by Jeff Skinner
Rory McIlroy’s back to back 66’s have given him a four stroke lead over Dustin Johnson at The Open Championship and positioned him well in his chase for his third major championship. If you think you have seen this act before you’re right.
At Congressional in 2011 Rory had a six stroke lead at the end of the third round. He went on to win his first major championship by eight strokes.
At the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island Rory won by eight strokes again. But he didn’t take the lead until the end of the third round. He lead by three then went out Sunday and shot 66, that number again, and won by eight shots again.
There was talk of dominance and a new challenger to Jack Nicklaus’ record of eighteen majors. But Rory’s major chase has been sidetracked by a few things: equipment change, celebrity, management changes, lawsuits and s very public love life ended by a very public break up. But Rory says he’s more at ease on the golf course than anywhere else now. The first two days at Hoylake have been Exhibit A to prove that.
But it is not like Rory hasn’t had issues with holding a lead. At The 2011 Masters he had the lead after each of the first three rounds and went into Sunday with a four stroke lead. He imploded and struggled to a shocking 80. But bounced right back to win two months later at Congressional.
We don’t have to look too far back to see another similar situation. At Pinehurst at the U.S. Open just one month ago Martin Kaymer pulled his own version of hide and seek.
Kaymer toasted the field with consecutive 65’s over the first two rounds and had a six shot lead. He went on to win by eight shots, Rory’s lucky number, in a run away. But as Kaymer was working his magic over the brown turf of Pinehurst No.2 there were cries of how boring a tournament it was.
As if watching this brilliant golfer make shots no one else could wasn’t enough. “Drama, we need drama” was what the public screamed for. Even Johnny Miller remarked what a great tournament it would have been if Kaymer hadn’t showed up. I thought it was shameful.
But I don’t think there will be any cries for more drama if Rory goes on to lap this field. We’ll probably here how he’s back on Jack’s trail and how he’s the best golfer in the world.
I think the difference here is that McIlroy has lived a life in the media both on and off the course and Kaymer has not.
Rory is one of the most recognized golfers in the world and has lived his life embracing all the new media. We all know so much about Rory.
Martin on the other hand doesn’t Twitter or Instagram or live his life in front of anyone but himself. He did no “world tour” after his Open win. He chooses to live a quiet life in Germany, watch soccer and eat barbeque.
I am not saying either is better than the other. What I am saying that if Rory wins in a runaway it will be hailed as a great tournament. Where Martin’s win was simply called boring.
If Rory does withstand the pressure, the challengers and the weather to win by his lucky eight strokes again, no one will call it boring. It’s a shame that most couldn’t have seen the greatness in Martins’ win.
by Jeff Skinner
Rory McIlroy looks to be over his Freaky Friday issues. He’s threatening to run away and hide like he did at his U.S. Open and PGA victories. Back to back 66’s and a four stroke lead puts young Rory in great position for his third major and at the same time has those naysayers eating their words.
Dustin Johnson’s seven under 65 has put him where many have thought he should be, on the brink of winning his first major. He needs help from Rory.
Sergio Garcia continues to be one amazing striker of the golf ball. And he is in great shape but we have seen this picture before.
Rickie Fowler has had good success in the majors this year and the Open is no different. Butch Harmon’s work is paying off.
South Africa: Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee all in contention. Gary Player just did 1,000 sit-ups in their honor.
Royal Liverpool or Hoylake, whatever you call it has come out looking great so far. And Liverpool looks awesome too.
Peter Alliss gets better each time I hear him. He’s the wittiest to them all. And his Twitter feed tops anything he says over the air. Check it out.
It’s difficult when your championship is over after one swing. And that is what happened to Ernie Els. He never recovered from hitting a spectator with his opening drive and it cost him the hole, the round and any chance at the championship.
Tiger Woods: For mere mortals making the cut barely three months after back surgery would be miraculous. For Woods it is unacceptable. No matter what he says his game isn’t there yet. How could it be?
Phil Mickelson: Phil’s rosy assessment of his game is borderline delusional. He says he is hitting it well and he may be, but the results are just not there, especially with the putter.
Lee Westwood is 41 and still looking for that first major. The former world number one will have to live with being the Colin Montgomerie of his generation.
The amateur Ashley Chesters didn’t make the cut but that is the best name of the championship. That’s the classiest “stripper name” I ever heard.
Miguel Angel Jimenez won’t earn any Ryder Cup points with a missed cut. He’ll just have to count on the fact that he’s still the coolest guy in the game.
At least we have one Watson playing the weekend and it’s not Bubba. 64 year old Tom Watson out played Bubba by two shots and will makes two more trips around Hoylake. This is what experience, patience and focus…along with a lot of skill can do for you. Bubba needs to learn that.
Not a loser at all:
John Singleton, the now famous factory worker and my longshot to make the cut just missed the weekend by two shots. He had a very respectable 70 today and birdied three of his last four to end his fairytale on a positive note. He may be disappointed but this week has been a dream come true for him. Maybe he’ll walk away with some sponsors after all this attention.
by Jeff Skinner
Good things at day one of the Open Championship:
Rory McIlroy’s bogey free 66 was as good as it can get on Thursday. Now comes Freaky Friday. This will be Rory’s toughest mental test.
Tom Watson shows that links golf will always be his golf. The 64 year old shoots one over, 73. That’s great stuff.
Jim Furyk’s four under 68 has him in great position to continue the sting of forty-something winners at the Open. Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson showed that experience can pay off at The Open. Furyk is hoping it’s his time.
The Molinari Brothers, no that’s not a circus act, its Edoardo and Francesco playing the links in matching 68’s today. That would be something if they can keep it up and get a chance to be paired together.
There is plenty of youth on that leaderboard. Rory, 25 of course, but Matteo Manassero playing in his fourth Open is 21 and sits in second. Brooks Koepka (T3) is 24 and Rickie Fowler (T3) is 25.
How about Ashley Chesters, the amateur who shot two under, 70 and is T19. Steve Elling had the Tweet of the day “Amazingly, amateur Ashley Chesters is the lone English player under par. Sounds like a name from an LA escort service.”
Tiger Woods played very well after a poor start had him looking like the Tiger of old. Not the circa 2000 Tiger but 2013 Tiger where he wins but still sprays the ball.
The weather ay Royal Liverpool looked more like the tropics than England. I bet there are some heavy duty cases of sunburn tonight.
Bad things at day one of the Open Championship:
Bubba Watson once again shows that he can lose focus at anytime. He looked distracted and annoyed and links golf hasn’t sunk in to that hard head of his yet. He still has some maturing to do. His game is too good to be sidetracked by mental mistakes.
Phil Mickelson’s 74 wasn’t pretty but it could have been much worse. But Phil has some heavy duty rose colored glasses on. He says he never has it better. And he thinks he was putting well. I must have been watching another Open I guess. 32 putts Phil…32 putts!
My longshot pick John Singleton was a bit of both good and bad today. He had a solid front nine of 36 but felt the pressure of the moment and ballooned to 42 on the back. He said he loved the entire day but I need him to right the ship so he can make the cut and be the only factory worker playing the weekend at the Open.
Ugly things at day one of the Open Championship:
Poor Ernie Els and the poor bloke that took his opening tee ball in the jaw. Ernie was shaken up after seeing the man being tended to and went on to take a seven on the first hole. He three putted from two feet and missed a backhanded tap in. The injured man was admitted to the hospital and was expected to be released after treatment. That one hole may have cost Ernie any shot at another Claret Jug.
by Jeff Skinner
The breeze at Hoylake was less than normal but world number one Adam Scott was the only afternoon starter to put together a significant round. His four under 68 has him tied for third with five other players, all who had the advantage of the morning start.
Rory McIlroy’s 66 survived the weak attempt by the afternoon flight and he leads by one over Matteo Manassero. Brooks Koepka, The Brothers Molinari, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia are the players tied with Scott at -4.
A slew of players sit three off the lead including Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
Scott was the only player to give us any real excitement in the afternoon out of the two premier groupings.
The marquee grouping of Phil Mickelson (+2), Bubba Watson (+4) and Ernie Els (+7) were a combined 13 over par, hardly entertaining to watch.
The group got off to a tough start when Ernie hit a spectator off the first tee and had to deal with the sight of the poor lad being tended to with a bleeding jaw injury. He looked shaken as he three putted from three feet including a missed backhanded one footer. He took a triple bogey seven and was never on track.
Bubba was flummoxed by the severe bunkers at Hoylake and lost his focus on numerous occasions resulting in him missing short putts also.
Phil the Thrill was only thrilling when he needed to recover from one of his wayward shots. He only hit half the fairways but was able to hit 13 of 18 greens. And even though he insisted afterwards he played and putted well he still missed two very short, very makeable putts that could have certainly put him in better position.
He saved his biggest thrill for the final hole when he pulled his second shot into the par five out of bounds. After walking up to his ball he was astounded to see it had gone through the boundary and the double fence. Clearly upset he faced the lonely walk back to his previous spot to hit his fourth shot. Luckily a rules official gave Phil a lift and saved him some time and embarrassment.
Phil then sliced it left of the green into the knee deep fescue. But then Phil the Thrill turned it on with a towering wedge to about 20 feet. Then Phil, being Phil sunk the unlikely putt to salvage a bogey six. It wasn’t his best hole but it may have given him some juice going into tomorrow.
The other afternoon marquee group included Scott whose masterful 68 was the best of the afternoon, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner.
Dufner played his round hardly showing one once of emotion and tee to green he was a master. He hit 12 of the 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. He carded three birdies to a lone bogey at the last and if his putter was working he would have threatened McIlroy.
Justin Rose may be running on fumes this week. After an exciting win at The Scottish Open it is difficult to keep the pedal to the metal. But still an even round of 72 is nothing to discount. He’ll be out early tomorrow and if the weather moves in as predicted he’ll have the advantage there.
by Jeff Skinner
If the morning flight at The Open Championship is any indication we are in for one heck of a tournament.
Clear skies, warm temperatures and a lack of wind made the Royal Liverpool course so very gettable this morning. And excuse the grammar, but it was got.
So far there are 34 rounds in the house at par or better and another dozen ready to close out under par.
The big names did their share to add so much excitement to the opening day. Rory McIlroy sizzled with a six under 66 to hold the lead as of now and Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk are two back at -4.
To many the biggest story of the day was Tiger Woods carding a three under 69 in his return to majors championship after an 11month hiatus. Woods started off horribly by going bogey, bogey but battled back with a 33, four under par on the back nine.
He is currently tied for eighth with Rickie Fowler among others.
Hoylake wasn’t easy for everyone as Woods’ playing partner Angel Cabrera struggled to a four over 76 and Patrick Reed blew up with a six over 78 which included a painful triple bogey eight on the eighteenth.
by Jeff Skinner
It is finally time for the Open Championship to start and if you are reading this you are probably missing some of the Open telecast on ESPN. It starts at 4:00am EST and there is even more coverage on the The Open.com.
But television coverage isn’t the only way to stay connected to the Open. It’s the printed word (internet included) that goes so much deeper than the TV coverage and there are no commercials! Here are some great links to some of the best coverage of The Open Championship.
Geoff Shackelford shares some pictures of Liverpool, the course and the city. He also ran into a few “buddies” of his as he made his way around town to put some cash down on his favorite golfers.
My enthusiasm spilled into the local economy when I ran into my old friend Paddy Power (not the Irish televangelist) who offered to reimburse me seven places deep into the top 10, cajoling each/way bets out of me on Mickelson (25-1), McDowell (28-1) and the house special, Martin Kaymer at 28-1. Yes, that fellow who won the U.S. Open. While I was catching up with Paddy, minor wagers were also placed on Mikko Ilonen, Jimmy Walker, someone named K. Brosberg (2nd Scottish Open, 150-1) and at 250-1, a sympathy bet for Paddy’s countryman, Darren Clarke.
It is, indeed, a different-looking golf course from 2006, though, just as Woods did on that occasion, the winner this week will more likely have plotted his way around rather than overpowering the Hoylake course. “I don’t walk on to this golf course and kind of sigh and say, ‘Here we go again, this is a 330-yard hitters paradise’,” said 2010 US Open champion Graeme¬ McDowell, a self-confessed “short knocker” compared to the game’s legions of big-hitters.
“It’s not that type of course; it’s a placement course,” he added. “Look at the way Tiger won here in 2006. He can dominate with length, but he didn’t have to. This golf course doesn’t ask that question. It asks you to play a game of chess more than ¬anything.”
The last time Britain’s leading golf tournament was staged here, Hollywood’s most celebrated heart throb sent the pulses of local ladies of a certain age racing when he was seen out and about in town, after a day spent observing on the links.
Clooney went for a pint in the Ship, an event which landlord Owen Hird has immortalised in a miniature golf leaderboard he has stationed behind the bar.
I think I have found Shackelford’s counterpart from across the pond. James Corrigan writes just like Shackelford, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Here’s his take as to why the Open is the best sporting event in Britain…and more.
You will see this week what makes the Open Championship not only Britain’s best sporting event for individuals, but the world’s best sporting event for individuals. You will also see why it is the most democratic.
That’s right, ‘democratic’, not a word normally associated with professional golf and certainly not with the clichéd view of British golf as being elitist, sexist, racist… (add in your own ‘ist’ here). But cut through all that lazy stereotyping, through all that faux outrage and understand what makes the Open unique.
He was scheduled to sit his driving test yesterday. Instead, he was standing on the putting green in front of the Royal Aberdeen clubhouse being grilled by some Scottish scribes. “The highlight of my day,” he quipped.
And here is a piece by Edward Malnack in The Telegraph on the most famous factory worker in Liverpool. John Singleton works a regular job by day but in his heart he’s a professional golfer. The Open is his big chance and he’s also my longshot pick to make the cut this week.
On Wednesday evening John Singleton’s colleagues at his factory workplace in the Wirral were producing gallons of specialised varnish for the electrical industry. But on Thursday morning many will be following him around the 18 holes of the prestigious Royal Liverpool golf club in Hoylake as he fulfils his lifetime ambition.
Mr. Singleton, whose day job is mixing chemicals and driving a forklift, will tee off in The Open, alongside some of the sport’s greatest professional players, among them Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
by Jeff Skinner
You may think you know your Open Championship history. Facts like Harry Vardon having won six Opens and Willie Park winning the first in 1860 (not Old Tom Morris) should be common knowledge to any Open aficionado but do you know Royal Liverpool?
James Corrigan of The Telegraph gives us a look at some surprising facts about the course they call Hoylake. Click here for 10 Things You Did Not Know About Hoylake.
It was Hoylake that witnessed one of the major changes in technology in 1902. Hoylake essentially witnessed the beginning of the end for the traditional gutta-percha ball when in 1902 the Scot Sandy Herd became the first Open champion to use the new rubber-cored Haskell ball. Herd played with a Haskell in a practice round, could not believe how far it went and went to the club shop to purchase the entire stock – which amounted to four balls.
We know that Bobby Jones won The Open at Hoylake during his run to the Grand Slam but it may be here that Jones got the idea for the famous Masters Green Jacket.
Some historians believe that Bobby Jones, the founder of Augusta who won the Open at Hoylake in 1930, got the idea for the Masters’ Green Jacket from a member he sat next to at a dinner named Kenneth Stoker, who wore a red jacket with dark green lapels that identified him as a captain or past captain. Stoker offered to give it to him if he won that week. It is not known whether he obliged.
by Jeff Skinner
There’s more to Open Championship than links golf, tall pints and bangers and mash. It’s time for our Links Life Golf predictions. After hours and hours of research we have come up with sure fire ways to lose your money.
Remember, its three winners and a long shot…no exceptions!
G. Rennie, who makes his picks from that hot bed of golf, Vietnam goes first.
Justin Rose: Rosie is arguably the most consistent golfer around these days, especially when it comes to tough courses and major tournaments. No holes in any part of his game and his US Open victory at Merion has filled him with self belief. Getting over the hump of the first major victory will be a huge boost for him as he looks for the second major trophy in his native England. His mastery of the US Open type set up at Congressional in his recent PGA Tour victory at the Quicken Loans Invitational confirms his game is major sharp and of course there is his win at Royal Aberdeen in the Scottish Open. He’s made the transition from USA type air golf to links golf in this prep for next week’s run around Royal Liverpool.
Graeme McDowell : GMac is back as his win in June at the Alstom Open de France attests. His game had faltered for quite some time with 2013 nearly a lost season but this bulldog from Northern Ireland is fiercely competitive and has been a consistent performer on both sides of the pond this year with his Euro Tour win and five top ten finishes on the PGA Tour this season.
Sergio Garcia: Sergio has endured a lot of heartbreak in major championships but none more than at the Open, most noteworthy being his playoff loss to Paddy Harrington in 2008 at Carnoustie. He made his first golfing noise as a teenager at the Open and I guess that this is the tournament that means the most to him as a European player and a follower in the Great Spanish tradition set down by Seve Ballesteros. Sergio remains one of the great ball strikers in the game and with his much improved pencil grip putting stroke he has seemingly corrected the major flaw in his game. At thirty five, the smiling, jumping kid we expected so much from has perhaps now matured into a golfer with major championship chops.
Longshot: John Senden, known as a great ball striker this Aussie’s short game is overlooked as he boasts a 70% scrambling average on the PGA Tour this season. He’s having his best year as a pro with a win, four top tens, and a boat load of dinero.
Clearly in violation of the rules, G. Rennie continues and offers a few more longshots. But the committee has ruled these picks ineligible and has determined Senden to be his entry as the longshot.
The rest is just added commentary, skilled and insightful commentary, but just that. Martin Kaymer: how can the current US Open and Player’s champ be considered an underdog? Because it’s incredibly tough and rare in the modern game for anyone save Tiger to win two majors in the same season, especially back to back majors. Paddy Harrington pulled off the back to back feat in 2008 with victories at The Open and PGA . Before that the last golfer (except Woods) to grab two majors in the same season was Mark O’Meara in ’98. But he’s got guts and game and maybe a back to back is in the offing.
Phil Mickelson: pure sentiment here, I’ll pull for Phil in every major until he gives up the game. Lefty has no form to speak of and no top tens this year to his credit. But he’s Phil and you never know what he’ll do and that’s part of his appeal.
Lil Skins who is the only man in New York State to work 80 hours per week in the golf industry and not play the game likes Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and of course the man he would gladly marry if he could, Miguel Angel Jimenez. And paying homage to the master of modern links golf, he chooses Tom Watson as his longshot.
Big Dick who spends 100 hours a week writing but could only find four words to make his picks likes Tiger, Phil, Rory and Zach. I’ll take that as Tiger Woods to finally get #15, Phil Mickelson who we all love, Rory McIlroy because he’s a stud on the rise and Zach Johnson because he’s got the tight, controlled game to win on the links.
The Greek is knee deep in major stuff but here are is updated picks: he likes Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Tiger as his longshot.
Skins: I am going hard with Adam Scott. How does the number one golfer in the world not get any respect from these LLG Mooks! Scott has some unfinished business at the Open and this is just the place for him to win his second major and move his career into overdrive.
Phil Mickelson of course! I will go to my grave picking Lefty until he wins that career Grand Slam. I know it’s not the U. S. Open Phil, but another year with the claret Jug will be something else.
I like Jordan Spieth. I like his game. I like his attitude. I like his maturity. And I like his chances here. Old Tom Morris is officially the youngest winner of the Open at 17 but since 1900 Seve Ballesteros hold the record at 22 years, 3 months. Spieth will turn 21 in ten days and rewrite history with a win here.
My longshot isn’t a name most will recognize as I am not picking a potential winner of the Open here. My pick is John Singleton the factory worker who has qualified his way in and is playing in his first Open. There is no way he will win but my hope for him is to make the cut. That’s how he wins here: make the cut, play the weekend and walk down that final hole on Sunday and he’ll be one of the best stories of the week.
Take a look at Royal Liverpool as Jeremy Ellwood gives us a tour of all 18 holes.