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.
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.
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