9:00 a.m. EDT
Here are five things I’m thinking about after watching the morning wave at Royal Liverpool:
1. Adam Scott didn’t shoot himself out of the Open Championship by any means, but after a great day off the tee, he didn’t do himself any favors with indifferent, sloppy iron play on the front nine.
Scott hit a perfect drive on the first and then made bogey with a short iron from the first cut of rough. He bogeyed the second hole after hitting a great drive and then flaring his 6-iron to the left of the green from the middle of the fairway. From 151 yards out with a wedge, he missed another green on the fourth. After smoking a 362-yard drive on the par-5 fifth he made birdie, but his approach with a wedge (yes, driver-wedge on a par 5) made what should have been an eagle opportunity unrealistic
He made a few putts, missed a few others, and got lucky on the 18th after his 3-iron from about 230 yards stopped between greenside pot bunkers. Scott finished the day at 3 under for the tournament after a 1-over 71. I’m sure over lunch he hopes the skies open and the winds howl.
2. At several points during the morning, ESPN did a magnificent job of doing nothing. Announcers often give in to temptation and talk while either caddies or players are talking, robbing viewers of a rare chance to learn exactly what a player is thinking before he hits a shot.
Dotty Pepper resisted temptation as Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” MacKay discussed the ideal play for Mickelson’s approach on the 7th. As a result, viewers knew that Phil wanted to being the ball in with a stronger-lofted club, on a lower trajectory before he punched a 6-iron to within 10 feet.
The same thing happened when Mickelson was on the par-4 11th, when Mickelson said, “You know, I’m liking driver here.” Bones’ silence made it clear that he did not. He then said the hole was in an accessible spot and that a good 2-iron might be a good play. Mickelson went with the 2-iron and viewer knew exactly why.
3. St. Andrews is in a class by itself when it comes to Open Championship venues, while Carnoustie may be the nastiest. Royal St. George is like playing golf on the moon and Royal Birkdale is posh, but in 2006 and again this year, Royal Liverpool is making a case that it should never have been taken out of the Open rota. It’s fantastic.
Now, about that internal out of bounds …
4. All of you who had George Coetzee as the low South African at the Open Championship heading into the weekend, raise your hand. Fellow South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuuizen are scheduled to play in the afternoon wave, and Ernie Els shot 79-73 and is heading home.
Coetzee’s 69 was stout, even if he did make bogey on two of the last three holes.
5. The race for Player of the Year is going to be wide open at the Open. Martin Kaymer won the Players and the U.S. Open, but he’s yet to be a factor this week and will start the weekend at 1 over. Bubba Watson, the Masters champion, struggled to a 4 over through 36 holes and will have to wait to see if he gets to play over the weekend.
If Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia or any other number of players hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday night, the PGA Championship will likely decide who wins the Players of the Year honors.
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6:30 a.m. EDT
Stars pay the bills when it comes to golf on television because stars like Tiger, Rory, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott generate ratings and buzz. In the wee hours of Friday morning, ESPN broadcast nearly every shot that Mickelson and Scott played, which is understandable because Scott was in contention and Mickelson, grouped with Bubba Watson and Ernie Els, made an early birdie and eagle.
George Coetzee is not a star, but ESPN really dropped the ball by not showing at least some of his play while he moved up the leaderboard and into a tie for the lead with McIlroy. Based on the time shown on my Twitter feed, it took ESPN six minutes to show a highlight Coetzee hitting it stiff from 150 yards out on the par-3 15th, then tapping in for birdie to move to -6. However, during that six minutes viewers were treated to a look back at Phil Mickelson’s win at Muirfield last year and Scott Van Pelt using a touchscreen to highlight Mickelson’s Friday scorecard.
To be fair, ESPN started showing more of George Coetzee after he tied McIlroy, blending him into the Mickelson/Scott narrative. Better late than never.