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U.S. Women’s Open First Round Recap

Annika and Lorena are right there, Angela Park came out of nowhere, Michelle and Karrie are in big trouble, just a quick summary of the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open.

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The stories have been building for the past year since Annika Sorenstam won in a playoff in the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open. U.S. Women’s Open. Since that date, the compelling stories have been building exponentially and seem to have converged at Donald Ross’s Pine Needles in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

Lorena Ochoa is the new number one ranked woman in the world. Michelle Wie has battled an injury and struggled to break par all amidst a cloud of media attention. Morgan Pressel has cashed the check on her golfing potential with a major win. So it should come as little surprise that a three and a half our weather delay due to lightning barely surfaced as news after today’s round. Stealing the spotlight today was round leader Angela Park.

LPGA rookie Angela Park, just 18 years old, began her round on the first hole and took advantage of the easier start on the front nine. Three birdies on the first three holes, another on the 8th, and with only one blemish on her card – a bogey on the par 4 17th hole, Park found herself in the club house with the first round lead. No one would be able to catch her. Park said of her round, "I putted extremely well out there today, only 27 putts. I think that was the main key. Coming into this week I realized that the greens were very difficult and the course was playing very long. And I’m not a very long hitter. I thought I would have to back up on my short game and my irons, which I did well today."

Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam both finished with solid rounds of even par. Ochoa’s round was capitalized by an eagle 2 on the par 4 14th from a fairway bunker with her five wood. Ochoa had to talk her caddie into hitting her five wood rather than her seven wood, she said, "I hit it perfect and just nice high fade and I guess it was very nice to just hear the crowd clapping and getting louder and louder and it was very special." After missing two months of the season with an ruptured and bulging disks in her back, Annika Sorenstam appears to be rounding into form. Her doctors have given her the all clear to play at 100%, and so far she has done that. Sorenstam’s afternoon round was interrupted by the weather delay, and she was only able to finish 13 holes before darkness halted play, "It’s a long day so I really have to save energy as much as I can. And go from there. It’s nice to have the momentum and go out early tomorrow and finish the round," she said.

While Ochoa and Sorenstam appear to be on cruise control, Michelle Wie and Karrie Webb appear to be in free fall. Michelle Wie’s recent tournament history has been one she’d likely want to forget about. However after her first round today, she’s not ready to turn the page quite yet. Her opening 82 is her highest ever first round score in a major and extends her consecutive rounds over par streak to 21. Wie struggled with all aspects of her game, hittingly only four fairways and four greens in regulation, three of which came on par 3’s. With a quivering voice in her press conference that betrayed her poker face, Wie was optimistic about her progress, "I know I played better than this. It’s just a very fine line between shooting 69 and shooting what I shot today. And it’s a couple strokes here, a couple strokes there. And like I said, once I trust myself and once I have confidence again, I think it’s a done deal." Just how the deal gets done remains to be seen since even making the cut this week will require a herculean effort. Seven time major champion, Karrie Webb, faced an even tougher day than Michelle Wie. Five bogies and a double on her front nine combined with six more bogies on the back lead to a round of 83, putting her in second to last place for the tournament.

Pos Player R1 Tot
1 Angela Park 68 -3
T2 In-Bee Park 16 -2
T2 Jee Young Lee 12 -2
T2 Karine Icher 10 -2
T5 Amy Hung 70 -1
T5 Jiyai Shin 70 -1
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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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Morning 9: A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland | Chamblee: McIlroy choked

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1. A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland
From an unbylined report on TheOpen.com regarding J.B. Holmes’ opening-round 66 to lead…
  • “The 37-year-old suffered something of an inauspicious start when he bogeyed the 1st but birdies at 2, 3 and 5 sent him out in 34 before three further birdies on the back nine – including one at 18 – set a target no-one else in the field could match.”
  • “I was very confident going in,” said Holmes, who finished third at Royal Troon in 2016. “I felt like I was hitting it really well and we had a good plan, a good line on the golf course.
  • “You don’t expect to shoot that, but I’m not surprised.”
  • “Holmes has a one-stroke advantage over Shane Lowry – who carded an impressive 67 that could have been even lower after a number of near misses on the back nine – with a slew of players then at -3 – including major winners Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia.”

Full piece.

At the time of this writing, Holmes is -8 for the tournament and leads by a stroke in round 2…
2. “His major muse”
Brian Keogh at the Irish Independent on Shane Lowry’s 4-under start…
  • “But as Pádraig Harrington shot a 75 that summed up his injury-delayed season, Lowry announced his Major championship candidacy by carding a four-under 67. That left him a shot behind long-hitting JB Holmes but one clear of a chasing posse featuring a host of dangerous desperadoes, including the relentless Brooks Koepka and the swashbuckling Jon Rahm.”
  • “The crowd was begging for an Irish story and where McIlroy failed, Lowry delivered in spades…The Clara native (32) confessed he was “uneasy” about the test this week – feeling in his bones that a big performance was within his compass but anxious that he might fail to find the freedom to deliver it.”
  • “In the end, all it took was a frank chat with his coach Neil Manchip over coffee in the Bushmills Inn on Wednesday to put him at ease.”
3. The word is “choking”
That’s how Brandel Chamblee characterized Rory McIlory’s British Open out-of-bounds opening shot/first-round 79…
  • “He has had, historically, just a bad run of first rounds. … He consistently gets off to a bad start and then inexorably plays himself back into it, and then when all the pressure is gone, all of that talent arises and then he plays a beautiful second or third or fourth round and gets himself back in it. … But when someone plays poor golf in the beginning of a tournament and then great golf the rest of the way, or great golf in the beginning and then poor golf at the end – both of those on either end he’s been guilty of over the last five years – then you know it’s not something physical, it’s not something technical, that they’re not putting themselves in the right frame of mind to either begin a golf tournament or to end a golf tournament. He needs to find that magic that he had when he was winning major championships.”
  • “On paper – I know what the world rankings say, that Brooks Koepka is the best player in the world – but on paper, coming in here, demonstrably, Rory McIlroy is the best player. Strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained total – he’s better than he was in 2012. He’s better than he was in 2015. And logically, experience should make him a better player. But when someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking.”
4.  Ailing? Ill-prepared? Awful opening round from Woods…
Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck penned this regarding Tiger Woods’ opening-round 79…
  • “The triumph at the Masters erased all of that but can’t change the glum reality that Woods is a man playing on borrowed time. His light schedule this summer left him unprepared for the rigors of the major-championship tests but, to hear him tell it on Thursday, there was no other way to get to the starting line. “One of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer,” Woods said. After his short scrum with reporters he was heading to the physio for treatment on his back. But Tiger ended a disappointing day with a parting thought more troubling than one bad round: “Just the way it is,” he said. “Just the way it’s going to be.”
5. Good on you, Double D
Golf Digest’s John Strege…”Duval, who has a claret jug on a resume that is borderline World Golf Hall of Fame caliber, took a 14 on the par-4 seventh hole en route to a front nine of 49. It was the kind of hole in the kind of round that might have caused integrity-challenged golfers to walk off the course, or at the very least to avoid the ignominy of having their score posted for all to see by not signing the scorecard and taking a disqualification.”
Not Duval. Here’s what he said after his round...”You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score. Am I happy about that? Is there some embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.”
6. Upsets aplenty
Brentley Romine at Golf Channel...”Thursday was a day filled with upsets at the U.S. Junior Amateur. None was more shocking than Palmer Jackson’s victory over defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen.”
  • “Jackson held a 1-up lead over Thorbjornsen in their Round-of-32 match when he missed the green at Inverness Club’s par-4 18th hole. But with Thorbjorsen facing a 5-footer for birdie to force extra holes, Jackson chipped in for birdie and the 1-up victory.”
  • “I knew I had to make that chip because he had a 5-footer for birdie and he was making those all day,” Jackson said. “It feels really good to take him out.”
7. Meanwhile, at the Barbasol…
AP report…” J.T. Poston shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship.”
  • “Poston birdied six of the first eight holes at rain-softened Keene Trace, bogeyed the par-3 ninth and added five more birdies on the back nine for his lowest score on the PGA TOUR.”
  • “It was one of those days everything clicked,” Poston said. “Hit it good, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I was hitting it so good I didn’t really have that many lengthy birdie putts that I made until the last hole.”

Full piece.

8. Creamer-Pressel? Pressel-Creamer?
However you structure it, the duo are atop the leaderboard…
AP report…”Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer shot a best-ball 6-under 64 on Thursday for a share of the second-round lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.”
  • “Stephanie Meadow and Giulia Molinaro had a 61, and Frenchwomen Celine Boutier and Karine Icher shot 62 to match Pressel and Creamer at 10-under 130 at Midland Country Club. The teams will play alternate shot Friday and close Saturday with a best-ball round.”
  • “You have two balls in play, you can play much more aggressively,” Pressel said. “I know I certainly could play aggressively knowing my partner had my back the whole way around.”

Full piece.

9. Daly rides his way to 71
Reuters report…”John Daly rode his cart to a respectable one-under-par 71 on a day of sizzling scoring in the opening round at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky on Thursday.”
“After being denied use of a cart for the British Open, Daly decided to take a pass on playing in the major championship this week, instead teeing up in Nicholasville with the tour’s bottom-feeders.”
Bottom-feeders? That’s pretty harsh, Reuters! Full piece.
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