Dave Tindall reflects on day two of the Open Championship where Tommy Fleetwood put himself bang in contention by shooting 65 in the second round.
I went out to the 17th yesterday to watch a few players tee off. Despite it being 460 yards, everyone was taking an iron, highlighting just how fast the fairways were running. Lee Westwood hit a lovely one but Tommy Fleetwood shoved his out to the right and into the rough. From there he made bogey and soon after signed for a 1-over 72. I made a mental note that this wasn’t likely to be his week if he couldn’t find the fairway with an iron. And then lo and behold he comes out today and fires a brilliant 65 to charge from just inside the top 50 to second place. The Englishman came in to the media centre later for interview and put on an equally impressive performance. Fleetwood holds the course record at Carnoustie having shot a 63 when it played much easier at the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Championship. “Which round was better?“ he was asked and probably 95% of players would have droned out a stock answer that today’s was because it was a major and in far tougher conditions. But Fleetwood isn’t like that. He thinks about what he’s asked and engages with the question. “Just say yes,” one press guy whispered but Fleetwood wouldn’t go there. He rather liked his 63 and wouldn’t just glibly say that a 65 in an Open was better. Great player, thoughtful bloke and just someone that it’s very easy to pull for.
Dustin’s chances open to doubt
Having backed him at 14/1, one well-known member of the press was unleashing a string of expletives at the performance of Dustin Johnson in round one. DJ was the tournament favourite and, to some, deserving of the “one they all have to beat” tag. And yet he stumbled to a miserable 5-over 76. Could he repair the damage on Friday morning? The answer looked to be yes after a late rally but then came a bogey-double bogey finish and DJ was toast. Missed cut. Johnson’s record in the Open is now starting to look rather flaky. He had a golden chance to win at Royal St. George’s in 2011, finishing T2, and added T9 at Lytham but since then it’s been a tale of disappointment. At Muirfield in 2013 he was second at halfway before fading to T32. He was again second after 36 holes at Hoylake but had to settle for 12th. At St. Andrews in 2015 he opened 65-69 to lead at the midpoint but collapsed to T49. Two years ago at Troon he started slowly and was a nearest-the-finish tied ninth. And at Royal Birkdale last year the American got himself up to T7 after 54 holes with a Saturday 64 but bombed in the final round and ended T54th. Bottom line, over the last six years, the Open is DJ’s worst major.
The ‘wrong’ Johnson
However, backing a Johnson at an Open has been a wise move in recent years and this one is usually available at more than five times the price of Dustin. It’s one of those surprising stats when you actually see it written down or say it out loud but Zach Johnson has won more majors than Dustin Johnson. In this tournament it’s 1-0 to the smaller man. But Zach’s Open exploits don’t start and finish with his surprise St. Andrews success in 2015 when he was 100/1+ to lift the Claret Jug. Starting from 2012, ZJ has a win, a T6, a T9 and two other top 15s in this event. This will be the fourth time in the last six years he’s finished better than his more celebrated namesake. It reminds me of a famous football quote. When Alan Kennedy was having a shocker in one of his early games at Liverpool, Reds boss Bob Paisley approached the left-back at half-time and issued one of the great put-downs. Paisley looked at him witheringly and blasted: “They shot the wrong Kennedy.” In similar fashion, those who put their hard-earned on DJ this week will be lamenting the fact that they backed the wrong Johnson.
What’s The Story?
Talking with some members of the press last night, there was a perception that Thursday was one of the worst first days in Open history. Why? The lack of a real story. All credit to Kevin Kisner, Erik Van Rooyen and Zander Lombard but they weren’t exactly the sexy names the majority of writers wanted to base stories around. And yet, a few of those in here who like a punt were more than happy after backing Van Rooyen to be first-round leader at a tasty three-figure each-way price. Despite the rain coming down all morning, there were much happier faces today as Rory made a move to the top and Tommy Fleetwood roared into contention. And then the star names in the afternoon wave started to come to the party.
Do Australians not like rain? I mean, I’m not a big fan myself but you would have thought it goes with the territory if you’re a golfer and spend a lot of time outdoors. Here’s the start of Jason Day’s press quotes: “It didn’t top raining the whole time. It was just tough because, by the end of everything, it was wet. The clubs are wet. Even if it’s windy, as long as it’s not wet.” Here’s fellow Aussie Marc Leishman: “I find playing in the rain pretty difficult. Some people, rain doesn’t affect them. Some people wind does. I love the wind and not a huge fan of the rain.” Perhaps Adam Scott is made of sterner stuff? Funnily enough, on the walk to the course this morning, I passed his caddie for the week, Fanny Sunesson, walking the other way. It was raining and yet she gave me a cheery smile. Perhaps her positive attitude rubbed off on Scott as the Aussie shot a 1-under 70 to stay on the fringes of contention. And there was not a single mention of rain in the seven questions he answered afterwards. It’s all a bit of a non-story to most of the journalists here but to us bettors it’s knowledge to file away – oppose Day and Leishman when it rains.