The Open Championship is the oldest major in golf and this year it returns to its most renowned venue, the Old Course at St. Andrews. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is the first defending champion not to play The Open since Ben Hogan in 1954. McIlroy was the favorite before he ripped up his ankle and his loss is significant, but the headliner is still here.
Jordan Spieth is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to show up at the British Open holding the first two majors of the season. He's the best player in the world and the favorite to win. Between the Spieth Slam, Tiger's return to a place where he's won twice, and the venue, this should be an amazing Open. Some background notes on the 144th edition as well as updated results and highlights as the week progresses.
The Old Course at St. Andrews is the most famous venue in the game. It's the "Home of Golf" and the Open Championship's most prestigious course. Jack Nicklaus once said, "If you're going to be a player people will remember, you have to win The Open at St. Andrews." That's a bit harsh, but the point remains: an Open win at St. Andrews resonates.
It may be the most revered and famous course in major championship golf, but it's certainly not the hardest. So much depends on the conditions, which are always a primary factor on links land golf. All Opens are played on links courses, and this is the truest links test in the game. The weather is supposed to be pleasant early in the championship and then turn nasty on Friday. So you can get two different tests and courses from day to day and morning to afternoon.
The course is particularly soft and green this week, so if the wind is down, there will be scores in the low 60s. The major championship scoring record of 63, which has been set 26 different times over the years, may finally fall here this week. As Tiger Woods noted last weekend during his early prep, it's especially soft and the greens will be running slower than normal (links already run slower than what American golfers are used to). There are so many special quirks to St. Andrews -- the ominously named pot bunkers, the Road Hole, the shared greens. Read more background on the course here and settle in for another week of history.
The field is the same size as the U.S. Open and PGA Championship: 156 players deep. That's as big as it gets in golf and it can become a logistical challenge at the two American majors when inclement weather shows up, but it's never an issue at The Open. The sunlight in Scotland this time of year allows for golf before 6 a.m. and past 10 p.m. and the weather usually doesn't involve the kind of lightning that would ever suspend play.
The R&A builds a field that's typically more international than the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Several exemptions are reserved for Euro Tour players, Asian Tour players and a few other circuits around the world. There are the common exemptions reserved for the top 50 in the world rankings, recent major winners in the other three championships, and the PGA Tour and Euro Tour's playoff points races.
The event is "open," but there are far fewer spots handed out to qualifiers at local courses. Almost half of the U.S. Open's field is made up of players who navigated local and sectional qualifying, which puts 60 or so players into the national championship on one "golf's longest day." Instead, this week just 12 players earned their way into the field from four British qualifying sites. The rest come through the Open's new "Qualifying Series," which grants spots to Tour pros who place high on the leaderboard at several events on worldwide tours before the championship. This results in fewer "Cinderella" stories and more of the usual names you see out on the pro tours.
Former champions do not earn a lifetime invite like at the Masters, but it's pretty close. If you won this event, you get a spot in the field until you're 60 years old. That's why we'll continue to get John Daly taking his past-parallel cuts at a major championship, and for that we are grateful. Here's a complete look at the field and how The Open builds out exemptions to get to 156 players.
First Round Highlights
We last saw Dustin Johnson making a mess on the 18th green at Chambers Bay. The giveaway there did not seem to have any impact on DJ, who is playing some of the best golf of his life right now. When he's at his best, there is probably no one in this field, including Jordan Spieth, who can beat him. St. Andrews sets up perfectly for a long hitter, and no one bombs them farther than Dustin. He repeatedly put his tee ball right around the green on par-4s and holds sole possession of the lead at 7-under. Other highlights from the fist day at the Old Course:
Tiger Woods was supposed to have all that momentum from his last encouraging start. So he began his Open by ... hitting it in the water.
Tiger's entire round was a disaster and maybe a new low in a season of dark moments on the course.
The Road Hole may have been the real winner and destroyer of dreams on Thursday
Matt Kuchar embarrassingly duffed this simple 61-yard wedge shot.
John Daly, sporting his usual glorious pants, charged up the board early.
Miguel Angel Jimenez delivered a breakfast treat with this behind-the-scenes photo.
Second Round highlights
You won't believe this, but it rained in Scotland on Friday. Rain and wind are usually preferred for the organizers of the British Open, but the water came too fast in the morning and the course was overwhelmed. A 3-hour, 14-minute delay made the conclusion of 36 holes by Friday night impossible, even in Scotland where it stays light until 10 p.m. this time of year. The day finished with winds whipping Dustin Johnson around, but the bomber was still on top of the leaderboard despite unfavorable conditions. He's got five more holes to finish. Here are some other highlights from Friday at St. Andrews:
Tom Watson made an emotional farewell, starting with a standing ovation on the first tee and finishing in the darkness of a poignant scene around the 18th green.
GOLF CROW tried to fly off with Henrik Stenson's ball.
John Daly practiced by hitting cigarette butts on the driving range.
Nick Faldo broke out his ugly throwback sweater from his 1987 win for his last Open walk up the 18th at St. Andrews.
The day ended with confusion and surreal scenes as players fumbled around and finished up in the darkness.
Saturday (second round continued) highlights
This was almost a completely lost day at the Open Championship. But after a 10-hour, 28-minute wind delay, Dustin Johnson got his one-shot lead back with a birdie on his last hole. Johnson is playing beautiful golf and taking advantage of a course that rewards his outrageous distance off the tee. He leads Danny Willett and a loaded crop of chasers with 36 more holes to play. Here are some more highlights from a day that did not feature much golf at St. Andrews:
Resuming the 2nd round at 7 a.m. in those winds was a mistake the R&A tried to defend.
The players were furious and Louis Oosthuizen caught maybe the most unfair break of the mess.
DJ also got a raw deal too when his ball was blown off the green before he could mark it.
Trying to pour water in a cup was a comically futile task, as illustrated in this incredible Vine.
During the delay, Jordan Spieth took a nap on his bag while John Daly took questions from fans.
And wind or no wind, Tiger was going home early again and setting the wrong kind of career mark.
Third Round highlights
The weather issues from Friday and Saturday were a distant memory on Sunday. Players were greeted by a soft golf course and perfect scoring conditions. Most took advantage and carded rounds in the mid-60s. Jordan Spieth's putter got hot and he charged up the leaderboard as he continues his quest for the grand slam. Amateur Paul Dunne was just as impressive, shooting a 66 to become the first amateur since 1927 to at least share the 54-hole lead. Here are some more highlights from a Sunday moving day at The Open:
Eddie Pepperell found himself in the lead then proceeded to rocket his tee shot on No. 17 INTO the hotel.
Marc Leishman threatened the major championship scoring record before settling for a 64.
Fans greeted Jordan Spieth on No. 18 by singing "Eyes of Texas" for the former Longhorn.
Paul Dunne would miss out on $1.8 million if he wins The Open.
Spieth relaxed post round by playing golf basketball on the driving range.
The tee time draw is more important at The Open than any event in golf. The fickle changes in the weather make the challenge completely different depending on the time of day you're out on the course. The best players in the world can be eliminated by the simple misfortune of where they fell on the tee sheet -- this happens every year at The Open and is just a part of links championships. Tiger Woods' shot at winning the first three majors of 2002 was swept away when he had to go out in what may be the worst weather conditions in the history of the Open. He shot an 81, the worst of his career at the time, in a squall that ended his shot at the Grand Slam.
That weather hit, and in a big way, in a second round that took two full days to complete. Following a three-hour rain delay on Friday morning, Saturday was nearly wiped out completely thanks to a 10-hour, 28-minute wind delay. The entire sequence was a mess for the R&A. High winds forced the second delay at 7:32 a.m. Balls were being blown off greens and players were furious. Many, including Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, questioned why they even went out there in the first place. Johnson caught a tough break when he had his ball blown off the green and down a hill. The second round finally came to merciful conclusion around 8 p.m. Saturday night in Scotland.
Prior to that finish, however, the R&A made an early announcement that they were not even going to attempt to play 36 holes, or even start the fourth round on Sunday. So they sent tee times on Sunday out in a normal schedule and in twosomes off the 1st tee. Monday will be more of the same with a targeted finish around 1:30 or 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. in Scotland). Here are the marquee tee times for Monday's final round:
|5:10 a.m.||Phil Mickelson||James Morrison|
|7:25 a.m.||Dustin Johnson||Jim Furyk|
|8:10 a.m.||Rickie Fowler||Steven Bowditch|
|8:30 a.m.||Danny Willett||Zach Johnson|
|8:40 a.m.||Adam Scott||Robert Streb|
|8:50 .am.||Justin Rose||Retief Goosen|
|9:00 a.m.||Sergio Garcia||Jordan Niebrugge (a)|
|9:10 a.m.||Marc Leishman||Padraig Harrington|
|9:20 a.m.||Jordan Spieth||Jason Day|
|9:30 a.m.||Paul Dunne (a)||Louis Oosthuizen|
You can view a full tee sheet for Monday's final round here.
Leaderboard / Results
Sunday at The Open was an entirely different course than the mess of Saturday. The wind was down and the course was softened overnight by more rain. Players making pars fell off the pace and down the leaderboard. Bogeys were crushing. Several players carded rounds in the mid-60s. Marc Leishman challenged the all-time major championship scoring record of 63, but made par on the last two holes to come up a shot short.
Several players made runs up the leaderboard with Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and amateur Paul Dunne holding a share of the 54-hole lead. Dunne is the first amateur to at least share the 54-hole lead at The Open since 1927. Jordan Spieth is just a shot back following a 66. Dustin Johnson dropped from the 36-hole lead to five off the pace after struggling and carding a 75.
The leaders are just now getting to the 1st tee, and there have been several good scores posted early on Monday. Phil Mickelson and amateur Ollie Schniederjans were the two biggest movers, but both of their rounds came undone at the 17th hole. Mickelson hit it on an Old Course Hotel balcony while the amateur shanked his way to a double bogey. The course does seem to be softened and easier again for the final round. Early scores from Monday:
|T1||Louis Oosthuizen||-12||9:30 AM|
|T1||Paul Dunne||-12||9:30 AM|
|T1||Jason Day||-12||9:20 AM|
|4||Jordan Spieth||-11||9:20 AM|
|T5||Padraig Harrington||-10||9:10 AM|
|T13||Marc Leishman||-9||9:10 AM|
|T13||Jordan Niebrugge||-9||9:00 AM|
|T13||Sergio Garcia||-9||9:00 AM|
|T49||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-5||17|
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