Justin Thomas wins US PGA and confirms years of potential

The American Justin Thomas claimed the US PGA, his first major victory, by two strokes, to add to the three tournaments he has already won this season

What a role reversal. Three weeks ago, as a close friend and Open Championship housemate, Justin Thomas swigged from the Claret Jug won by Jordan Spieth. Perhaps this part in a Sunday blowout the final piece of inspiration needed by Thomas to press home years of promise. Now he, the US PGA Champion, can fill the Wanamaker Trophy with whatever he prefers. The running of first-time major wins is now eight from the last nine such events.

On a ferociously hot, gripping North Carolina afternoon Thomas prevailed by two, at eight under par. He has made something of a habit of following in the footsteps of Spieth. In 2013, a year after Spieth led the University of Texas to the college golf championship, Thomas did likewise for the University of Alabama.

Still, it has taken until recent times for the 24 -year-old Thomas to carry such form properly into the professional ranks. Before this major victory he had won three times on the PGA Tour this season. At one of those tournaments, in Hawaii, Thomas shot 59.

There was never even a remote chance of a recur performance here, which owes all is Thomass ability to emerge from a tense scrap. At 5pm on Sunday he was part of a five-way tie for the result. Merely half an hour earlier Hideki Matsuyama had led the championship by one.

The momentum shift in Thomass favour came on the 13 th, where he chipped in for a birdie to move to eight under par. He maintained that position until the penultimate hole, where a glorious tee shot set up a 14 ft birdie opportunity. Thomas converted, delivering a fatal blow to the already fighting Matsuyama in the process.

Thomas took to the 18 th with a two-stroke leading, with even a drive into a bunker insufficient to halt his victory marching. By this juncture the rest were scaling an ice mountain in slippers. Thomass fourth round was of 68 shots.

Matsuyamas one-over-par 72 an outcome maybe linked to the intense pressure attached to another attempt at becoming the first male Japanese major win ensured a share of fifth which does not fairly reflect his earlier contribution. Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen shared second. Reed and Molinari had returned Sunday 67 s.

Rickie Fowlers four birdies in succession from the 12 th tee raised his hopes of ending his major wait. Yet having reached five under, Fowler required more from Quail Hollows famous Green Mile closing stretch. There was to be no continuation of the surge.

What a week this proved for Jordan Smith, the 24 -year-old from Bath. Two years ago, he did not even have status on the tour immediately underneath the European Tour. Smith duly progressed to the point of winning the European Open on his previous start, thereby earning a maiden major start. How Smith made the most of it: his Sunday 68 meant an aggregate of one under and a guaranteed return to the US PGA next year.

Im still pinching myself, Smith acknowledged. Ive had some really good groups, enjoyed the whole experience and objective up playing some really good golf, so Im happy.

Smiths total was one better than Paul Casey and two ahead of Ian Poulter. Jason Day put aside his disastrous eight at the final hole on Saturday to post a one-under 70, for the same 72 -hole tally.

Dustin Johnson Sunday 67, which earned him a top-2o finish, evoked memories of his opening to 2017. The world No1 has struggled, by his own admission, since toppling down a flight of steps the day before the Masters.

Going into Augusta Im playing the best golf of my career, Johnson said. Everything was working very well. Then regrettably I didnt get to play the Masters and Ive fought a little bit this whole summertime. Its all due to what happened right before Augusta, slipping and hurting my back.

I feel like the game is coming around. Its starting to feel a lot better. Ive get confidence in it again. Its close to being really good.

Spieth signed off with a 70 and words of encouragement from his caddie, Michael Grellar. Spieths total was plus two, with the Texan now set for a breach before beginning an attack on the FedEx Cup he won in 2015.

Michael is telling me strolling off 18 today, he goes: Hey, only want you to know thats a great year in the majors, Spieth said. He guesses Im frustrated maybe with how the coming week ran. But we won a major. We had a chance to win at Augusta, too.

The US Open and here I didnt have a chance to win, which is a downer. But overall, when I look back on the year in the major championships, it was fantastic. If I did this every year, I would go down as the greatest ever to play the game.

Spieth was waiting at the back of the 18 th green and therefore among the first to congratulate his contemporary on victory. It is party time again.

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Kevin Kisner leads US PGA but players make hard work on day three

Kevin Kisner is on seven under par, one ahead of Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama, after the third round at Quail Hollow of a US PGA that has not been easy on the eye

The 99 th playing of the US PGA Championship has sporting parallels. There is, for example, the grim scoreless depict that football hipsters insist is wonderfully entertaining on grounds of defensive performance. Factor in a dour five-day cricket Test that ends without a winner and a fuller picture can be drawn.

Somebody will prevail at this major eventually but the event has already triggered a debate. Those seeking spine-tingling amusement need look elsewhere. On a tense third day, during which standing still was valuable to many of those in the upper echelons of the leaderboard, golf purists insisted this is what major championship play should be all about. It is, though, a hard sell. The margin between good and bad shoots has at times been impossible to decipher.

To the basic particulars. Kevin Kisners 72 means he results, by one, at seven under. Chris Stroud, the world No203, and Hideki Matsuyama are those closest.

The latest sign that Matsuyama may wilt under the pressure of trying to deliver a first major win for Japan arrived as he slipped to a 73. He is, though, very much part of this equation. Justin Thomas, who fell short at the US Open in June, afforded himself redemption with a 69 which moved him to five under.

Golfs administrators likely cannot wins. They would be chided for supervising a major setup that delivers the various kinds of target golf and low scores that are common on the PGA Tour. Brutal exams as delivered most commonly at the US Open have also been subject to widespread howl. Yet surely it is feasible to have something in the middle. Quail Hollows treacherous greens, combined with iffy pin placements, have thus far ensured a spectacle which is unlikely to appeal to the broader masses. On a couple of pits, it has been stretched, told Jordan Spieth after his third round, in submitting his application to join the diplomatic corps. Exhibit A: the 1st, which did not yield a single birdie from 75 Saturday players.

Of course, whoever strolled off with the Wanamaker Trophy will not devote a second thought to external sentiment. Kisner and Stroud are attempting what would be stunning successes given their positions in golf. The former has never recorded a major top 10. Of those in close pursuing merely Louis Oosthuizen, at minus five, has a major to his name. Jason Day was in the same category before encountering comedy chaos on the 18 th.

Rickie Fowler played the last three holes in four over, a 73 meaning he sits at one under. Paul Casey had a similarly dire finish, meaning a 74 for even aggregate. Patrick Reeds 69 moved him to minus two.

Given that Spieth had forcibly insisted there would be no added pressure attached to this, a first go at a career grand slam while seeking to be the youngest player to complete it, he would not be heading for the bottom of a whisky bottle upon realisation victory would pass him by. Spieth started day three at the same figure over par and remained there, a scenario affected in no small proportion by an ugly doubled bogey at the last.

I didnt have it written in a diary from when I was young that I need to win a career grand slam as the youngest ever, said Spieth of the broader painting. That wasnt the goal. The goal was to try and win them all. The goal was to try and get on the PGA Tour and then from there see what happens. And I will have a lot of opportunities.

The PGA Championship I think is going to be the most severe for me. If we look historically back on my career, I guess I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors simply in the way that its set up.

I feel like my game genuinely suits the other three majors maybe more than a PGA Championship. But I believe we can play anywhere and can win anywhere. Its merely a matter of having everything in sync at the right time.

Typically, Spieth will not lack Sunday motivation. We could violate the season into quarters, he added. This is the start of the fourth quarter.

At the US Open on Sunday, I was out of it but I gathered a little something off that round that led to two wins in two tournaments after that including a major. Just one round like that can do that. Thats what Im looking to do here.

Rory McIlroy had likely come to terms with the year not yielding another major title even before his third round. The Northern Irishman has suffered all manner of interruptions in recent months, with a rib problem still affecting him. Im looking forward to 2018, told McIlroy with a rueful smile after posting a 73. Hercule Poirot is scarcely required to discover the roots of the four-times major champs problems; 30 putts on Saturday emerged from a total of merely 49 ft.

A figure that bothered McIlroy more, and rightly, related to hour. Five hours and 20 minutes out there in that heat was a little too long for my penchant, he said. For tournament organisers to allow such a situation, let alone contribute to it, represents a gross dereliction in respect of creating this sports appeal. Of that there can, at least, be no doubt.

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Hideki Matsuyamas brilliant 64 reels in Kevin Kisner at US PGA

Americas Kevin Kisner arrived at the US PGA halfway on eight under alongside Hideki Matsuyama while Rory McIlroy made the cut but told Quail Hollow is two shots harder than usual

To the certainties in this world being demise and taxes, maybe climate postpones should be added when it comes to the US PGA Championship. Perhaps the upcoming switching of this event to May is a smarter notion than anybody has given the PGA of America credit for. Person, somewhere seems deep against the tournament in its current position.

Suspension of play, shortly before 5pm local period on Friday, ensured a sixth such scenario in a row at this championship. Menacing skies delivered the predicted blizzard, with tournament officials encountering their latest organisational headache as they seek to conclude this major on time. At least they have been in this movie before. A wider threat resonates in more ominous forecasts on Saturday and Sunday.

Spectators were urged to evacuate Quail Hollow on the halting of play as lightning approached. Golf did at least resume, 100 minutes after being stopped.

Only the elements could briefly halt Hideki Matsuyama. Japan has surely never been closer to hailing a male major champion, a matter emphasised as he charged through the second-round leaderboard. The human who shot 61 to win at Akron on Sunday created six birdies in 15 pits, including four in a row, in moving to seven under par, one adrift of Kevin Kisner. Matsuyama returned to the course to better that position, tying the result with a birdie at the 17 th before taking four at the last to complete a 64.

Matsuyama was not alone in making progress, even if his is more striking. Jason Day, who offered such a grim analysis of his golf before striking a ball here that it voiced impossible he could vie, instead explosion himself into arguing. Another major champion, Louis Oosthuizen, also persists promisingly behind the leaders. Matsuyama, though, is the clear and present danger to all as he pursues national history while in the form of his life.

What Rory McIlroy does not know about this venue is likely not worth bothering about. His assessment of what will or, more pertinently, will not transpire over the weekend is therefore telling. A low round here used to be a 61 or a 62, he said. A low round now is a 66 or a 67. Youre playing your ass off to get that. Id say if I shoot two 67 s over the weekend, Im going to have a really good chance. McIlroy has posted both 61 and 62 here in previous tournament play.

This is not the Quail Hollow we have gotten to know over the last 10 years, he added. Its a quite different golf course. Even if they didnt do anything else with the golf course and only changed it to full Bermuda[ grass] like it is now, all of a sudden it builds the golf course two shootings more difficult.

The popularity or otherwise of modifications to this course will be a matter of future debate. It is very unlikely any player will enjoy a procession towards the Wanamaker Trophy despite the early touch of Kisner. The 33 -year-old, who has never recorded a top-1 0 major finish, signed for back-to-back 67 s for an eight under par total.

If McIlroys matching 72 s appear uninspiring, the Northern Irishman was in grave danger of missing the cut after four bogeys in five back-nine holes. The two-shot recovery emphasised McIlroys willingness to battle.

As McIlroy scrapped, one of his playing partners prospered. Rickie Fowler, who is yet to add a major title to his otherwise stellar CV, posted a second round of 70 to move to three under. His prominence is all the more impressive given a triple bogey seven in the early stages of day one, which threatened to derail his challenge.

You dont want to get ahead of yourself, said Fowler. This week Im going to have a good chance. The thing is I have got to manage that properly.

I have to stay patient. I have to go through the process, make sure were attaining the right decisions on each pit with each shooting. With the style Ive been playing, how Im swaying the coming week and last week going into it, I know I can win this week. Its more in between the ears, and not get ahead of myself. If we do that, it will be all right.

There will be no successful defence byJimmy Walker. His 69 could do no more than get him back to plus eight. Phil Mickelson also departed North Carolina earlier than he would have hoped, at 11 over. This was his first missed US PGA cut since 1995. Im not really focused out there, said a despondent Mickelson. Im having a tough time controlling my thoughts and not letting them wander to what I dont want[ to] happen. Amateur golfers the world over know the feeling.

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Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy muddle their US PGA Championship lines

Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner set the early pace at four under, with the majority of the big names back in the pack at Quail Hollow

Proof that the 99 th US PGA Championship will not be the domain of merely two players should not have been necessary. Nonetheless, such a prompting was likely useful. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the dynamic duo who dominated pre-tournament debate, matched opening-round scores.

That the number in question is 72, one-over par, is barely cause to rule either of them out of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy but it will also offer incentive to others in the field. The early signs are this will be an attritional major.

Denmarks Thorbjorn Olesen, a player with a distinctly average record in the final major of the year, heads proceedings with Kevin Kisner, of the USA, at minus four. Among the big names to hover with intent are Paul Casey and Rickie Fowler, who are two from the result. The relatively high state of the scoring exemplified another point; that changes as made to Quail Hollow in the past year, particularly on the greens, render this a most varied venue to the one McIlroy has enjoyed such success on. These greens are trickier than Augusta National, observed Adam Scott. The 2013 Master champion did not seem to mean this as a compliment.

McIlroy had been in fine stance at two under before a stumble which in many respects epitomised the annoyances of his season. The Northern Irishman observed water from the 14 th tee en route to a double bogey, with chances to atone for that error passed up on the par five 15 th and the last two pits. Fowler, playing alongside McIlroy and Jon Rahm, recovered wonderfully from a triple-bogey seven at the 5th. Rahm is one under.

Im merely frustrated with that[ bad] stretching, but Im right in it, said McIlroy. It wasnt very easy. It was tough. The greens were difficult. They got very grainy as the day went on as well. If you only hit a putt a tiny bit off line, it exaggerated it. It was tough to hole putts this afternoon. Hopefully the surfaces are a little better tomorrow morning and we can hopefully hole some more putts. Im merely five behind; this is a tough golf course.

Spieth, who formed part of the morning wave, endured a poor day with putter in hand. Yes, it truly does happen. Im pretty solid with the leading, he told. So that was various kinds of the goal, to grab the result. Its much easier when you are on the front page of the leaderboard than it is coming from behind. Dedicated its the first round I know Im still in it but I know that tomorrows round becomes that much more important to run my route[ up] and stay in it. Ive got to make up ground. I cant putt any worse than I did today.

Brooks Koepkas opportunities at Quail Hollow were always stronger than bizarrely long odds of 251 suggested. Koepka has driving accuracy and distance, which are valuable commodities at this venue. A US Open triumph in June also improved the Americans belief in his level of talent which is now reflected by that success. Koepka signed for a 68, after which he highlighted the value of a level head.

We focus in on these majors and thats when youre trying to peak, trying to play your best, he said. Sometimes its a lot simpler than people suppose. I believe people kind of subconsciou themselves out quite a bit in a major, put too much pressure on themselves. Its the same game Ive been playing for 23, 24 years. All youve got to do is put the ball in the hole and move on.

I suppose people get quite frustrated sometimes in majors. Ive insured it a lot. Youve just got to stay really patient and realise sometimes bogey is not a bad score out here. Its quite difficult but youve just got to realise that, you know, youre in the first round of a four-round event. So one pit isnt going to kill you.

I try not to make a double-bogey. Thats kind of my aim in a major; if I can maintain doing that I dont know the last time I did in a major. It takes one pit to recover from a bogey and it takes two to come back from a double. Youre not going to make many birdies in a major championship, so you need to stay patient.

Tommy Fleetwood appeared at this major having been afforded considerably less spotlight than was the occurrence at the Open, in his hometown of Southport, last month.

Perhaps that lack of attention boosted Fleetwoods mindset; he opened with a 70, the same score as Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Justin Rose, amazingly, could fare no better than 76, a rating matched by Luke Donald. Casey opened with a 69, which placed him alongside Patrick Reed.

Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els hoped for happier starts to their 100 th major appearances. Els tumbled to a morning 80 while Mickelson, who remains without a win since the 2013 Open, posted a 79 afterwards in the day.

John Daly rolled back the years, however, when marauding to minus one and a share of seventh. It didnt last and he finished with a seven for a round of 74.

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Stephen Curry overcomes slow start to card 4-over 74 in professional golf debut

The two-time MVP bogeyed three of his first five pits but finished strong for a 74 at the Web.com Tours Ellie Mae Classic

Stephen Curry pumped his right fist, created his arms in the air with club in hand and dedicated a firm shoulder bump to caddie Jonnie West, his golf partner on road journeys with the Golden State Warriors.

After three bogeys in five pits of his professional golf debut, a birdie was worthy of celebration.

There was the animated, confident Steph that NBA fans know so well, the two-time league MVP ultimately feeling it and stimulating the tough shootings on the challenging course at TPC Stonebrae while competing in a tournament one step below the PGA Tour.

With a bogey on the last pit, he had a respectable 4-over 74.

It was an amazing experience, Ive been looking forward to this since I found out and to ultimately hit my first shoot in tournament play was a really, really nervous moment but it was everything I hoped for, Curry told. If you told me I was going to shoot 74 going into the first round Id take that all day, every day. Im pretty happy with it.

Curry described 300 -plus fans to the Web.com Tours Ellie Mae Classic, where Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice has played a few days in the past.

The star point guard of the champion Warriors high-fived fans between holes on the picturesque course providing panoramic views overlooking San Francisco Bay, and he chatted with the other two in his threesome, Sam Ryder and defending champ Stephan Jaeger. Both will be on the PGA Tour next season.

Curry, who munched on a breakfast sandwich at the green of his first pit, missed badly on his opening tee shot. The drive landed off a mound and ricochetted perfectly into the beaker holder of a golf cart.

Not quite as spot-on as those signature pregame tunnel shootings at Oracle Arena or the jaw-dropping, buzzer-beating three-pointers from way, route back.

Thats probably a first on the tour. There was a golf cart merely left of my target on pit No1 and it ran right in the beaker holder, Curry said. Not an ideal route to start with calling a rules official over after your first tee shooting. I kind of settled in after that.

On the 15 th fairway, Curry leaned on West, the states members of Golden States front office and son of Hall of Famer Jerry West. Jonnie West also is a member at this course.

Then Curry finished the par-5 15 th by sinking a 5-foot, downhill birdie putt. He stimulated par on No16 then survived a tee shot to the bunker and a near stumble climbing out of the sand on the par-4 18 th and made about an eight-footer to save par.

That prompted a triumphant club tap to his shoe and Curry then held up the ball sporting a big grin.

It was awesome, West said. He handled the nerves of this being his first time in this type of atmosphere pretty well.

Curry began his round on the back nine and when his name was announced on the tee, I could barely feel my hands, I had to try to take a deep breath, he said.

He attained the turn in 2 over.

The top 65 and ties from the 156 -player field will make the cut. Curry, playing on a sponsor exemption and one of three amateurs in the field, was outside the top 140 and five shots below the cut line as the first round was headed for a conclusion.

I want to play better tomorrow. Now that I kind of got the jitters out hopefully that will happen and made a couple more good shots and make a couple more putts, he said.

With so many cameras clicking, cheers and whistlings moments after he struck the ball and hundreds of supporters in No. 30 shirts and Warriors gear, this was no doubt a Strength In Numbers kind of day.

There would be no balls lost, either. Wherever his shoots landed, a big crowd rapidly gathered to get an up-close glimpse of one of basketballs best. One of the biggest bargains in the NBA before, Curry was rewarded last month with a $201 million, five-year contract.

Playing his other sporting passion, Curry got plenty of assistance along the 7,024 -yard, par-7 0 course. Those with homes along the course gathered in groups on decks to catch a hole.

On this day, it was Jaeger making a key assist down the stretch. Waiting at the tee box on their final hole, he took a basketball are subordinate to 14 -year-old Erik Oswald from Southern California for Curry to sign and delivered it back to the giddy teen garmented in a chefs hat who had followed his hoops hero all day.

Unbelievable gallery out here, Curry said, hopefully that continues through the week.

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Trump interview: golf, Brexit and why you don’t hear about Britain any more

Full transcript of last weeks Wall Street Journal interview shows Trump seemed more keen to discuss golf than specifics of post-Brexit trade deal

For Britain it seems to be a occurrence of hes only not that into you. Except when it comes to golf.

Donald Trump seemed less than awestruck when talking about his late mothers homeland in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, find: You dont hear the word Britain any more.

Whereas American anglophiles are stereotypically enamoured of the Beatles, Downton Abbey and the royal family, the US presidents most urgent concern appears to be the implications of Scottish independence for the Open golf championship.

Trump spoke last week to Gerard Baker, the British-born editor of the Journal, which published excerpts of the interview, but the full transcript was merely subsequently obtained by the Politico website and released on Tuesday.

After a discursive debate about healthcare, jobs and their respective households, Baker noted that Trump had tweeted that morning about trade talks with Britain and would like to know whether could provide more details.

The president replied: No, but I can say that were going to be very involved with the UK. I entail, you dont hear the word Britain any more. Its very interesting. Its like , nope.

Brexit-besieged Downing Street will presumably be hoping that Trump meant that the word Britain has lost out to the UK in common usage, rather than that the country itself has fallen into obscurity.

The conversation moved on. Baker remarked that he is English. It was Trumps turn to ask a question about Scottish independence: Is Scotland going to go for the vote, by the way? You dont see it. It would be terrible. They merely went through hell.

Baker indicated that he did not think there would be another freedom referendum. The chairperson, whose mother was from the Hebridean island of Lewis, seemed to dreaded the dissolution of the 310 -year-old union, but not for the usual reasons.

One little thing, he said. What would they do with the British Open if they ever got out? Theyd no longer have the British Open.

The No campaign never thought of that one.

Trump added: Scotland. Maintain it in Scotland.

He and Baker then conversed about golf and the American star Jordan Spieth, whom Trump ranked alongside greats Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

The Wall Street Journal editor eventually interjected: Anyway, are you looking forward to doing a trade deal with the UK?

Trump responded: Yeah. I have a great relationship …

When Baker reminded him of the ticking clock of Brexit, the president told: We have a very good relationship. I have a very good relationship with the “ministers “. And we are absolutely looking to do a major trade deal.

Baker followed up: Would the idea be that the trade deal will kick in pretty much as soon as Brexit happens?

Trump said: As soon as its appropriate to have it kick in, utterly. And itll be a big trade bargain much, much more business than we do right now, many, many times.

He went on to criticise the European union as very, very protectionist but ducked a question about doing an agriculture deal with the UK by changing the subject to China. He did indicate he could do a services deal with the UK but again seemed anxious to avoid details.

Baker has denied devoting Trump an easy ride in the Wall Street Journals coverage of his presidency. A spokesperson for the paper told Politico: We published the noteworthy excerpts from the interview. We watched no reason to publish the crosstalk that inevitably accompanies any conversation.

Trump expends numerous weekends playing golf despite previously criticising Barack Obamas similar outings. A new article in Sports Illustrated offers an insight into why.

It reports: Chatting with some members before a recent round of golf, he explained his frequent appearances: That White House is a real dump. Trump is often at his most unguarded among the people who pay for their close proximity to him.

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Jordan Spieth weathers Royal Birkdale storm to take control at the Open | Andy Bull

Jordan Spieth holds a two-shot lead after mastering these components but the Texan was just happy to be inside at the end of a typical British summer day

Jordan Spieth got to experience one of the great British traditions at Royal Birkdale, a wet, windy afternoon at the seaside. It was a day out so damp, so dismal, that eventually even the Pollyannas in the crowd telling everyone itll soon blow over had to admit that it was going to do no such thing and to join the scamper for the precious few scraps of cover-up around the course.

The rain get so heavy that the R& A decided to suspend play, so Spieth and his partners, Henrik Stenson and Si-Woo Kim, all got to stand around under umbrellas and enjoy the opinion for 15 minutes. All they were missing was a flask of tea and a couple of sticks of soggy boulder. Id gladly have stayed on the couch, Spieth said, for even par.

Still he enjoyed it more than one would imagine a Texan might. He rated his first round here as one of the five best he had ever played in a major but his second was just as good in its own way.

Earlier in the week he said he reckoned the climate made the Open the easiest of the four majors. Most of the time theres a group that gets the worst of it, he explained, and its almost impossible to win in that situation. His theory is that this means youre actually playing against a smaller field, so your percentage opportunities come up unless, that is, you have end up in playing in the worst of it yourself. Which he did.

In which instance Spieth told, Theres nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down, play as well as you can and see what happens. Last day he was playing in these conditions, on the Friday afternoon at Royal Troon last year, what happened was that he shot 75. But this time around he took control of the Championship. He shot 69, with four bogeys, three birdies and an eagle. By the time he made it into the clubhouse at eight in the evening, there were seven others under par and merely a handful of players still on the course.

The rain arrived at Birkdale almost exactly as Spieth did, the first few drops sweeping across just as he took to the 1st tee. It was only a spraying, the spindrift of a wave that was a way off yet. One could see it coming in the ominous grey clouds lurking down the coast, blown in by the stiff onshore breeze and closing all the while.

Spieth made a birdie on the 1st, after splitting the fairway with a fine long tee-shot and dropping his approach down close enough for an easy putt. He did not know it yet, but that was as good as it was going to get for the next two hours. Soon those grey clouds were overhead.

In the meantime it was the wind which was causing him difficulty. At the 2nd it carried his ball into the fairway bunker down the right side. He dug the ball out to the front of the green and scuttled a little punch shot up to six feet from the cup. The gale bothered him on the green too, as he stepped away from his par putt before he put it in. Then he fell a shot at the 3rd, waiting for a breach which never went on a long putt from the leading edge of the green. That left him a tricky second from five feet which he missed.

So far as bogeys go, this one at the least had an upside. It entailed Kim had the accolade at the 4th, where the tee sits in the lee of a large grandstand. His tee shot rose up above it and was blown way over the back of the green into the bushes. After seeing that, Stenson and Spieth guessed twice about their own club selection. As for Kim, “hes to” build the long, lonely walk back up the fairway to tee-off for a second period, plonked that one into a bunker and left with a triple-bogey six. Around Royal Birkdale, things go wrong awfully quick when you let them slip.

So Spieth get busy scrambling to hold on to his lead. After dropping that shot he made par on each of the coming five holes. He played some wonderful golf in among it. There was a 30 ft putt on the 5th that rolled right up to the very edge of the hole and a deft escape from a green-side bunker at the 6th, which curled round the camber to two feet.

Better yet was a brilliant chip in from 30 feet off the back of the green to save par at the 10 th. He had fallen a shot at the 9th after he overshot the green but he was still four under. And then, when the spate passed and the wind fell, he pounced.

Spieth induced back-to-back birdies at the 11 th and 12 th, the first with a rolling 30 ft putt, the second with a tap-in after a pinpoint tee-shot. If those were all his own work, he got a little lucky at the 15 th, where he caught his second with the heel of his 3-wood. It skittered up on to the green anyway, which left him grinning at his good fortune. From there he made a 15 ft putt for eagle. It was bracketed by bogeys at the 14 th and 16 th but even so it felt like a telling blow. Not that he was thinking about that when he came off. Candidly, he told, right now Im happy just to be inside.

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Jordan Spieth sets standard at Open to share lead after first round

Jordan Spieth shot a five-under 65 at Royal Birkdale to share the first-round lead with his fellow Americans Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar

Jordan Spieth waited 467 days for this. The truth is, so had the rest of us.

There have been few more painful episodes in athletic including for viewers who retain even an ounce of compassion than Spieths late capitulation at the 2016 Masters. For all the analysis and introspection that followed, one thing has been missing: Spieth placing himself securely in position to win another major championship. How would he handle it? Would glory matter more than previously? Did that Georgian affair irrevocably damage Spieths ability to close out on the big stage?

The broader picture, of a curious run involving seven successive first-time major champs, is that golf would surely have benefited from this brilliant young Texan endorsing earlier flirtation with greatness by dominating his sport.

Shortly after 1pm on this, the opening round of the 146 th Open Championship, Spieth sat atop the leaderboard once more. There are 54 holes to play yet it is hardly unnatural to fast forward to Sunday, to the death throes of this event, and the tantalising prospect of Spieth exorcising some Augusta demons. Or, dare one suggest it, otherwise. The 23 -year-old has an itch to scratch in this major, too, having fallen merely a shot outside a play-off posture in the Open of 2015.

Spieths criteria are high. His analysis of this Open start of 65 was hence tell. Everything was strong, he said. I devote it a nine out of 10 across the board for everything: tee balls, ball-striking, short game and putting. So things are in check. Its just about keeping it consistent.

This round could be a lot more significant in three days time than I would consider it right now. Id call it a top five, likely, major round that Ive played. There are scores that Ive shot that were closer to par that were better dedicated what I needed to do. But I couldnt have done much better today.

By the conclusion of day one, Spieth had been joined at five under par by his countrymen Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar. It would be unwise to discount Koepka in particular from this Open equation, given his terrific performance last month when claiming the US equivalent. It is hardly an insult to Koepka to suggest his obvious refusal to overanalyse or even analyse on the golf course carries huge benefit.

There is believed that Spieth may have been building towards Birkdale. In his last professional act before the Open, he holed out from a bunker to win the Travelers Championship. Spieths confidence was farther endorsed by his decision to take a holiday thereafter. He landed on Merseyside not only refreshed but buoyed by the tangible reward his performances earlier in 2017 threatened rather than promised.

Spieth was wise enough to point out he likely had to make hay while the sunshine, literally, glisten. Excellent conditions on Thursday, aside from an early morning spell during which a squall conjured memories of 2008 here, are likely to be offset by gust and rainfall throughout day two. I thought todays round was extremely important, Spieth said. Dedicated the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today.

Two moments of Spieth magic on Thursday stood out. A chip to within tap-in distance of the 10 th pit from dense rough was sublime. Even better followed on the 16 th, where the two-times major champ created an outstanding endeavor from a downhill lie in a greenside bunker to again permit a par save.

Paul Caseys 66 leaves him in a perfect position for a serious run at the major win that has thus far eluded him. Casey will celebrate his 40 th birthday on the Opens second day. The Englishman has that batch of first-time wins as a reference point should, and it seems unlikely, he require further incentive.

The Open has never been the major Ive fared the best at, Casey said. I seem to have fought, apart from St Andrews in 2010. My outcomes havent been good but I feel really good about this week.

I dont know why, perhaps Im more in love with links golf than I was before. Surely this course helps, I really like this course. Im not putting that much pressure on myself but very much was intended to win it.

Ian Poulter, who could complete a golfing fairytale by progressing from final qualifying to the rostrum, signed for a 67. Justin Thomas sported a collar and affiliation for Thursday, the kind of move that would lead to ridicule if not backed up by a proper manifest. Thomas duly matched Poulters score, as did Richard Bland, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Charley Hoffman and Austin Connelly.

Rory McIlroy was in a tailspin when five over par after merely six pits. The Northern Irishman saved par from distance on the 8th in a moment that seemed to trigger an upturn in confidence. A 71 to start, in context, represented quite an accomplishment with McIlroys body language alone notably positive during post-round media obligations. It would be folly to discount him from the tournament at this juncture. If McIlroy did not have the heart or the ability to contend, there was ample opportunity to throw in the towel.

The problem for McIlroy, and others, is Spieths prominence. The sense of familiarity was, for once, a welcome one.

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Era of major dominance by single player is probably over, says Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth, who won the first two majors of 2015 but has not dominated golf as Tiger Woods did, says the Open winner now is likely to come from a group of 10 to 12 guys

Jordan Spieth is as qualified as anybody to talk about the next big thing, having been considered the games dominant figure after he won the first two majors of 2015. Things have now normalised for him as they did for Rory McIlroy after his doubled of the year before and the Texan guesses the days of a pre-eminent world No1 and a Tiger Woods-like era are gone for good.

What Tigers done, having experienced a year like he continued to do for years, it just takes a lot out of you, Spieth told. Its very tough to do. And you have to have a lot of things go right at the right times. I doubt youll ensure a dominance like that maybe ever again in video games. I just think guys are learning, guys are getting stronger. I wouldnt get your hopes up whatsoever.

Youll see a group of 10 to 12 guys over the next 15, 20 years that are going to have a lot of different rivalries that come down the stretch. And its different than one person being the guy to beat. Its arousing for us as players.

Seven successive majors have already been and gone since Zach Johnson won his second major at the 2015 Open, with Spieth in a affiliation for fourth at St Andrews, and there have been seven maiden winners. Theres a lot more guys who havent won majors than guys who have that are playing, so the chances are it is going to be someone who hasnt won one, he said, pointing out Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson were among the seven and they were always likely candidates.

Spieth be determined by 2015, when he also managed second place at the US PGA and where Jason Day became the first of the 7, and while he acknowledges it was a high-water mark, he expects to have other purple patches, though he discounts talk of a so-called big four and feels luck can play a part.

When it comes to things running right for you at the Open, he says that being on the right side of the describe is likely the biggest of them, an unfathomable that can see sections of the field virtually removed from assertion when playing in sometimes markedly different weather conditions from the rest on the first two days.

This is my fifth Open now and Ive ensure truly dry and favourable conditions and then last year[ Royal Troon] was pretty wicked on Friday, he said. And Ive kind of insured a bit of everything. It may be the easiest of the majors to win, simply because the depict can take out half a field. But the type of golf you have to play is totally different than in the other three majors.

So Im not saying its easy based on rivalry. Im saying it because a lot of the time some of the field is hurled out and youre actually playing a smaller field. I plan on playing 30 of these and I assure you it will end up being 15 and 15. I was in the bad objective last year.

This time he is out at 9.47 am on Thursday with last years champ, Stenson, and Kim Si-woo, the winner of the Players in May, and 2.48 pm on Friday, with the weather forecast indicating early starters on day one and later starters for the second round may well be in the better half.

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Brooks Koepka holds his nerve in major style to land the US Open title

Seven majors in a row have now been claimed by first-time champions, with the 117 th US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin going to Brooks Koepka of the U

Major championships are now the domain of golfs one-time pretenders. Seven in a row have been claimed by first-time champions, with the conclusion to the 117 th US Open developing into a test of nerve for Brooks Koepka. The 27 -year-old from Florida became the most recent player to deliver on earlier and widely recognised promise.

Koepka like Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker and Sergio Garca is a bridesmaid no more. Even fresh, testing Wisconsin conditions for day four and the weight of history could not halt Koepka as he brilliantly pieced together a 67. Three birdies in a row from the 14 th the hammer jolt to those in pursuit; the eventual margin of victory was four shots, at 16 under par, a record-equalling US Open tally. Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shared second place.

Koepkas glory owes plenty to a bold career path. Rather than play through low grade tours in his native United States, he opted to move outside his convenience zone and to Europe. US PGA Tour status was earned as he progressed through the Challenge and European Tours, impressing seasoned observers on the way. Major wins, albeit never certain, appeared highly likely. This is a possibility just the start.

Of the players who fell short here perhaps Tommy Fleetwood has the most cause to be upbeat. The Englishman continues a tremendous 2017, with aspirations of success at next months Open Championship perfectly realistic. This was, after all, his first time in major arguing. Fleetwood finished fourth at 11 under.

Rickie Fowlers challenge stumbled on the back nine while Harman, who had hitherto fell merely two shoots in the whole tournament, was to run out of putting form when posting bogeys at the 12 th, 13 th and the last. Fowlers 72 meant a share of fifth.

Koepkas triumph had a foundation on the greens. A birdie putt from 41 ft at the 8th played a key part in reaching the turn in 33. By the time he took to the penultimate hole his leading was virtually unassailable. The award was a record $2.1 m.

Matsuyama came to grips with this ferocious battle, embarking on a stirring chase from merely inside the top 20. The man seeking to become Japans first ever major champ posted a 66 for his 12 -under total; Matsuyamas tilt at the top comes with the context of starting this tournament with a 74. At that point he was 82 nd.

Matsuyama will rue one shot. His drive at the tricky 15 th was pulled horribly into dense rough, from where he could only chip out sideways. The bogey which ensued demonstrated damaging, though he should have the succour of a rise to No2 in the world rankings on Monday morning. Matsuyama played the closing three pits in two under par despite being aware that one more time ruling would result in him being penalised a stroke.

Justin Thomas encountered issues associated with backing up a record-breaking performance. Thomas entered folklore on Saturday with the 63 which represented the lowest rating to par in US Open history. Within five holes of his final round, the 26 -year-old was three over par. This back-pedalling unavoidably left him with too much to do as others on the leaderboard collected early shootings. So continues an ominous tendency in Thomass career; when things start to go wrong, he is not particularly adept at stemming the flow. Thomass 75 left him tied ninth.

Given the list of illustrious names who could not survive past 36 pits here, special credit is due to Scottie Scheffler. The 20 -year-old from Dallas finished as the leading amateur on the highly respectable 72 -hole aggregate of minus one.

As Scheffler continues his career, confidence clearly will not be a problem. I was trying to compete and see if I could win the golf tournament, he said. I think it would be pretty cool winning the US Open as an amateur and that was my goal coming in.

Lee Westwoods 76 perhaps impacted on post-round sentiment but the Englishman made it clear he would be in no hurry to return to Erin Hills. This wouldnt be my favourite US Open venue, he admitted. I opt when they play the traditional golf course. The two new ones they have played lately[ Chambers Bay and Erin Hills] arent as good as the older style courses like Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Oakmont and Congressional.

Jordan Spieth instead offered glowing praise towards the United States Golf Associations management of this major. The 2015 champ signed off with a 69 for a total of one over par before recognise inevitable pressure as felt by the USGA on account of US Open controversies of recent times.I was very, very impressed at the job the USGA did this week, told Spieth. I think they did a fantastic job.

Chambers Bay was tough with the greens and then last year had a tough Sunday. I thought that the USGA did a phenomenal undertaking this week of allowing the golf course to be what it is and play the way its supposed to play. Not trying to do anything to hold any kind of standard. Instead, create an environment where, if you play well, you are able to score and, if you dont, then it can go the other way.

There was no unfairness whatsoever. I thought the USGA did a fantastic undertaking coming back this year and I know that they really wanted to.

Its tough going to two new venues in three years that theyve never use before. Thats a difficult thing to do. I hate to say its amazing but I thought it was really well done.

Spieth was vague considering his schemes in advance of the Open Championship, raising the potential he might expend some of his competitive build-up time in Ireland or Scotland. When he last won a major, in June of 2015, golfs biggest events seemed a closed shop for the elite. Periods have swiftly changed.

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