Key questions heading into Round 2 of The 147th Open
Round 1 of The 147th Open is in the books and as anticipated, it was full of memorable moments. Kevin Kisner leads the way after posting a 5-under 66, but this thing is far from over.
Here are five questions heading into Round 2.
Can Tiger Woods make a move?
Absolutely. Woods hasn’t played an Open since 2015 at St. Andrews, so an even-par 71 to kick off Carnoustie is a solid start. As has been the sentiment for most of the season, his round could have been so much lower. Woods made the turn in 2 under, but a more aggressive move off 10 tee (3-wood) proved costly. He skied it high and right into a fairway bunker. From there he had to hit out sideways, then failed to get up-and-down. He bounced back with a 35-footer for birdie at the 11th, but added bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15 before settling on the 71 and T-32 position. If anything, it seemed Woods got a little impatient on the back nine, wanting to be more aggressive. He confirmed as much after his round, saying the wind wouldn’t let him (gusts around 15 mph frequented the afternoon). All in all, positives to take away from Woods’ opening round that he can build on for Day 2.
Which strategy works – aggressive or conservative?
Jury’s still out. Rory McIlroy was one of the more vocal proponents early in the week that being aggressive (lots of drivers) was the way to go. After a 2-under 69, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. After the round, McIlroy shared this: “As I said at the start of the week, it’s very playable from not in the fairway. … I got away with some tee shots but at the same time, I think that’s what I have to do. That’s my game plan this week. I’m convinced that’s the way I should play it.” Meanwhile, world No. 1 and one of the longest hitters on Tour (does that 433-yard drive at Kapalua earlier this year ring a bell?) Dustin Johnson also employed the bomb-and-gouge strategy. He shot 5-over 76 managing to find 53 percent of his fairways. The fact that he was in the rough nearly half of the round shouldn’t have been a problem for DJ - he leads the Tour this year in proximity to the hole from the rough. The other Johnson – Zach – is tied for 146th in driving distance this season. He shot 2-under 69 including going 8-iron, wedge at the par-4 third. His plan for tomorrow on No. 3? He’s thinking it’s 9-iron. Guess we’ll know the answer to this come Sunday night.
What’s going to happen to the top of the leaderboard?
Impressive stuff from Kevin Kisner, who needed just 22 putts in a round of 5 under. His 66 is his second-best round in a major (he shot 65 in the third round of the 2016 PGA Championship). Trends suggest, however, there’s going to be movement at the top over the next three rounds. Of all seven previous Opens at Carnoustie, none of the winners led after either the first or second rounds. The good news for Kisner tomorrow is that he goes out in the afternoon wave – weather forecasts call for rain Friday morning, with heavy spells possible.
Should we be concerned about Jordan Spieth?
Defending champion Jordan Spieth was cruising nicely around Carnoustie early in his first round, going 3 under across his first 14 holes before a mental miscue at No. 15 led to bogey. He added bogeys at 16 and 18 to settle on a 1-over 72. He’s six shots back in a tie for 50th. Should we push the panic button? Yes and no. Yes, if you look at recent trends in The Open. In the last 19 Opens, the eventual winner was at or within five shots of the lead after the first round. No, if you consider it’s Spieth we’re talking about. Of his hiccup at 15, Spieth said: “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.” He added that his 72 felt like a “missed opportunity,” and we concur. Mental errors aren’t typically an issue for Spieth, so if he can use Thursday’s mistakes as roadmaps of what not to do the remainder of the week, he’ll likely be in the mix come Sunday.
Biggest surprise on Day 1?
Remember 2016 Masters champion Danny Willet? It’s OK if he hasn’t frequented the forefront of your memory bank since that April Sunday two years ago. He fell into what some would consider golf purgatory after a series of injuries affected his body, his swing and his mind. But, save for a knee scare in Italy and a shoulder scare earlier this week, he’s played the last eight months nearly pain-free. He was 4 under and stalking the lead early on Day 1 until he came in bogey-bogey (easy to do around these parts). Still, a valiant effort on the heels of some positive play as of late – top-20 finishes in his last two starts (T-6 at Irish Open, T-19 at Scottish Open). It remains to be seen if his form holds up the remainder of the week, but a feel-good story to see him again finding his footing in major championships.
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