CARNOUSTIE- In the midst of swirling winds and rain in the early part of the day, Americans Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner emerged to be the 36-hole leaders at the Open Championship. After shooting a 66 in the first round, Kisner followed up his stellar play with a solid 1-under 70 second round, where he racked up five birdies on the card. A double bogey on the tough 18th hole brought Kevin back to the field but luckily still in a leadership position.
“I love where my putter is and love my position going into the weekend,” Kisner stated after his round.
Zach Johnson, who won the Open Championship in 2015 at St. Andrews, has fired a 69 and 67 during the first two days. For the second round, he had a 78% greens in regulation, only tallying 28 putts today. Given his previous major championship experience, Johnson is confident that he can compete in the mix come the final round on Sunday.
“I think my game lends itself to this championship because my style can play here,” Johnson said. “I play the holes backward. I take what the golf course gives me, and I try to execute. You’ve still got to hit good shots. Even though you know what you need to do, you’ve still got to hit a good shot. Is there some risk/reward at times, or are you pushing it sometimes? Absolutely.”
As someone who truly appreciates the grand stage of being an Open Champion, Zach exudes tremendous gratefulness for the opportunity to play in this storied championship.
“I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this championship came into fruition back in 1860. Everything about it, I’ve embraced, and I love,” said Johnson.
Former Champions, Rising Stars Creep Up Leaderboard
Kisner and Johnson do not have much separation atop the leaderboard, each holding a one-shot lead heading into Saturday’s third round. Englishman Tommy Fleetwood sits one back at 5-under par, ready to once again contend for a major after shooting a 63 in the final round of the U.S. Open. He is trying to be the first golfer since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992 to win the Open Championship from England.
Sitting two back of the lead is Rory McIlroy, who is trying to win his fifth major championship. This week, McIlroy’s average drive has been over 300 yards and he has over 70% greens in regulation. But he knows he must find the fairway on the weekend at a golf course like Carnoustie, which punishes players who have to play from the thick rough. This year, McIlroy competed in the final group of the Masters, losing to the eventual champion Patrick Reed. This experience has taught Rory to continue to be aggressive and provide a determined effort to hoist the Claret Jug.
“Even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving it my best,” McIlroy said.
Last year’s Open champion Jordan Spieth is at 3- under par, sitting tied for 11th. Other than a final round charge at the Masters, Spieth has had a disappointing year, not winning a tournament yet. In the second round today, he missed over half his fairways but his short game and putting bailed him out, which has happened many times throughout his career on Tour. Spieth only needed 25 putts today and is ready to make a move on Moving Day tomorrow.
“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”
Five shots off the lead is this year’s U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. After a horrible front nine yesterday, Koepka battled to make five birdies on the backstretch to scramble to a one over 72. Today, he played steady golf, hitting 56% of his fairways and only requiring 26 putts. As someone who is a big hitter of the ball and with a dry course that causes the ball to roll, Brooks feels very comfortable to make a run at the leaders.
“Just hang with it,” Koepka said. “I felt like I was actually playing well. I just hit one bad shot, maybe two during that whole stretch (on Thursday). It’s links golf, you’re going to get a little bit unlucky and things aren’t going to go your way sometimes, but you just have to stay patient and keep grinding away.”
There are so many opportunities to use driver here,” the two-time major champion stated. Beyond the major champions, there are also other golfers looking to get into the major championship circle. Rickie Fowler, who has multiple top-5 performances at majors, is sitting tied with Spieth at 3-under par, looking to finally break through and win his first major. Matt Kuchar, who had a heartbreaking loss in last year’s Open Championship to Spieth who battled five of the last six holes, is sitting only three back of the leaders. With all these headline names chasing the leaders, it will put pressure on Johnson and Kisner tomorrow, especially if they falter early.
Tiger Woods Makes Second Major Cut of 2018
Once again, the golf world was eager to see how Tiger Woods would perform this week at Carnoustie. At the U.S. Open, Shinnecock Hills got the best of him, forcing Tiger to miss the cut. But after shooting two 71s on consecutive days, Woods sits six back of the lead and feels very much in contention.
“I’m certainly right there in the mix,” he said.
Woods got three birdies and three bogeys on his round today. What has been most impressive with his performance thus far has been his ability to scramble and recover from not hitting the ball in the fairway.
Tiger has not played the Open Championship since 2015. He has not won the Claret Jug since 2006. Even after a 12-year hiatus with not winning Europe’s premier tournament, the galleries are still in awe of the superstar aura of the American.
“It’s fantastic to have the support we’ve had,” Woods said. “For as many people that came out in the rain today to support us, and obviously, nine is one of the furthest points on the golf course, and they walked all the way around cheering for us. Certainly, it’s very appreciated.”
Carnoustie will show it’s teeth this weekend. Weather is always a factor at Open Championships but especially at a course like Carnoustie. If the wind gets blustery or precipitation arrives, expect the field to come back closer to even par and an arduous roller coaster of emotions all the way to the 72nd hole.