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Dave Tindall

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Dose: Six for six

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Recap of the day

 

Morning wave: Former US Open winners Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson, together with European star Alex Noren, cashed in on the excellent scoring conditions to lead the way with 6-under 66s. That was one in front of defending champion Si Woo Kim, who hit 7-under at after 15 holes before bogeying two of his final three. Despite birdies flying everywhere, the box-office morning three-ball of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas shot a combined 3-over.

 

Afternoon wave: While Noren (see quotes below) believed he’d caught a break by playing in the morning, it was actually the p.m. wave that threatened to take the bar higher. In the end, three more Americans, Chesson Hadley, Patrick Cantlay and 2012 winner Matt Kuchar also came in with 66s to make it six-way tie. Sergio Garcia briefly led on his own after 16 but found the drink at 17 and took double, a stark contrast to his ace at the island hole in round one 12 month ago. Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson took the ‘ball in the water’ count at the infamous 17th to 21 and 22 after coming up short with their tee-shots. Tiger Woods won that three-ball with a 72 as Fowler carded a 74 whilst Mickelson, dressed as if he’d just come from the office, ballooned to a 79. Despite a lot of low numbers, the field average for the afternoon wave was 72.62, 1.3 shots tougher than the morning (71.32). Most of the difference came at the 16th and 17th holes as the wind got a little tricky as the day went on. 

 

R1 Leaderboard: -6 Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, -5 Jhonattan Vegas, Si Woo Kim, Keith Mitchell, Rory Sabbatini, Steve Stricker, Andrew Landry.

 

 

Friday weather forecast

 

Temperatures go up a notch for round two. They should be in the early 70s for the morning starters but could peak in the early 90s for the afternoon wave. Winds are very light again to start with before picking up in the afternoon although only to around 10mph.

 

 

Top 6 after R1 – how they performed

 

Webb Simpson 66 – SG: Putting of 4.157! Yep, forget that Achilles Heel. Split 10 fairways and missed just a single green in regulation.


Dustin Johnson
66
– Birdied three of the four par 5s and added three other red numbers. Easy.  Lowest ever round at TPC Sawgrass by two shots.


Alex Noren
66
– T10 here last year and clearly loves this test. Hit 14 greens and 100% scrambling when he missed. SG: Putting of 3.036.


Chesson Hadley
66
– 10 x 3s on his card, one via eagle at 11. Ranked 1st in SG: Putting (5.173) but 71st in GIR (hit only 12).


Matt Kuchar
66
– Matched his lowest ever Sawgrass lap for the 2012 winner, who is making his 14th start here. Ranked 1st in SG: Tee-To-Green.


Patrick Cantlay
66
– Got it to -7 with two to play before bogey at 8. T1st for birdies (8) and 2nd for SG: Around-The-Green.

 

 

Fate of the favorites

 

Jason Day 69 – Hit it much better off the tee (11 of 14 fairways) than he did when winning at Quail Hollow but missed a third of the greens and short game not as sharp as usual.


Jordan Spieth
75
– Going into the water three times in your first seven holes is never a good look. +2 on the par 5s and a fourth straight MC at Sawgrass beckons.


Justin Thomas
73
– Good start but played 15th thru’ 2nd in +5. Hit back with three straight birdies but had to chip in for par at the last to limit damage to a 73. Hit just 10 greens.


Rory McIlroy
71
– Won his all-star three-ball against Thomas and Spieth with a modest 1-under morning lap. Hit just six fairways and no eye-catching stats elsewhere.


Dustin Johnson
66
– DJ is trying the Aim Point putting method for the first time this week. It’s working (SG: Putting of 2.016). Hitting 17 greens helped too.

 

Revised outright betting:  5/1 Dustin Johnson (-6), 14/1 Patrick Cantlay (-6), 16/1 Alex Noren (-6), Henrik Stenson (-4), Jason Day (-3), Jon Rahm (-4), Matt Kuchar (-6), 20/1 Justin Rose (-4), 22/1 Webb Simpson (-6), 25/1 Chesson Hadley (-6), Sergio Garcia (-4). Also: 40/1 Rory McIlroy (-1), 66/1 Tiger Woods (Evs), 80/1 Justin Thomas (+1).

 

 

Quotes

 

Dustin Johnson (66): “Going round here with no bogeys is very good. I felt like I drove it pretty well, kept it in play, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens. Wasn’t quite as sharp with my irons as I’d like to be but I rolled it really nicely so made up for it. This golf course is tough but you can take advantage of it and attack it in certain spots but you’ve got to be in the fairway. That was a big key for me today and that’s what I’m going to have to keep doing the rest of this week if I want to compete for the title on Sunday.”

 

Alex Noren (66): “We got a little less firm greens this morning and no wind so we were very happy about that. I played steady, maybe not all perfect shots but good enough, kept my ball out of trouble and got off to a good start on 10, 11, 12 (all birdies) which made me relax a bit. I’m happy with six-under. I like this kind of golf course, kind of fiddly and different clubs off the tee.”

 

Rory McIlroy (71): “Obviously, you see some guys shooting 6-under par or so and I know it was out there. We did have the opportunity to do that, I just didn’t quite take advantage of it like some of the other guys did. But it’s a long week, the golf course is just going to play firmer and faster and harder as the week goes on. And if I, from here on in, shoot three scores in the 60s, I don’t feel like I’ll be that far away.’’

 

Road to victory at Sawgrass

 

2017 Si Woo KimR1: 7th, R2: 16th, R3: 4th

2016 Jason DayR1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2015 Rickie FowlerR1: 11th, R2: 3rd, R3: 11th

2014 Martin KaymerR1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2013 Tiger WoodsR1: 4th, R2: 2nd, R3: 4th

 

Notes: KJ Choi was 25th after the opening lap back in 2011 but most leaders have been up there from the start.

 

 

Fate of the first-round leaders at Sawgrass – where did they finish?

 

2017 MacKenzie Hughes – 16th, William McGirt – 22nd

2016 Jason Day – 1st

2015 David Hearn – 42nd, Hideki Matsuyama – 17th, Charley Hoffman – 30th, Kevin Na – 6th

2014 Martin Kaymer – 1st

2013 Roberto Castro – 19th

 

Notes: The two major winners who led after day one, Day and Kaymer, went wire-to-wire. Good news for DJ and Simpson perhaps. The lesser lights generally struggled. Kevin Na, World No.22 at the time, was the only other R1 leader in the last five years to finish inside the top 15. That said, fast starts can traditionally be a very good pointer and 14 R1 leaders of this event have gone on to win.

 

 

Sawgrass too tame?

 

With no wind in the morning and only brief flurries in the afternoon, scoring was expected to be good but at times it felt more like the John Deere Classic with birdies and eagles going in everywhere. The 12th was altered to a driveable par 4 and Kiradech Aphibarnrat set the tone. He was in the first group to arrive there and smashed his tee-shot onto the green and holed from seven feet for eagle. All the players talk about TPC Sawgrass in hushed and revered tones but is it just a pretty simple par 72 unless Mother Nature helps out? Maybe we shouldn’t be fooled though. Last year it was only the 18th toughest course in R1 scoring but ranked fifth toughest after 72 in relation to par. In 2016, 82 players broke par in round one, making it only the 33rd hardest for the opening lap. It ranked 19th hardest overall over 72. In other words, expect the sub-air to be switched up higher and the pin placements to get a whole lot tougher as the week goes on.

 

Woods v Mickelson….. v Fowler

 

There had been some strange mis-reporting, and indeed memory loss from Tiger himself, about how many times Woods and Mickelson had been paired in recent years. The last time was actually the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, Lefty shooting 67-69 to Tiger’s pair of 74s over the first two rounds. Since Tiger’s last major win in 2008 they’d been playing partners in 13 rounds, Mickelson leading 8-5. Make that 8-6 after Woods (72) outscored a faltering Mickelson (79) today. Fowler is too nice/smart to say anything controversial but he did make mention in his pre-event press conference of putting out first to “avoid the Tiger circus”. A hint that he feels a little compromised when playing alongside Woods in tournament conditions even though they practice together at home? Possibly. In eight previous rounds when paired, Fowler had shot an 84, an 81 and a 77 and outscored Tiger just twice. That’s now two in nine after Rickie’s 74 against Tiger’s 72 today. Butch Harmon, commentating for Sky Sports, said if one word described this marquee three-ball in R1 it was “sloppy”.

 

Focus on – The Battle For World No.1

 

No less than five players could end the week at the top of the charts. The permutations are complex but this is a nice shortcut.

 

Minimum Requirement to top the rankings

 

Dustin Johnson – T11th

Justin Thomas – MC

Jon Rahm – Solo 2nd

Jordan Spieth – Solo 2nd

Justin Rose – Win

 

Notes: Yep, the vagaries of the two-year rolling ranking means Thomas could miss the cut and still hit top spot. DJ’s best Sawgrass finish is T12 so he needs to go at least one better to remain top dog. Is that extra motivation for him this week? With that opening 66, he’s certainly responding positively to the prospect of losing his place at the top.



Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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