4 and 6.
-4: van Rooyen (13)
-3: Willett (11)
-2: Chappell (10), Kisner (8), Ikeda (6), Woodland (4)
Tyrrell Hatton was highly fancied going into this week, off the back of a top-ten finish at the US Open and a good showing at last week’s Scottish Open. But he’s started out disastrously today: bogeys at 3, 5, 6 and now 7. He’s propping up the entire leaderboard at +4. Better news for Brandon Stone, who missed an eight-footer to become the first man to shoot 59 on the European Tour last week at Gullane – but won the Scottish Open anyway. He birdies 4 to join a big group at -1.
And it’s another birdie for Danny Willett at 10! He sends his second straight at the flag, then rolls in the eight-footer with confidence. This is great to watch.
-4: van Rooyen (11)
-3: Southgate (11), Willett (10)
-2: Cantlay (6)
Rafa Cabrera Bello, going well after an opening-hole birdie, yips from a couple of feet at 5. The ball nearly missed the hole altogether! He’s back to level par. Some positive moves at the top, though: another birdie for Patrick Cantlay at 6, and then Matt Southgate follows birdie at 10 with a monster rake at 11, and suddenly he’s -3. But he’s not top of the tree, because just as Southgate makes it, his playing partner Erik van Rooyen makes his fourth birdie of the day! He was very lucky that his approach didn’t topple into a greenside bunker … but he took advantage of his break by rolling in a 15-footer. Flat-stick hotness reminiscent of Jean van de Velde in 1999; the denouement to that tournament obscures how many great putts the Frenchman made that week.
Mickelson is wearing one of those travelling-salesman-style white shirts again. Buttons all the way down the front, collars and cuffs. It doesn’t look comfortable. And you thought the time he deliberately hit the moving ball at Shinnecock Hills was his biggest misjudgement of 2018. He sends his tee shot at 5 into a bunker, and while he does extremely well to smash his second towards the edge of the green, he leaves his chip well short, the ball rolling back down a ridge across the middle. It’s a bogey that drops him back to level par.
“The players have had a relatively easy whack at the course so far.” So begins Chris Hainey. “Can’t wait for the wind to start picking up to make things more tricky for the players. Looking forward to seeing some random bounces and the course becoming more challenging over the next few days.” Yes, Carnoustie’s defences have been down in these benign conditions, and yet there are only nine players out there under par. It’ll be interesting to see how the later starters fare when the breeze picks up a bit. The latest to join the group at -1: Ross Fisher, with birdie at 6.
Erik van Rooyen pars 9 and reaches the turn in 33. The South African debutant is certainly hot at the moment. We’ve already spoken of his tie for fourth spot at the Irish Open a fortnight ago, having led after 54 holes. What I neglected to mention was his second round at the Scottish Open last week: though he ended up missing the cut, he carded a 64 on the Friday, following up a 73, a victim of the absurdly low scoring at Gullane as much as anything else. He’s in good nick.
-3: van Rooyen (9)
-2: Willett (8)
-1: Southgate (9), Norris (7), Chappell (6), Cantlay (5), Mickelson (4), Cabrera Bello (4)
The 2013 champ Phil Mickelson makes his first move. He sends his second at 4 straight at the flag, leaving himself a straight uphill putt from six feet for birdie. In it goes, and he joins a group at -1 now also joined by the up-and-coming Patrick Cantlay, who rolls in a delightful left-to-right putt up and over a hump from 25 feet on 5.
The first email of the week, and it’s appallingly timed. “Yes Sandy! Yes Scott!! This is an absolute delight for long term Lyle-lovers!!!” writes Euan Hendrie, giddy with excitement at the great man’s confident start, and high on his morning coffee too, I’ll be bound. “The big man should walk this from here. I look forward to today and the rest of the week being a tartan procession. Yes!” And with that, it’s a three-putt bogey for Sandy on 10; he slips back to level par. Oh Euan! How could you!
The reigning Japan Open champion doesn’t have much of a record in the British equivalent. Yuta Ikeda has competed on six occasions previously, missing the cut four times and never finishing higher than the tie for 38th he managed at St George’s in 2011. But he’s started well today, sending his second at 2 to a couple of feet and tidying up for his birdie. He’s -1, as is South Africa’s Shaun Norris, who finished tied for 62nd on debut at last year’s Open and has just birdied 6.
Make that a one-shot lead! Because the in-form Danny Willett has just made it three birdies on the bounce, finding the par-five 6th in two big crashes and taking two careful putts. It would be a lovely story if Willett does well here this week; he’s been through the mill since his shock Masters win. Meanwhile a dropped shot for Martin Kaymer at 9, the result of finding the bunker down the right of the fairway with his tee shot. He turns in 36, level par.
-3: van Rooyen (7)
-2: Willett (6)
-1: Lyle (9), Southgate (7), Chappell (4), Cook (4), Cabrera Bello (2)
Jhonattan Vegas is facing a race against time to make his 10.31am tee time. His entry to the country was held up due to visa issues, his flight has been delayed, and his clubs have been lost in transit. He’ll have to borrow a set if he makes it: he’s coming in from Glasgow by copter. Meanwhile van Rooyen sees a birdie putt stop on the lip at 7, but he wanders off the green smiling anyway. As you would when you’re two shots clear at the Open.
Erik van Rooyen doesn’t really hit his eagle putt on 6, leaving it four feet short, the ball dying off to the left. But it would be a crime not to pick up at least a stroke after such a good second shot, and he knocks in the par putt to establish a two-shot cushion at the top of the early leaderboard. His former co-leader, Andy Sullivan, makes it back-to-back bogeys at the par-three 8th. He sent his tee shot to the left of the green, then overhit his chip across the putting surface and into a bunker. He gets up and down from the sand to limit the damage. Meanwhile news of some erstwhile Masters champions: par for Mickelson on 1, and another birdie for Willett at 5!
-3: van Rooyen (6)
-1: Lyle (8), Kaymer (8), Southgate (6), Willett (5), Chappell (4), Cook (3), Pieters (2), Cabrera Bello (1)
It’s been a good year for Satoshi Kodaira so far. The 28-year-old from Tokyo won his first PGA Tour event, the RBC Heritage, pipping Kim Si-Woo in a play-off. But he’s never done well at the Open, missing the cut at Muirfield in 2013 and Troon three years later. On the 1st hole, he’s in a greenside bunker and staring at a high face. So he elects to chip out sideways … then fluffs the shot and leaves his ball in the sand. He takes the harder route second time round, and ends up with an opening bogey. The first sandy meltdown of the week; it won’t be the last. Meanwhile at 6, the first eagle of the week is carded by Matt Southgate, who curls in a big right-to-left breaker at 6. He’s -1.
Andy Sullivan pays the price for a poor tee shot at 7. He sends it into the thick stuff down the right, then gets a flyer through the green with his second. A long way off the back, he can’t get up and down and slips back to -1. Meanwhile on 5, Erik van Rooyen appears to be in the zone. He whip-cracks a long iron into the heart of the green, and will have a look at eagle from 25 feet or so. All of a sudden, the South African debutant could have a little cushion at the top of the leaderboard.
Thomas Pieters has unleashed the driver at the opening hole. Belt! He crashes it 393 yards, into the heart of the green, and very nearly holes the 40-footer for eagle. He taps in for an easy-as-you-like opening birdie. So continues a good week for Belgian sport. Back on the tee, Phil Mickelson plays it more conservatively by cracking an iron down the middle. And some good news for the only Englishman to win the Masters in the last two decades! Danny Willett birdies 4 to move back to level par. Willett finished in a tie for sixth at St Andrews three years ago; what he’d give for a finish like that this week, to further facilitate his comeback.
The first look at one of Carnoustie’s two par fives. This one, the 6th, is named after the 1953 champion Ben Hogan, and accordingly brooks no nonsense. Andy Sullivan finds sand with his tee shot and is forced to take his medicine and chip out. He’s a whisker away from making a 27-foot birdie putt, but par was always the likeliest result. Martin Kaymer hoicks his approach into deep rough to the right of the green but bumps a lovely effort to four feet. That’s a spectacular birdie given where he’d found himself. And Sandy Lyle thrashes his second to the back left of the big green, and lags his long eagle putt to kick-in distance. The great man’s in red figures again!
-2: Sullivan (6), van Rooyen (4)
-1: Lyle (6), Kaymer (6), Chappell (2)
Lyle is currently using a putter called the Ugly Duckling. He gives it a hard slap around the beak after leaving an uphill 20-footer a good five feet short. Then he pulls the short par putt, and the 1988 Masters champion slips back to level par. Sullivan meanwhile races his lengthy birdie putt ten feet past, but knocks in the return to escape with a par. He remains at -2. And what a gorgeous up-and-down for Kaymer, whose approach took a big kick right into a thick tuft: he fashions a bump through a dip and up onto the green, using a right-to-left slope to gather his ball towards the hole. He gets to 12 feet or so, which is a result from where he was. And in goes the saver. He stays at level par.
So how do you tame the Beast? David Leadbetter, legendary coach of Nick Faldo, has the answers.
Emiliano Grillo enjoyed his Open debut a couple of years ago at Troon. The young Argentinian finished in a tie for 12th. He’s started well this time round, clipping his second at 2 to a couple of feet, and knocking in the short birdie putt. He’s -1. Moving the other way: Martin Kaymer, who pulls a miserable short par putt left at 4 to drop back to level par. Good news for the German’s playing partners, though: Andy Sullivan’s second lands right by the flag, while Sandy Lyle spins his approach pin high to eight feet. Both of the birdie putts go in, and the 1985 champ walks off the green with a huge smile playing across his face! He’s one of five players under par right now: the 32-year-old Californian Kevin Chappell, who has a couple of high finishes at the US Open to his name, opens with a long birdie rake across 1.
-2: Sullivan (4), van Rooyen (3)
-1: Lyle (4), Grillo (2), Chappell (1)
Erik van Rooyen has taken to this major-championship malarkey like a duck to water. Birdie at 2 to go with his opening-hole bird, after neatly tucking away the 12-footer he’d left himself, and he’s at the top of the early leaderboard. The 28-year-old South African qualified after tying for second at the Joburg Open late last year, and obviously enjoys links golf: he tied for fourth spot in the Irish Open at Ballyliffin a fortnight ago, having led the tournament after three rounds. And now look!
-2: van Rooyen (2)
-1: Kaymer (3), Sullivan (3)
The first bogey of this year’s tournament has been made by Danny Willett. The 2016 Masters champion was on the 1st green in regulation, but raced a long birdie effort six feet past, and pushed his par putt to the right. He trudges off in the annoyed fashion. Willett has been slowly feeling his way back to a little form, with top-ten finishes in Italy and Ireland, plus a solid showing last week in the Scottish Open at Gullane. But that’s a poor start on a course that’s defenceless right now; there’s not a breath of wind.
While the rough may not be at 1999 levels of hell, it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go in it. Matthew Southgate, who finished in a tie for sixth last year at Birkdale, sent his tee shot at 1 into thick nonsense down the left, then got his club turned by the wispy grass as he wedged for the green. That sent his ball into trouble back left of the dancefloor, but he did very well to get up and down in two for his par.
There’s going to be some wind coming up around midday. So these early starters will want to fill their boots. Sullivan shaves the hole at 2 with another birdie putt; his partner Kaymer joins him in the very early lead at -1 after knocking his second to six feet. Another par for Sandy, who remains at level. Sullivan and Kaymer are joined at the top of an admittedly not large pile by debutant Erik van Rooyen: the South African eased his approach at 1 to a couple of feet, and finished the job as expected. That’s not a bad way to start your major-championship career.
-1: Kaymer (2), Sullivan (2), van Rooyen (1)
E: Lyle (2), Schnell (1), Southgate (1)
Lyle bumps a gorgeous chip from the rough to a couple of feet, and tidies up for an opening-hole par. His playing partners are the former US Open and PGA champion Martin Kaymer, somewhat out of form, and Andy Sullivan of England. Kaymer leaves himself a long birdie putt, and gets down in two. Sullivan – who finished high in Ireland recently, but missed the cut last week at Gullane – knocks his second pin high to 15 feet, and then gets a feel for the greens immediately. In goes the birdie putt, and for what it’s worth, let the record state that he’s the first leader of the 147th Open Championship!
-1: Sullivan (1)
E: Lyle (1), Kaymer (1)
Sandy’s second into 1 isn’t too far from the pin. Unfortunately the pin’s on the right-hand edge of the green, and his ball’s in a tuft of thick stuff, just off. A word on the rough: you wouldn’t necessarily wish to be in it, but it’s not the thick, lush, nightmarish jungle of 1999. The good weather’s seen to that: it’s been burnt to a crisp and is much thinner as a result. No shaft-turning nightmares this week. OK, not so many shaft-turning nightmares this week. But that’ll inform some gung-ho tactics, no doubt, as the place isn’t so penal … though others will be more than happy to clip irons off the tee and let the fairways, some faster than the greens, do the work, Tiger-at-Hoylake style.
Good morning, Carnoustie! It’s going to be a beautiful day. It would be a beautiful day if it were forecast to lash with rain and blow up a gale … it is the first day of the Open after all. But the conditions are special: it’ll be dry with plenty of sunshine. The honour of hitting the first shot at this year’s Championship goes to the 1985 winner Sandy Lyle, who is possibly playing in his last-ever Open: having turned 60 this year, he’ll no longer be eligible next time round. He whip-cracks an iron down the bone-dry, firm, super-fast fairways, and this year’s Open is go!
It’s probably not a popular viewpoint, but here goes anyway … Jean van de Velde did NOT bottle the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. The 33-year-old French journeyman certainly made a grand balls of it, standing in the Barry Burn with his troosers rolled up, his mental mechanism having departed in the same direction as his swing … oh he made a balls of it all right. But he did NOT bottle it. In fact, that was the whole problem. Standing on the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead, he could have nudged it up the hole carefully and conservatively, and a bogey, or even a double, would have made him only the second French major champion in history, after 1907 Open winner Arnaud Massy. But instead, he wanted to seal the deal “like d’Artagnan”. See, that takes guts. And a commitment to doing things with style. The fact he wasn’t able to see it through is neither here nor there, because sport’s not just about winning: who’ll be talking about the likes of Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis in a hundred years’ time? Exactly. Jean van de Velde: one of golf’s swashbuckling heroes.
But we are where we are, and it’s a shame that Carnoustie is nowadays synonymous with mental collapse. Sergio threw an Open away here as well, in 2007, though Padraig Harrington tried his level best to hand it him back, finding the Barry Burn twice going up the 72nd. But the thing is, some of the game’s most resilient characters have made great statements here on the Angus coast. It was at Carnoustie where Tom Watson gave lie to the accusation that he was a big-time bottler by landing the 1975 Open. It was on the 14th where Gary Player creamed a 4-wood over the Spectacle bunkers to a couple of feet in 1968, seeing off one Jack Nicklaus. And it was here where Ben Hogan, the Wee Ice Mon, arguably the greatest of all time, won the only Open he ever contested.
Yes, the toughest course on the Open rota pretty much always delivers a memorable Championship, one way or another. But who will tame The Beast this year? Defending champ Jordan Spieth isn’t in the best of form, but we’ve been here before ahead of a major with this astonishing young Texan, and it rarely seems to matter. Brooks Koepka has an absurdly good record in the majors, finishing no lower than 13th in the last seven, a run which has of course included two US Open wins. The Masters champion Patrick Reed impressed at Gullane last week and looks in the zone. The reigning PGA champ Justin Thomas has something to prove after missing the cut at Birkdale last year. Tiger is back, Phil is on his best behaviour again, Rickie Fowler is due a major, and Big Dustin is Big Dustin. These folks can do anything.
But enough of the Americans: what about the Europeans? Well, Tommy Fleetwood is one of the best players in the world now, as he proved on the final day at Shinnecock Hills, and he holds the course record here: 63. Jon Rahm nearly retained his Irish Open title the other week. Justin Rose is long overdue a good Open; Rory McIlroy is long overdue a major. Francesco Molinari, Russell Knox, Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter are all in fine form. And then there’s Maude Sergio, back at the scene of his 2007 crime.
We could go on. I’ve not even mentioned Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Bryson DeChambeau, Ryan Fox, Scottish Open winner Brandon ‘60’ Stone, the slowly recovering Danny Willett, or Branden Grace, who broke new ground in the Open last year with his 62. There are others, too. Many others: we could be here all day. And it’s going to be a long one, so let’s get going. It’s golf’s oldest and grandest prize. It’s the 147th Open Championship. It’s on! Open fever is go! Somebody, please, call Dr Golf!
First round tee times. GB & Ireland unless stated.
0635 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Sandy Lyle, Andy Sullivan
0646 Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Brady Schnell (USA), Matthew Southgate
0657 Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Luke List (USA)
0708 Danthai Boonma (Tha), Mark Calcavecchia (USA), Shaun Norris (Rsa)
0719 Kevin Chappell (USA), Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell
0730 Paul Dunne, Ross Fisher, Austin Cook (USA)
0741 Patrick Cantlay (USA), Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry
0752 Thomas Pieters (Bel), Kevin Kisner (USA), Marcus Kinhult (Swe)
0803 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn), Phil Mickelson (USA), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa)
0814 Brian Harman (USA), Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Andrew Landry (USA)
0825 Si Woo Kim (Kor), Webb Simpson (USA), Nicolai Hojgaard (a) (Den)
0836 Stewart Cink (USA), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Hideto Tanihara (Jpn)
0847 Gary Woodland (USA), Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Sung Kang (Kor)
0903 Adam Hadwin (Can), Ernie Els (Rsa), Chesson Hadley (USA)
0914 Pat Perez (USA), Julian Suri (USA), George Coetzee (Rsa)
0925 David Duval (USA), Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na (USA)
0936 Bernhard Langer (Ger), Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen (Rsa)
0947 Matt Kuchar (USA), Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Peter Uihlein (USA)
0958 Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
1009 Rickie Fowler (USA), Jon Rahm (Spa), Chris Wood
1020 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Paul Casey, Patrick Reed (USA)
1031 Xander Schauffele (USA), Tony Finau (USA), Jhonattan Vegas (Ven)
1042 Yuxin Lin (a) (Chn), Alexander Bjork (Swe), Sang Hyun Park (Kor)
1053 James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus (Isr), Zander Lombard (Rsa)
1104 Kodai Ichihara (Jpn), Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage
1115 Gavin Green (Mal), Sean Crocker (USA), Ash Turner
1136 Sam Locke (a), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Cameron Davis (Aus)
1147 Patton Kizzire (USA), Jonas Blixt (Swe), Charles Howell III (USA)
1158 Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Daniel Berger (USA), Tom Lewis
1209 Ryan Moore (USA), Alexander Levy (Fra), Byeong-Hun An (Kor)
1220 Michael Hendry (Nzl), Kelly Kraft (USA), Lee Westwood
1231 Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson (Swe), Jimmy Walker (USA)
1242 Russell Henley (USA), Matthew Fitzpatrick, (a) Jovan Rebula (Rsa)
1253 Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman (Aus), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den)
1304 Alex Noren (Swe), Dustin Johnson (USA), Charley Hoffman (USA)
1315 Zach Johnson (USA), Adam Scott (Aus), Brendan Steele (USA)
1326 Justin Thomas (USA), Francesco Molinari (Ita), Branden Grace (Rsa)
1337 Jason Day (Aus), Shota Akiyoshi (Jpn), Haotong Li (Chn)
1348 Beau Hossler (USA), Todd Hamilton (USA), Jorge Campillo (Spa)
1404 Chez Reavie (USA), Ryuko Tokimatsu (Jpn), Michael Kim (USA)
1415 Kyle Stanley (USA), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Jens Dantorp (Swe)
1426 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Tom Lehman (USA), Grant Forrest
1437 Lucas Herbert (Aus), Jason Kokrak (USA), Min Chel Choi (Kor)
1448 Padraig Harrington, Matt Wallace, Bubba Watson (USA)
1459 Cameron Smith (Aus), Brooks Koepka (USA), Ian Poulter
1510 Sergio Garcia (Spa), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Bryson DeChambeau (USA)
1521 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Russell Knox, Tiger Woods (USA)
1532 Jason Dufner (USA), Keegan Bradley (USA), Ryan Fox (Nzl)
1543 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Ryan Armour (USA)
1554 Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Jordan Smith
1605 Masanori Kobayashi (Jpn), Jack Senior, Brett Rumford (Aus)
1616 Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon (USA), Matt Jones (Aus)
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