The Open Championship 2018

Golf: Spieth struggles in title defence

Defending champion Jordan Spieth shows his frustration at the end of his first round at The Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth shows his frustration at the end of his first round at The Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland.PHOTO: REUTERS

American drops four shots in final four holes in 1-over 72; Kisner is early leader with a 66

CARNOUSTIE (Scotland) • Jordan Spieth started The Open Championship as he intended after handing the Claret Jug back to the R&A on Monday and saying that hopefully it will be out of his possession for only a week.

But it was not to be as the defending champion stumbled to a one-over 72 after completing his first round at Carnoustie yesterday.

Spieth had reached three-under after 13 holes and was looking good to mount a challenge but, to his dismay, he dropped four shots in the final four holes.

He set out in absolutely benign conditions and the American completed the front nine in two-under, with a birdie at the second and another at the fourth, as well as a decent scramble at the par-five sixth.

However, the turning point came when he produced a double-bogey at the 15th and a bogey at the par-three 16th after a poor tee-shot to hand four hours of hard work back in 20 minutes.

A visit to Barry Burn with another poor tee-shot on the 18th just added to the anxiety, and the 24-year-old must now conjure up a much-improved second round if he hopes to still be in contention.

Speaking to ESPN after his round, Spieth blamed a "brain fart" for his collapse at the 15th.

"I felt like I was really going well," he said. "I was putting the ball where I needed to... It was just a clean round of golf. I've done a bit of that this year, just the decision-making that's cost me.

"The misses towards the end were the exact misses I've been having and I'm working away from. My swing just didn't quite hold up to the end of my round. Those long irons really hurt me today."

Kevin Kisner, who is sharing a house this week with fellow Americans Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker - who share eight Majors - had a blazing start as he went in search of his Major win.

T he 34-year-old had an eagle and four birdies in his round of 66.

  • LEADERBOARD 

  • 1ST RD (selected early scores,  Gbr and Irl not stated)

    66 Kevin Kisner (USA) 
    67 Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Tony Finau (USA) 
    68 Brandon Stone (Rsa)
    69 Matthew Southgate, Danny Willett, Kang Sung (Kor), Pat Perez (USA), Jon Rahm (Esp)
    70 Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler (all USA) 
    71 Kim Si Woo (Kor) 
    72 Jordan Spieth (USA), Justin Rose 
    73 Phil Mickelson (USA), Paul Casey 
    74 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
    75 Patrick Reed (USA)

"The golf course is great for me. The conditions have been fine," said Kisner, who led going into the final round of last year's US PGA Championship before dropping away to finish tied for seventh.

"Going forward, you never know what you're going to have in Scotland. I know the rain is coming in tomorrow. But I don't think the rain is going to affect how the golf course is playing in one day, I have to just keep doing what I'm doing."

Americans have won the last five Majors and will take some beating this week. But the Europeans are not giving up without a fight.

Englishman Danny Willett believes he can finally see some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel since his 2016 US Masters victory.

The 30-year-old, who reeled off five birdies in a 69, has been missing cut after cut, but there are clear signs he is getting back to his best.

"I'm pretty hopeful we'll never be in as dark a place as we were," he told reporters.

Asked to explain just how dark it had been, he replied: "Pitch black. It wasn't good for a while, but that's kind of the situation we were in.

"We were fighting and the body was being really uncooperative. Unfortunately in this game, trying to travel and play 26 weeks around the world, travelling countless amount of air miles, isn't good for the body." 

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS,  THE GUARDIAN


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Spieth struggles in title defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe