The First Look: The Open Championship
July 13, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- July 13, 2018
- Jordan Spieth closed with a 69 to lift the Claret Jug last year at Royal Birkdale. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Golf’s oldest championship returns to dastardly Carnoustie for just the eighth time, as Jordan Spieth defends the title he won in tumultuous fashion last year at Royal Birkdale against a wide-open roster of contenders.
Brooks Koepka tees it up for the first time since his U.S. Open triumph, when he became just the second man in the past 50 years to successfully defend that major. Tiger Woods is back at The Open for the first time since 2015, with the last of his three Claret Jugs now 12 years behind him.
FIELD NOTES: FedExCup and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Justin Thomas headline a roster expected to feature 78 of the top 80 in this week’s world rankings. … Injuries have Louis Oosthuizen, The Open champion in 2010, and Bryson DeChambeau in limbo. DeChambeau withdrew after 15 holes at the John Deere Classic; Oosthuizen never made it to the Scottish Open tee. … Slots remain for the John Deere Classic’s highest top-5 finisher yet to qualify, plus the Scottish Open’s three highest top-10 finishers still without berths. … Paul Lawrie, the winner of The Open in 1999 after Jean Van de Velde’s dramatic collapse at Carnoustie, will sit out this year amid foot and back woes. … Among the 12 survivors of local qualifying is Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion who now finds himself outside the top 300 in world rankings.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
STORYLINES: With plenty of strong contenders but no clear favorite, Carnoustie figures to take center stage once again. Each of the past three trips to the Angus links have gone to playoffs, thanks to late bogeys – or worse. … Spieth arrives in search of form, lacking a top-20 finish since the Masters. His putting numbers have been particularly out of character, ranking outside the top 170 in Strokes Gained: Putting. … Koepka’s major prowess extends beyond the U.S. Open, with nine top-15 finishes in his past 10 major championship starts. He was sixth last year at Royal Birkdale, 10th two years earlier at St. Andrews. … Johnson owns five top-15 finishes at The Open, including runner-up in 2011 at Royal St. George’s and ninth two years ago at Royal Troon. … Though Spieth and Rory McIlroy (2014) are recent winners, eight of The Open’s past 11 champions were age 35 or older.
COURSE: Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship), 7,402 yards, par 71. Widely considered the toughest test in The Open rota – and perhaps all of championship golf – Carnoustie has crowned Hall of Fame champions and bedeviled many. Golf has been played on the site since the 16th century, with Allan Robertson laying out the first formal 10-hole loop in 1842. Old Tom Morris came along 25 years later to expand the course to the new 18-hole standard. The Open first arrived in 1931, won by Tommy Armour in comeback fashion. Ben Hogan captured his only Claret Jug at The Open in 1953 at Carnoustie, with Gary Player and Tom Watson also among its champions. The meandering Barry Burn crosses No. 18 three times, which set the stage for Van de Velde’s 1999 folly that saw him squander a three-shot lead on regulation’s final hole.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Henrik Stenson (2016 at Royal Troon).
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Branden Grace (3rd round, 2017 at Royal Birkdale).
LAST YEAR: Spieth, buoyed by an unlikely bogey from Birkdale’s practice range, authored a stunning turnaround over his final five holes to pull away from Matt Kuchar and win by three. The duo stood tied heading to the 13th tee, where Spieth’s tee shot went so far right it landed on the other side of dunes separating the course from the range. The Texan declared an unplayable lie, then spent some 20 minutes sorting out options that eventually left him hitting a 3-iron from the edge of the range. A 7-foot bogey putt minimized the damage, after which Spieth found another gear. He nearly aced the par-3 14th, drained a long eagle putt at No. 15, then birdied Nos. 16 and 17 on the way to a closing 69. The victory placed Spieth alongside Jack Nicklaus as the only men to win three legs of the career Grand Slam before turning 25.
HOW TO FOLLOW
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 1:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 4:30-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 4:30-7 a.m. (GC); 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (NBC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 2 a.m.-4 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, 4 a.m.-3 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).