Frustrated Jordan Spieth remains in contention to end major drought in British Open at Royal St. George’s

Jordan Spieth continued to display his captivating artistry Saturday and remained in prime position to claim his second Claret Jug.

Jordan Spieth continued to display his captivating artistry Saturday on the rutted links canvas of Royal St. George’s and remained in prime position to claim his second Claret Jug.

The three-time major winner and Champion Golfer of the Year from 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he delivered an extraordinary back nine on Sunday to win, patched together a 1-under-par 69 to move to 9 under and rest three shots behind pace-setter and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and two shots behind 2020 PGA champion Collin Morikawa.

The only other time Spieth began a major with three rounds in the 60s – he has shot 65-67-69 – was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale.

Spieth was at his brilliant best early in the round as he made five birdies in his first 11 holes to offset two bogeys. He grabbed a share of the lead early on the back nine before he was forced to scratch and claw to keep his round together.

But he couldn’t keep from needing three putts from short of the green on the par-5 14th to walk away with just a par and then three-putted both the 17th and 18th greens for bogeys, which sent him directly to the practice green after he put his signature to the scorecard.

The frustrated Spieth thus bypassed the assembled media.

But the world No. 23 is still in the hunt through 54 holes and will get the bad taste out of his mouth as quickly as possible and call upon his links golf powers in the final round in an attempt to end his major drought dating to Royal Birkdale.

Spieth has been much-watch TV this week, his assortment of escapes, supreme ball-striking and converted long birdie putts never dull. This week, his brushes are his old reliable Scotty Cameron putter – though it let him down late on Saturday – and a set of Titleist’s latest version of its new T100 irons he put in the bag this week. But his mind has been equally instrumental at Royal St. George’s and his love at first sight for links golf fuels him.

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When Spieth travels over the pond, his paint-by-numbers approach is not in his luggage as he turns his golf senses away from swing thoughts when eyeing the lay of the land in the Old World and is always mindful of the elements.

Without worrying about his mechanics, Spieth channels his imagination, creativity and feel and plays golf instead of playing with swing thoughts dashing through his head. He relishes shaping and flighting shots and turning to a variety of clubs when confronted with chip and pitch shots.

“There’s a lot of external factors over here, and I think that external is where I need to be living,” said Spieth, who has won the oldest championship in golf in 2017, fell one shot short of a playoff in 2015 at St. Andrews and tied for ninth in 2019 at Carnoustie.

He can tap into that history on Sunday. And he is no longer lost in the wilderness, ending his winless drought of nearly four years with a victory earlier this year in the Valero Texas Open. Spieth grinded through his struggles, even coming to enjoy the grind, and thinks he’s better for it.

Piece it all together and Spieth could wrap his hands around the Claret Jug once again.

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Bryson DeChambeau struggles again at Royal St. George’s but still loves the challenge of the British Open

Hitting just five of 14 fairways in Saturday’s third round of the 149th British Open, DeChambeau stands well behind the leaders.

Another frustrating day on the links of Royal St. George’s did nothing to dull Bryson’s DeChambeau’s affection for the oldest championship in golf.

Hitting just five of 14 fairways in Saturday’s third round of the 149th British Open, DeChambeau signed for a 2-over-par 72 and stands well behind the leaders at 3 over through 54 holes by the sea in Sandwich, England. It was the latest chapter in a poor history in the Open Championship for the 2020 U.S. Open champion and world No. 6, who has now played 11 rounds spread over four starts in the championship and broken par in just two rounds.

Despite missing the cut twice, finishing 51st and looking at another result north of 50 in his four starts in the British Open, DeChambeau will eagerly continue to examine the puzzle inherent with links golf and search for answers.

“This is, by far, the hardest tournament to figure out,” DeChambeau told reporters after his round. “It’s why I love it here, because of the challenge. This one keeps me scratching my head.”

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It’s been a turbulent week for DeChambeau, who said his “driver sucks” after the first round and he was living on the “razor’s edge,” which ignited a storm when a representative for his equipment company, Cobra, took issue with their player’s comments and responded with a strong rebuke.

DeChambeau later apologized and said he made a mistake he hopes to learn from. He said he will continue to work with Cobra and looks forward to crossing the pond again next year for the 2022 Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“Hopefully, St. Andrews will be a little more forgiving to me,” he said.

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Here are 5 things to know about British Open leader Louis Oosthuizen

The South African started Saturday at the top of the leaderboard of the British Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Course in Sandwich, England.

Louis Oosthuizen has already had either a great year or a year of “almosts,” depending on how you feel about finishing second in two of the biggest golf tournaments around.

The South African is at the top of the leaderboard after Friday’s second round of the British Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Course in Sandwich, England. He leads Collin Morikawa by two shots at 11 under par, setting a 36-hole tournament record in the process. 

This performance is following an excellent run in 2021’s golf majors — he finished second in both the PGA Championship and U.S. Open already this year.

Oosthuizen has recently purchased a farm in Marion County, moving to the Ocala, Florida, area after previously living in the South Florida community of Palm Beach Gardens.

Here’s a look at Louis Oosthuizen.

Lynch: Bryson DeChambeau keeps losing his cool. Who will be the adult in the room?

Royal St. George’s was always destined to be a demanding week for DeChambeau, but it didn’t need to be a disastrous one.

Back in 2015, a college coach told Golf Channel reporter Ryan Lavner that within five years Bryson DeChambeau, who had just won the U.S. Amateur, would either be No. 1 in the world or in a straitjacket. That DeChambeau currently occupies neither position isn’t to say that both are now beyond the realm of possibility. It simply varies by the week which outcome he seems to advance toward.

The world No. 6 has won an army of admirers for his talent, work ethic, inventiveness and even his (almost) endearingly idiosyncratic persona. He’s polarizing, sure, but he’s a welcome addition to a sport oversubscribed with humdrum, khaki-clad clones. The life DeChambeau leads is not without challenges, to be fair. Public scrutiny can be brutally unkind to an athlete, especially one with a quirky personality, and moreso when the Simone Biles of social media trolling constantly has you in his crosshairs.

Yet it’s a career he has embraced. DeChambeau is an indefatigable marketer, with enough sponsor decals to qualify him for pole position in the Daytona 500. He has at times alienated fans with an incommodious inability to zip his lips when things go sideways, but the fact that his last two tournament starts have been marked with disrespectful and unprofessional conduct toward two of his sponsors should be cause more for concern than for comedy.

DeChambeau began the Rocket Mortgage Classic with an amusing insistence that his 44-stroke meltdown on the final nine holes of the U.S. Open was bad luck, a storyline quickly overshadowed when his longtime caddie quit. He subsequently blew off media obligations for two days on his way to missing the cut, despite being both the defending champion and personally sponsored by Rocket Mortgage.

Then came Thursday’s histrionics at the Open Championship, when after a mediocre opening round he turned a blowtorch on his equipment manufacturer, Cobra, saying his driver “sucks.” To its credit, a Cobra rep returned a haymaker, claiming the company’s star player (sorry Rickie!) is never happy and likening him to an 8-year-old child. By nightfall, DeChambeau issued a mea culpa that was billed as an apology, never mind that it didn’t actually include an apology.

It was all catnip for golf fans and British tabloids, which lavished more barrels of ink on his outburst than on the Open leader, Louis Oosthuizen. But DeChambeau’s conspicuous difficulty in handling emotional situations is a recurring, troubling theme in his young career.

After blowing a lead in Porsche European Open in 2018, he barely managed to shake the winner’s hand before storming away. We’ve watched querulous exchanges with rules officials and the lecturing of a cameraman in Detroit, after which he said media ought to protect his brand and not show him in a negative light. Even before scorching Cobra, he tried to gaslight his way through a press conference at Royal St. George’s by insisting that he does shout “Fore!” to warn fans of incoming tee shots when there is plentiful evidence that he frequently does not.

It’s not a surprise that DeChambeau’s short fuse was lit at Royal St. George’s. Links golf often corrodes whatever psychological shield a golfer has constructed, each capricious bounce or ill-timed gust of wind like a drop of acid rain. There’s a reason why players like Tom Watson and Nick Faldo won the Open while guys like Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia have not. The golf we see weekly on the PGA Tour is a one-dimensional test of execution and those who play for a paycheck prize that simplicity. Links golf, however, also tests imagination, perseverance and patience. Those are exam papers suited to stoics, but not to the emotionally volatile. Thus, one Watson (Tom) has five Claret Jugs to go with his two green jackets while his namesake (Bubba) has none.

DeChambeau’s unyielding pursuit of perfection in an inherently imperfect game is a daunting standard to live by, and a thoroughly impossible one to expect others to live by too. He’s accustomed to calculating precisely the journey his ball will take toward its target, but at the Open every ball takes two journeys: one through the air and another that begins when it hits the ground and caroms along ancient contours. It is not a style of golf suited to precision, or to emotion (unless, like Seve Ballesteros, it is channeled successfully). Royal St. George’s was always destined to be a demanding week for DeChambeau, but it didn’t need to be a disastrous one.

He rendered it so by proving, yet again, that maturity has no correlation with age.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that DeChambeau is hurtling toward a reckoning with the many things that chafe him — his own elusive standards, criticism of his behavior and utterances, Brooks Koepka — and it’s in such moments that the team around an athlete must justify their existence. This is no time for mute courtiers who lack the courage to tell the king that his subjects are restless with his intemperate rule.

The life of a professional golfer — particularly a successful one — does not want for emotionally difficult situations, and learning how to govern them is essential for both mental health and reputational standing. Surely there is one adult in the room who will help DeChambeau not reduce himself to a childish caricature. He needs that, just as much as this game needs him.

Louis Oosthuizen still shining, leads Collin Morikawa and others after second round at British Open

One day after shooting a 64 that he considered to be a perfect round at Royal St. George’s, Louis Oosthuizen was nearly as good on Friday.

One day after shooting a 64 that he considered to be a perfect round at Royal St. George’s, Louis Oosthuizen was nearly as good on Friday. The 38-year-old South African made an eagle at 14 en route to shooting 5-under 65 and building a two-stroke lead over Colin Morikawa at the halfway point of the 149th British Open in Sandwich, England.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, has finished runner up at six majors, including twice this year, since hoisting the Claret Jug at The Old Course at St. Andrews 11 years ago. That year, he started with a 65, improved to 12 under at the midway point and raced to a seven-stroke victory.

Brilliant sunshine, part of a stretch of a streak of good weather rarely associated with the Open Championship, and a lack of wind led to record-low scoring so far. Oosthuizen’s fast start of 11-under 129 this week – he didn’t make a bogey until his 33rd hole of the championship – shattered the previous low 36-hole championship score of 130, and was just a stroke off the all-time 36-hole scoring mark at majors.

“I only heard that when I walked in, so I wasn’t aware of what it even was before. Yeah, to have any record at the Open or part of any record at the Open is always very special,” Oosthuizen said. “It was as good a weather as you can get playing this golf course. All of us took advantage of that.”

That includes Morikawa, 24, who is making his British Open debut. He played on the firm, sandy-based linksland at the Scottish Open last week for the first time and realized he needed to make an adjustment to his bag. Morikawa, who ranks first on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green, switched out his 7- through 9-iron and it paid quick dividends.

“Those are three crucial clubs that are some of my favorite clubs,” he said. “My 8-iron is my favorite club in the bag, and when I wasn’t able to hit it last week well, I knew I had to try something different.”

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Morikawa delivered a masterful ballstriking performance in the morning wave. With birdies on seven of his first 14 holes, he threatened to equal or break the record for the lowest round ever shot in a men’s major before signing for a 6-under-par 64 and a 36-hole total of 9-under 131. With a swing that a BBC announcer described as “slower than a January in Ireland,” Morikawa has taken quickly to the quirky Royal St. George’s layout.

“Being creative is what I do,” he said. “I love to work the ball. Love to figure out different heights you have to hit it, see different windows. That what’s links golf does and what it tests. I think it fits right into my pocket.”

Creativity is a hallmark of Spieth, who followed up Thursday’s 65 with a 3-under 67 in the second round to shoot consecutive rounds in the 60s for the fifth time in a major. Three of those previous four times he’s done so he’s gone on to win (T-3 at the 2019 PGA Championship on the other occasion).

“It was a round that could’ve been pretty special,” said Spieth, who began with birdies on three of the first four holes and enters the weekend alone in third place at 8-under 132. “I like where I’m at and I just have to hole a few more putts.”

Reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain found his stride on Friday. He rebounded from an opening 1-over 71 with a bogey-free performance in the second round to improve to 5-under 135 in a tie with Brooks Koepka. Rahm had a 20-foot putt for birdie to shoot 63, but left it short and settled for matching Morikawa for the low round of the day as did Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who nearly holed out his approach at 18 for eagle.

“I think I take 64 for any round in a major,” Grillo said. “I think I’ll take 64 any day, even play with my friends.”

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson remains in the hunt after shooting 65 to improve to 7-under 133 in a tie for fourth with American Scottie Scheffler (66) and South African Dylan Frittelli (67).

Defending Open champion Shane Lowry fired 65 to make the cut comfortably at 4-under 136. Among those to sneak into the weekend play on the cutline of 1-over 141 were Bryson DeChambeau (70) and Rickie Fowler (72). Reigning PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson and Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed – both ranked in the top 10 in the world – are among the big names that have the weekend off.

Oosthuizen has set a record pace, but he’s had too many close calls at majors to be caught looking ahead.

“The game is good, but I know it’s a really good leaderboard,” he said. “I have to play good golf this weekend if I want to come out first.”

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A frustrated Bryson DeChambeau said his driver ‘sucks.’ Cobra, his driver maker, is not happy

Cobra’s tour operations manager on Bryson DeChambeau’s comments: “It’s just really, really painful when he says something that stupid.”

Bryson DeChambeau had a tough day at the office Thursday during the 149th British Open. Time and again, instead of hitting the fairway, the 2020 U.S. Open champion’s tee shots sailed into rough and knee-high fescue.

When it was all said done, DeChambeau signed for a 1-over 71 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, having hit four of 14 fairways. Then he had some things to say about his equipment.

Asked if he thought he could still contend and win the tournament if he straightened out his tee shots, DeChambeau said, “If I can hit it down the middle of the fairway, that’s great, but with the driver right now, the driver sucks. It’s not a good face for me, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make it good on the mis-hits. I’m living on the razor’s edge, like I’ve told people for a long time.”

Even for a golfer who was frustrated by crosswinds and a tricky links course, the comment was surprising.

As DeChambeau uttered those words, Ben Schomin was getting ready for breakfast in Michigan. Schomin is Cobra’s tour operations manager and the man who caddied for DeChambeau two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after DeChambeau and his longtime caddie, Tim Tucker, parted ways. Schomin is also one of the people who designs and builds DeChambeau’s drivers and irons to very unique specifications.

“Everybody is bending over backwards. We’ve got multiple guys in R&D who are CAD’ing (computer-aided design) this and CAD-ing that, trying to get this and that into the pipeline faster. (Bryson) knows it,” Schomin said. “It’s just really, really painful when he says something that stupid.”

DeChambeau is currently using a Cobra Radspeed driver that is 46 inches long and has 5 degrees of loft. You won’t find a club like that in your local pro shop. They are all made specifically for DeChambeau.

“He has never really been happy, ever. Like, it’s very rare where he’s happy,” Schomin said. “Now he’s in a place where he’s swinging a 5-degree driver with 200 mph of ball speed. Everybody is looking for a magic bullet. Well, the magic bullet becomes harder and harder to find the faster you swing and the lower your loft gets.”

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Cobra and other manufacturers have data and detailed information about how driver heads behave under normal conditions because they have captured thousands of shots hit by recreational golfers and Tour players. However, there is almost no information on how drivers react when you get to DeChambeau’s speeds. Only a handful of people on the planet swing as fast as DeChambeau, and Cobra is in the business of selling clubs to the masses. It simply does not have a database to draw upon when creating DeChambeau’s gear. Schomin and Cobra’s R&D team are learning what works and what doesn’t in real time.

“So when he’s talking about the razor’s edge, we’re not going to be able to help that,” Schomin said. At DeChambeau’s speeds, every shortcoming in his swing or mis-hit is exponentially magnified.

In addition, manufacturing prototype driver heads for DeChambeau can take months.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of it, so we’ll place an order for 10 prototype heads and then, literally as soon as that order is placed, usually within a week or two, we might be ordering more of something else,” Schomin said.

The idea is to always have a few driver heads for Bryson that can act as a starting point when he wants to experiment or try something new. So far in 2021, Cobra has made seven prototype driver heads for DeChambeau, a number that might exceed what other star players have made for them in a decade.

“You know, it’s the longest club, with the least amount of loft that is swung the fastest,” Schomin said. “Every ingredient has been added to the difficult salad. Literally, it can’t be any more of a challenge. So it’s this constant work in progress.”

At best, a frustrated DeChambeau saying his driver sucks is unprofessional. At worst, it shows a lack of appreciation for the work and time Schomin and others at Cobra invest in making his gear.

Still, Schomin knows DeChambeau doesn’t mean it exactly the way he said it.

“It’s like an 8-year-old that gets mad at you,” he said. “They might fly off the handle and say, ‘I hate you.’ But then you go. ‘Whoa, no you don’t.’

“We know as adults that they really don’t mean that and I know that if I got him cornered right now and said, ‘What the hell did you say that for,’ he would say that he was mad. He didn’t really mean to say it that harshly. He knows how much everyone bends over backwards for him, but it’s still not cool.”

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Jordan Spieth, using new Titleist irons, cards six birdies Thursday at 2021 British Open

The new Titleist T100 irons are not yet available at retail, but Jordan Spieth put a set in play to climb the leaderboard at St. George’s.

Jordan Spieth, who shot 65 Thursday at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, went on a four-birdie run on the front nine to work his way up the leaderboard at the 2021 British Open. His putting was excellent, as it has been for much of 2021, but those birdie putts were set up by several outstanding shots the Texan hits with his new Titleist T100 irons.

Typically, in the days leading up to a major championship, golfers shy away from making substantive equipment changes. However, Spieth worked at home last week with Titleist’s director of player promotions, J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, and after thoroughly testing the yet-to-be-released-at-retail irons, decided to put them in his bag. He is using the T100 4-iron through 9-iron, and the clubs are fitted with the same Project X 6.5 shafts that Spieth had in his previous set of Titleist irons.

Titleist T100 iron topline
Titleist T100 irons have a thin topline, minimal offset and classic look at address. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

Titleist took the new T100 irons to the PGA Tour for the first time at the Travelers Championship in June, but Spieth saw them at a Titleist photo shoot in Dallas before the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. Van Wezenbeeck said Spieth immediately liked the looks and feel of the new irons and especially liked the way the clubs work through the turf.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Spieth has changed irons before starting a British Open. In 2019, on the eve of the British Open at Royal Portrush, he switched into Titleist’s first generation of the T100 irons.

In addition to adding the T100s this week, Spieth, who typically carries either a hybrid or a hollow-bodied driving iron, tested a Titleist T200 3-iron and 4-iron.

Titleist has not officially commented on the T100 or the T200 irons, or said when they would be available at retail. Still, if history is a guide, recreational golfers will see them in pro shops starting in September or October.

Watch: Brooks Koepka’s wind-aided drive at British Open nearly reaches the green on 417-yard hole

Brooks Koepka had a solid breeze behind him when he stepped to the tee at the par-4 10th hole.

The conditions for scoring during the first round of the British Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Club are optimal, even with a substantial wind.

The course is firm but green, and players are feeling comfortable enough to attack the pins. Remember, the last time this event came through Darren Clarke won it at 5 under. Brian Harman was 4 under through his first six holes on Thursday morning.

And while the winds are expected to remain prevalent, the lack of substantial length is allowing players to get close enough for solid approaches heading into the wind and then attack the greens when they’ve got the wind at their backs.

For example, Brooks Koepka had a solid breeze behind him when he stepped to the tee at the par-4 10th hole, which is playing at 417 yards. The four-time major champ took a mighty cut and nearly reached the green.

After the big drive, however, Koepka only managed par. And although he has yet to win at the British, he’s had plenty of success on the other side of the pond, posting three top-10 finishes in his last four starts at the major.

As for the course, Royal St. George’s opened in 1887 with a Laidlaw Purves layout that has been renovated and restored several times, most recently by Martin Ebert, who has worked on several British Open layouts including Royal Portrush before the 2019 Open. Royal St. George’s ranks No. 9 on Golfweek’s Best list of top courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

The course will be set up at 7,189 yards with a par of 70 for this year’s Open.

Golfweek’s Best: Rating the British Open rota courses

How do Muirfield, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Royal St. George’s and the rest of the rota stack up in the course rankings?

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All eyes will be on Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, for this week’s British Open. But how does the links layout southeast of London stack up in a ranking of all 10 of the courses on the modern rota for the British Open?

Golfweek’s Best utilizes a national group of some 800 raters who judge courses around the world, rating each on a points basis of 1 to 10. Any course with an average rating over 7 is a great course, and anything over 8 is in truly rarefied air. Half the courses on the rota, which now includes Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, rate above an 8.

The following list of the 10 British Open rota courses is ordered based on those ratings. Also included is where each course ranks in Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses list for Great Britain and Ireland.

Check the yardage book: Royal St. George’s for the British Open

Large undulations and blind shots might drive players a bit mad at Royal St. George’s in the British Open. Check out the hole-by-hole maps.

Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, will host its 15th British Open this week, presenting the kind of wild, undulating and hopefully bouncy test that tends to drive some of the best players in the game a little crazy. That craziness is in part fueled by numerous blind shots as players must hoist balls into the sky over the dunes.

The club, on the coast of the English Channel about 80 miles southeast of London, has seen such varied and sometimes unexpected winners as Darren Clarke (2011), Ben Curtis (2003), Bill Rogers (1981) and Reg Whitcombe (1938), for example. But it hasn’t been all surprises, as Greg Norman won there in 1993 and Walter Haden triumphed there twice (1922 and ’28). The first Open held at Royal St. George’s was won by J.H. Taylor in 1894.

Royal St. George’s opened in 1887 with a Laidlaw Purves layout that has been renovated and restored several times, most recently by Martin Ebert, who has worked on several British Open layouts including Royal Portrush before the 2019 Open. Royal St. George’s ranks No. 9 on Golfweek’s Best list of top courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

The course will be set up at 7,189 yards with a par of 70 for this year’s Open.

Thanks to yardage books provided by Puttview – the maker of detailed yardage books for more than 30,000 courses around the world – we can see exactly the challenges that players will face this week. Check out each hole below.