GOLF

The presence of LIV Golf, the speed of execution of Tiger Woods and everything you need to know for the second round of the Open

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The R&A wanted to draw attention to the 150th anniversary of The Open this week and the ongoing dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf over the best players in the world.

The R&A wasn’t very subtle in trying to make sure that happened. He did not invite LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a two-time Open winner, to St. Andrews for the celebration. It also did not include a single LIV player on the pre-tournament press conference schedule, nor featured pairings for Thursday’s opening round.

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That didn’t stop many LIV players from performing well on the Old Course. Among them: Dustin Johnson (4-under 68), Lee Westwood (4-under 68), Talor Gooch (4-under 68), Ian Poulter (3-under 69), Bryson DeChambeau ( 3-under 69) and Scott Vincent (3-under 69).

Westwood, who is trying to win his first major tournament at 49, said he was warmly received by Scottish fans.

“I think the media is fueling it and doing everything they can to help it,” Westwood said of the rift between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. “I think the general public just wants to go out there and see great golf, no matter where it’s played or who’s playing it.”

Westwood was also asked about Tiger Woods’ comment that players who jumped to LIV Golf had “turned their backs” on the PGA Tour.

“He has a vested interest, doesn’t he?” said Westwood. “LIV players will talk about LIV. PGA Tour players who aren’t on the LIV tour will talk about the PGA Tour and stop the LIV tour.”

Some of LIV Golf’s biggest stars have had a harder time getting around the Old Course, including Phil Mickelson (par 72), Patrick Reed (par 72), Brooks Koepka (1 of 73) and Sergio Garcia (3 out of 75).

Poulter of England is a long-time fan favorite in the European Ryder Cup. There were a few fans who booed him before his first tee shot, but Poulter insisted he didn’t hear them. He also said something to a fan who yelled at him on #17.

“There’s always an American in the crowd,” Poulter said.

Gooch, who has come under fire for comparing the atmosphere of the second LIV event at Pumpkin Ridge outside Portland, Oregon, to the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup, called the Open his favorite tournament.

“It’s not comparable because it was team golf [at LIV] and it’s not team golf,” Gooch told ESPN, when asked to compare the two events. “It’s kind of apples and oranges there.”

Tiger’s speed of execution

Tiger Woods, who struggled for a 6 of 78 in the first round, won’t have much time to recover or rest before the second round on Friday. His first round took 6 hours and 5 minutes to play; he did not leave the Old Course until around 9 p.m. local time on Thursday evening.

Woods, 46, is due to start Friday at 4:58 a.m. ET (9:58 a.m. local time) with US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa.

At the Masters in April, Woods said he needed a few hours to get his body working before playing a trick. In addition to the injuries Woods suffered in a serious car accident outside Los Angeles in February 2021, which he says nearly led to surgeons amputating his right leg, he suffers from neck and back injuries. for several years.

The good news is that Woods said Thursday’s walk was easier than the ones he had in the early rounds of the Masters and PGA Championship. The bad news is that it was a 6 hour walk due to the very slow pace of play.

“We weren’t exactly speed demons there either,” Woods said. “The whole lap took a long time, and we were being beckoned. And it was a long, slow day.”

Defend the old course

They’ve been golfing on the courses of St. Andrews since the turn of the 15th century, but the “home of golf” doesn’t hold up very well to modern players and equipment in terms of length.

With the fairways firm in warm, rainless weather, the balls were rolling like never before. Tiger Woods had a 412-yard drive on the par-5 14th.

“It’s the firmest I’ve ever seen, without a doubt,” Gooch said. “Everyone I’ve asked in the past 48 hours has agreed. It’s the strongest golf course anyone’s ever seen. It’s amazing.”

All week, players found that the fairways were faster than the greens. They said that was still the case on Thursday.

“I’ve played really well this year overall, but I’ve noticed the links greens are generally a bit slower than what we normally play,” said Viktor Hovland. “I just noticed that on practice rounds I was barely putting the ball in the hole. So anything within 15 feet, I was really trying to hit it two, three feet above- beyond the hole just to give him a chance to get in.”

There is a decent chance of rain overnight before round two.

“If there’s no rain in the forecast, it could get firmer, especially the greens,” said Rory McIlroy, who shot 6-under 66 in the first round. “I noticed [Thursday] some of the highlights of the greens were getting a bit burnt and bare. And I think because of that, there are certain areas of certain greens that were a bit faster than others. So that’s something to watch over the next few days.”

Some work to do to stay around

The cup for The Open includes the top 70 scores and ties. After the first round, 76 players had even or better scores – and 100 had scores 1 over or better.

At last year’s Open at Royal St. George’s the cut was 1. It was the same at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Along with Koepka and Garcia, there are plenty of notable players who need to catch up, or at least not go in the wrong direction on Friday, to stay the weekend.

Among them: Jon Rahm (1 over), Will Zalatoris (1 over), Tony Finau (1 over), Harold Varner III (1 over), John Daly (1 over), Billy Horschel (1 over), Max Homa (1 over plus) and Gary Woodland (2 plus).

“Wake up and do it, you know,” Homa said. “Luckily I have some adrenaline here and I’m playing with Tiger, so it will be fun. I mean, a pretty cool problem to have. I have to get up early and play the Old Course.”

Will anyone pay attention to #1?

Another major, another early run from world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler to put himself in contention for another victory. Scheffler carded a 4-under 68 and is tied for fifth. He has seven top-five finishes in 13 rounds at majors this season, tied with McIlroy for the most of any player. He’s been in the top 10 in 15 of the last 18 rounds at major tournaments since 2021.

Scheffler won the Masters, missed the PGA Championship cut and tied for second at the US Open.

“I just try to hold my position, avoid the bunkers and stay in position, really,” Scheffler said. “That’s all I try to do. There are some places where you can attack this golf course, and there are a lot of places where you can’t. So just try to manage expectations and really try to execute and hit good shots.”

And we still ask the man who has won four times in six starts this spring if he is respected enough. He wasn’t included in a feature group in the first two rounds, although his pairing with Joaquin Niemann and Tyrrell Hatton wasn’t too bad.

“I don’t really pay attention to that stuff,” Scheffler said. “For me, I just show up and try to play good golf. I thought I was in a featured pair [Thursday]. The guys I’ve played with are pretty solid golfers. I mean, that’s everyone’s opinion. It’s all just perception. For me, I’m just here to try to play good golf.”

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