CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — The leaderboard heading into the third round at The Open is filled with interesting names, a group of housemates who will be talking about chasing a Claret Jug over a nice steak at home and some what-are-they-doing-here names searching for that first major title.
Tiger Woods stands at even par, six shots behind Kisner and Johnson. While a distance back, Woods’ first two days at The Open marked a breakthrough. It was the first time in five years, since this championship at Muirfield in 2013, in which he shot par or better in each of the first two rounds. Now … what’s next?
To get himself into the conversation, and closer to the lead, he’ll need to recreate some of the success he’s had this season. Woods has struggled over the first two days of events, but surged on the weekend.
“It will be a pretty packed leaderboard, and I’m certainly right there in it,” Woods said.
Kevin Kisner and Zach Johnson will walk side by side Saturday as the final group for the third round of The Open. At this point, you’d think they’d seen enough of each other this week. Kisner and Johnson are sharing a house along with Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jimmy Walker. That likely made for an interesting meal Friday night.
“Golf will probably be the tune,” Kisner said. “Everybody will tell their horror stories and good stories, and we’ll laugh and eat a big old meal and sit around and watch something stupid on TV.”
The only one in the house without a major? That’s Kisner.
“I learned that everybody’s going through the same stuff and trying to shoot the lowest score possible,” Kisner said. “Everybody puts their pants on the same way I do. So they just won a few more times than I have and probably got a couple more zeros in their bank account.”
The odds on Kevin Kisner
Sure, Kisner stumbled at the last hole, coughing away a two-shot lead at the time with a sloppy double bogey at the last. Still, he enters the weekend with a share of the lead. So he’s in a pretty good spot. It’s an ever better spot when you consider just how much of a longshot he was coming into this week at Carnoustie.
Kisner entered The Open as a 200-1 shot. If he were to pull this off and go wire-to-wire to capture his first major championship, the victory would be among the most unlikely, in terms of odds, in the past decade.
So, can he win?
“We’re trying to win a golf tournament,” KIsner said. “Obviously, it’s a major, we love it. We put a lot of work into it. But just because it’s a major, I’m not going to feel any different coming down the stretch than I do trying to win any other tournament, I don’t think.”
When the key players hit the course
For the full list of tee times on Saturday, click here.
Have clubs, will travel
Johnson clearly enjoys The Open. He has, after all, won a Claret Jug, claiming the title three years ago at St. Andrews. But it runs deeper than that. Johnson has 10 career rounds of 67 or better. Nine of those have come in The Open.
“I think my game lends itself to this championship because my style can play here,” he said. “I’m sure everybody does that. I play the holes backwards. I take what the golf course gives me, and I try to execute. You’ve still got to hit good shots. Even though you know what you need to do, you’ve still got to hit a good shot. Is there some risk/reward at times, or are you pushing it sometimes? Absolutely.”
Johnson won’t get lost in those numbers and immediately expect low scores over the weekend at Carnoustie.
“It’s just two days [of good play],” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do this week, and I’m not going to take anything for granted based on what I’ve done in the past and what I’ve done the last two days.”
OK, Kisner being in the mix might be a surprise, at least to the oddsmakers. But Zander Lombard is the biggest shock. Lombard entered The Open having missed 11 of 13 cuts. He had only participated in one other major. He played The Open in 2016 at Troon, finishing T-66. On Friday, he had a share of the lead with three holes left in his round before two bogeys down the stretch to fall to 4 under. Still, he’s just two back and tied for sixth.
“Yeah, it’s an amazing experience being up in the fight, in the thick of things. It’s really bunched up there,” Lombard said. “Anything can happen on the weekend.”
Despite all his struggles before arriving at Carnoustie, there was a shred of hope. He shot 66 a week ago in the second round of the Scottish Open, though he still missed the cut because of his opening-round 74.
Who won’t be here
The No. 1 player in the world is already headed back to the United States. Dustin Johnson‘s misadventures at No. 18 — a triple bogey on Thursday and a double on Friday — sent him packing.
The No. 2 player in the world, Justin Thomas, started Friday at 2 under and very much in the mix. After a birdie at No. 5, he doubled bogeyed each of the next three holes en route to a 77.
The No. 3 player in the world, Justin Rose, nearly followed them out the door. He needed a birdie at the 18th — one of only 17 at what was the second-hardest hole on the course — to make the cut on the number.
Jon Rahm was the only other player in the top 10 to play himself out of the tournament. Rahm, like Thomas, started the day 2 under but ballooned to a 78 on Friday.