Kevin Kisner Sets Early Pace at 2018 Open Championship

Kevin Kisner 2018 Open Championship
Kevin Kisner walks off the 18th green at Carnoustie Golf Club after day one of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Kevin Kisner shot a 66 in the opening round of The Open Championship to set the pace on Thursday at a very dried-out Carnoustie Golf Club.

Kevin Kisner 2018 Open Championship
Kevin Kisner walks off the 18th green at Carnoustie Golf Club after day one of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The 34-year old American, who was mostly ignored by the many pre-game power ranking pundits, started slow with four-straight pars and a bogey to sit 1 over through five holes, but the gritty South Carolinian made eagle on the par-5 sixth, followed by a birdie on No. 7 to turn in 34.

A flawless 32 to close, highlighted by a hat trick of gains on Nos. 13, 14, and 15, gave Kisner the opening-round pole position at 5-under 66.

Afterwards, Kisner cited his improved putting as the key to his first day at Carnoustie.

“I putted so badly at The Greenbrier, and I just worked really hard on it. I just felt like my ball position got too far back at the Greenbrier,” said Kisner, who led the field in putting with 22.

“I was missing everything to the right, so I came here Monday and worked really hard on my speed which is always the hardest thing for us [Americans] to get accustomed to here.

“I feel like the greens were not as slow as we’ve had in the past cuz the wind hadn’t been up yet, so the transition wasn’t as big a deal. And the ball started coming off on line. And when I’m doing that I feel like I can hole em all.”

One off the mark was Tony Finau, who offset four bogeys with a round-best eight birdies en route to a 4-under 67. The American was joined at T2 by a pair of South Africans in Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard.

Another South African in Brandon Stone – last week’s winner at the ASI Scottish Open, was one further back at 3 under 68, alongside Americans Ryan Moore and Brendan Steele.

Justin Thomas Round One Open Championship
Justin Thomas looks at his ball on the 15th hole at Carnoustie Golf Club during day one of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

World No. 2 Justin Thomas was 2-under 69, and headlines a logjam of 10 players at T8. The 25-year old American star was at 4-under par through his opening 11 holes, but dropped shots on Nos. 12 and 16 coming home.

The 2015 Open Championship winner, Zach Johnson, made two late birdies (Nos. 14 and 18) to join Thomas at 2-under par.

Other notables in the 69 group include Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who birdied Nos. 12 and 14 to finish in the red, Spaniard Jon Rahm, and Englishman Danny Willett.

Those who follow the European Tour will not be surprised to see Willett’s name among the leaders, as the 30-year old seems to be returning to form after a horrific two-year slump. In his five most recent starts, Willett has three top 20s, including two top 10s, all at Rolex Series events (T8 Italian Open, T6 Irish Open, T19 Scottish Open).

Three time Open Championship winner, Tiger Woods, carded two late bogeys (Nos. 13 and 15) en route to an even-par 71.

“If I just clean up those two holes and play them the way I’m supposed to play them with 8 iron in my hand,” said Woods, referring to Nos. 13 and 15. “I think I’d probably have the best round in the afternoon wave.”

Brooks Koepka Round One Open Championship
Brooks Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott on the third tee at Carnoustie Golf Club during day one of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

One further back was Brooks Koepka, who overcame a horrific five-hole stretch (Nos. 5-9: double bogey-par-bogey-double bogey-bogey) to close with five birdies and post a respectable first-day 72.

“I’m not one to give up. I’m not one to get pissed off and feel sorry for myself,” said Koepka said. “I feel like I played well … You’ve just got to keep plugging away, and hopefully some good stuff happens.”

Defending champion Jordan Spieth also shot 72.


OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP SCORING


ROUND-ONE TOP 10

1. Kevin Kisner -5 (66)
2. Tony Finau -4 (67)
2. Erik van Rooyen -4 (67)
2. Zander Lombard -4 (67)
5. Brandon Stone -3 (68)
5. Ryan Moore -3 (68)
5. Brendan Steele -3 (68)
8. Justin Thomas -2 (69)
8. Matthew Southgate -2 (69)
8. Danny Willett -2 (69)
8. Jon Rahm -2 (69)
8. Sung Kang -2 (69)
8. Rory McIlroy -2 (69)
8. Zach Johnson -2 (69)
8. Russell Henley -2 (69)
8. Chez Reavie -2 (69)

ROUND-ONE NOTABLES

18. Rickie Fowler -1 (70)
18. Alex Noren -1 (70)
18. Webb Simpson -1 (70)
18. Henrik Stenson -1 (70)
18. Francesco Molinari -1 (70)
33. Xander Schauffele E (71)
33. Haotong Li E (71)
33. Jason Day E (71)
33. Tiger Woods E (71)
33. Adam Scott E (71)
51. Justin Rose +1 (72)
51. Jordan Spieth +1 (72)
51. Jimmy Walker +1 (72)
51. Lee Westwood +1 (72)
51. Tommy Fleetwood +1 (72)
51. Marc Leishman +1 (72)
51. Brooks Koepka +1 (72)
51. Justin Rose +1 (72)
75. Paul Casey +2 (73)
75. Ian Poulter +2 (73)
75. Phil Mickelson +2 (73)
75. Bernhard Langer +2 (73)
95. Tyrrell Hatton +3 (74)
95. Rafa Cabrera-Bello +3 (74)
112. Bubba Watson +4 (75)
112. Sergio Garcia +4 (75)
112. Patrick Reed +4 (75)
112. Bryson DeChambeau +4 (75)
112. Hideki Matsuyama +4 (75)
129. Dustin Johnson +5 (76)
129. Padraig Harrington +5 (76)


OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP VIDEO

ROUND-ONE HIGHLIGHTS



OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP STAT LEADERS


DRIVING

1. Bryson DeChambeau – 379 yards
2. Lucas Herbert – 375 yards
3. Brendan Steele – 374 yards

FAIRWAYS HIT

1. Erik van Rooyen – 13/15, 86.7%
2. Cam Davis – 12/15, 80.0%
2. Chez Reavie – 12/15, 80.0%
2. Hideto Tanihara – 12/15, 80.0%

GREENS HIT

1. Patrick Cantlay – 15/18, 83.3%
1. Paul Casey – 15/18, 83.3%
1. Dylan Frittelli – 15/18, 83.3%
1. Jon Rahm – 15/18, 83.3%
1. Danny Willett – 15/18, 83.3%
1. Oliver Wilson – 15/18, 83.3%

PUTTS

1. Kevin Kisner – 22
2. Paul Casey – 25
3. Six Players Tied – 27


HOW KEVIN KISNER SCORED THE OPEN LEAD

Kisner was off target about half the time on Thursday – both off the tee and to the greens, but was lights out after his approach, leading the field in both putting and scrambling.

Kevin Kisner 2018 Open Championship
Kevin Kisner hits his third shot on No. 18 at Carnoustie Golf Club during day one of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Kinnaird/R&A via Getty Images

TOP-LINE STATS

Driving: 314 yards (100th)
Fairways: 7/15, 46.7% (83rd)
Greens: 9/18, 50.0% (124th)
Putting: 22 (1st)
Scrambling: 8 (1st)

SCORING

Par 3: -2 (2 Birdies, 1 Par)
Par 4: E (1 Birdie, 11 Pars, 1 Bogey)
Par 5: -3 (1 Eagle, 1 Birdie)
Total: -5 (1 Eagle, 4 Birdies, 12 Pars, 1 Bogey)
Carnoustie’s Final Three: E (Par-Par-Par), SG: 1.97


ROUND-ONE QUOTES

“The ball started coming off on line. And when I’m doing that I feel like I can hole em all.”
– Kevin Kisner

“If I just clean up those two holes and play them the way I’m supposed to play them with 8 iron in my hand. I think I’d probably have the best round in the afternoon wave.”
– Tiger Woods

“Even if you play aggressive around here, you might make more bogeys than playing it safe, but you’re going to make more birdies as well.”
– Rory McIlroy

“Guys seem to put a lot of emphasis on these type of events, and rightfully so, they’re majors. But I try not to look at them too different.”
– Tony Finau


WEATHER FORECAST FOR CARNOUSTIE

Thursday’s mild conditions will give way to rain on Friday, and stronger winds over the weekend, specifically for Sunday’s finale.

Clouds will roll in early Friday, with heavy downpours expected. Winds will be relatively light at 5-8 mph out of the south and southwest.

Conditions on Saturday are expected to be mostly dry with winds reaching 10-12 mph (SSW) in the afternoon.

The finale on Sunday appears to be the windiest of the tournament with a constant breeze of 14-18 mph with gusts reaching 20-25 mph.

Comfortable temps, with highs of 68-70, are expected throughout the weekend.


OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERBOARD

Carnoustie Golf Links | Par 71, 7,402 yards | Carnoustie, Scotland | July 19, 2018

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