Tommy Fleetwood shot a Carnoustie course-record 63 on Friday to claim a share of the halfway lead with defending champion Tyrrell Hatton at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Fleetwood, leader in the Race to Dubai standings, shot a blemish-free 9-under-par round at the venue for next year’s Open to join Hatton on 11 under.
Hatton, who was also playing his second round in the three-course event at Carnoustie, did not drop a shot either in a 7-under-par 65.
The pair led by one shot from Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, who shot 67 at St Andrews after recovering from a double bogey on his first hole.
First-round co-leader Paul Dunne was in a tie for fourth at 9 under with Germany’s Marcel Siem after carding 68 at Carnoustie.
World No. 6 Rory McIlroy, hoping to end a frustrating year with a win, was overshadowed by Fleetwood, who was one of his playing partners.
McIlroy ended the day 11 shots off the lead on level par after a 71 which included a double-bogey seven on the sixth hole. With the cut coming after 54 holes, the Northern Irishman is not yet out of the tournament, but he must make up a lot of ground as he plays Kingsbarns on Saturday.
Fleetwood’s impressive round included a run of five successive birdies on the back nine. He almost extended that sequence to six when a birdie putt from off the green on the 16th narrowly missed the hole. He might even have had an eagle on 15th, too, when his second shot at the par-4 bounced onto the green and hit the flag.
He finished his round in style by picking up his ninth birdie at the 18th.
Fleetwood, who became a father for the first time last week, was asked after his round how it felt to break the course record.
Fleetwood, 26, told Sky Sports: “It sounds good doesn’t it? You don’t really think too much about it when you are playing, but then I holed that one on the last and they said it was a course record. So, all in all, it was a good day’s work!”
Dunne slipped back after a bogey on his second hole but responded with six birdies before dropping another shot at the 17th.
Changes in U.S. Open field made
FAR HILLS, N.J. — The USGA’s junior amateur champions and mid-amateur champions are now exempt into the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.
The change is effective for the 2018 championships.
The USGA says amateur golf is central to its mission and that adding these four winners to the men’s and women’s Opens affirms its support of amateur golf.
Noah Goodwin won the U.S. Junior Amateur and will not have to qualify for the U.S. Open next year at Shinnecock Hills. Erica Shepherd won the U.S. Girls’ Junior title. She will be in the U.S. Women’s Open next spring at Shoal Creek.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur and Women’s Mid-Amateur champions will be decided over the next few months.
With the change, the two Opens now offer exemptions to six amateur categories.
Thomas (no surprise) named PGA Player of Year
Justin Thomas has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season after winning five times, a major championship and the FedEx Cup.
Thomas, 24, beat out the likes of Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama after winning the PGA Championship, adding a victory at the Dell Technologies Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs and then taking the overall FedEx Cup title at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
He also participated in his first professional Cup team last week at the Presidents Cup, where the U.S. defeated an International team 19-11
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Thomas said during a conference call. “It really sunk in when I got the call from the commissioner (Jay Monahan). It was something I felt I may win because of Atlanta and how the year played out but I knew how tight of a race it was up until then. With one week to go a lot of things can happen.
“Any time you can win an award with someone like Jack Nicklaus’ name on the award, it definitely means a lot.”
The award is voted on by PGA Tour members.
Thomas won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last fall — a tournament title he will defend next week — then won back-to-back events in Hawaii, including shooting a 59 at the Sony Open.
He shot a third-round 63 at the U.S. Open and added a fourth tour title at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. After winning the Dell Technologies event, Thomas was in contention to win the Tour Championship, finishing a shot behind winner Xander Schauffele — who won rookie of the year honors. But Thomas won the overall title and a $10 million bonus.
Rowdy fans dampen Presidents Cup mood
Poor fan behavior at sporting events is nothing new, something from which golf has typically been exempt – except at team competitions, where the rowdiness of the home fans can at times cross the line.
Audrey Leishman, the wife of PGA Tour player Marc Leishman, experienced it herself last week at Liberty National, where the United States defeated an International team of golfers, 19-11 in a competition that pits the Americans against a team of players from outside of Europe every two years.
Marc Leishman, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour including last month’s BMW Championship, is from Australia. His wife is an American and the couple lives in Virginia Beach, Va., with their three children.
Audrey Leishman’s post – put on a blog she started two years ago after she became gravely ill and nearly died due to sepsis – was trending for a time on Twitter.
“A lot of the response has been very positive and I’m grateful for that,” Audrey Leishman said in a phone interview Thursday. “Some of the negative things people are saying are a bit below the belt. I guess I don’t have thick enough skin, I’m not used to that, so I’m just trying to deal with it. I’m reeling a bit from it.”
In her post, Leishman first cited an interview American Daniel Berger did on Saturday when the U.S. came within a point of clinching the event outright with a day to go.
“I mean the goal from the minute we got out here was to just crush them as bad as we can and… I hope we close them out today and we got out tomorrow and beat them even worse,” Berger said.
Leishman wrote that those comments went beyond the sportsmanship and competitive spirit of the event.
“There were many times last week that I thought about what the kids were seeing,” she wrote. “The crowds booing for good shots and cheering for missed putts. The drinking at 7 am? Screaming “Big Easy” to Ernie Els and begging for his autograph and then yelling at his players. Heckling a wife for her beauty and then her husband for his play. I was thankful my boys weren’t there to see the way people were treating their daddy. Their hero. My parents could simply turn the television off.”
Leishman said she has received reaction such as “this is sports,” or “have you ever been to a soccer game,” or “to get over it.”
But her point is not without merit. The Ryder Cup in Minnesota last year saw plenty of bad crowd behavior, with U.S. captain Davis Love III and Jordon Spieth so put off that they pointed out offenders in the crowd.
England’s Danny Willett and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy were particularly vexed, McIlroy referring to it as a “hostile environment.”