No hiding Noh's Open disappointment
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Rising Korean star Noh Seung-yul was kicking himself after battling to an even-par 72 in perfect scoring conditions in the first round of the Open Championship.
Playing alongside early pace-setters John Daly and Andrew Coltart, who fired matching 66s, the 19-year-old Noh held his own by moving to two-under through 15 at the Old Course.
But the Asian Tour Order of Merit leader then ran up a double-bogey after an errant three-iron tee shot on the 16th flew out of bounds by four yards. He parred the demanding 17th "Road Hole" and agonizingly missed a four-foot birdie chance on the closing hole.
“I’m not happy. I made a few mistakes," said Noh, who is making his Open debut. "The weather was so nice and the pins were not tough. I hit a lot of good tee shots but didn’t hit too many good second shots and missed a few putts.
“On 16, I just hit a poor tee shot to the right which was disappointing as I was playing it safe from off the tee. I’ve got to get to the range to work on my short game and iron play for tomorrow.”
Although the teenager failed to match 1995 Open champion Daly and crowd favorite Coltart, Noh said he learned a few tricks from his playing partners.
“John hits long drives on every hole and chipped it so well for his birdies. He’s a little different from the rest and he was perfect today," said Noh, who won the Maybank Malaysian Open in March. "Andrew was laying up on every hole but his second shots into the greens were nice. I learned two different ways of playing the course."
He was pleased to par the Road Hole, which was lengthened by about 40 yards for the 150th anniversary of the Open. Noh ripped a super drive down the middle of the fairway and hit the green with a solid five-iron, only to miss his birdie opportunity from 15 feet.
“I had a good feeling with my drive and went for it on 17. I have confidence with the driver. I’ll try to do the same tomorrow and work a bit harder with my short game and irons,” he said.
While he finished six shots behind Daly, who wore purple-themed psychedelic pants, Noh at least matched the flamboyant American with his own purple-based check trousers.
“I didn’t realize we would wear the same color, so I’ll make sure I go back to a normal pants tomorrow,” smiled Noh.
“We chatted a little bit during the round and he asked how old I was. I responded I was 19 and he said: ‘Wow, beautiful.’ I didn’t quite know what he meant.”
Daly, the 44-year-old who won the Open here in 1995, was certainly impressed with his playing partner. "He's a great ball-striker and he's going to be a phenomenal player," predicted Daly.