News & Opinion

As ‘chalk’ walks, British Open reshuffles

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In the gambling world, the "chalk" is the betting favorite. On Friday night, the post-mortem midway through the British Open was that the chalk, World No. 1 Dustin Johnson at 12-1, was headed back across the Atlantic. The leaderboard here at Carnoustie Golf Links is packed with major haves and have-nots.

Of the top 13 players, only Zach Johnson, a co-leader at 6-under 136, Rory McIlroy (T-6 at 4 under) and defending champion Jordan Spieth (T-11 at 3 under) have won multiple major titles (scores). The rest are a collection of young and hungry newcomers, inspiring veterans and past-their-prime hopefuls, all looking to win a first major title.

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Zach Johnson, the 36-hole co-leader at Carnoustie, seeks to add another Claret Jug to his major-championship haul.

© GOLFFILE/DAVID LLOYD
Zach Johnson, the 36-hole co-leader at Carnoustie, seeks to add another Claret Jug to his major-championship haul.

It’s not the leaderboard that anyone would have predicted at the beginning of the week. Kevin Kisner shares the lead, and 42-year-old journeyman Pat Perez joins reigning rookie of the year Xander Schauffele and surging Tommy Fleetwood one stroke behind.

Each will have spent Friday night thinking about what he needs to do to get himself in position for Sunday. The Claret Jug can’t be won today, but it can be lost. It’s a safe bet that many of this morning’s top contenders will drift out of Sunday’s final-round story.

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After 36 holes, Kevin Kisner holds a share of the British Open lead in a quest for his 1st major championship.

© GOLFFILE/DAVID LLOYD
After 36 holes, Kevin Kisner holds a share of the British Open lead in a quest for his 1st major championship.

The prominence of Americans among the leaders is a theme for the weekend. Ten of the top 17 entering the third round are from the U.S. In a Ryder Cup year, that gives U.S. captain Jim Furyk a lot to consider. His 12-man team will be formed with eight automatic qualifiers and four captain’s picks (rankings).

American domination has been a consistent story in Britain this week, as the U.S. seems to hold every team cup in golf and has won the past five men’s major championships.

A victory here by an American will further stoke European discontent leading into the Ryder Cup matches in late September in France. The U.S. has not won consecutive Ryder Cups since 1991 at Kiawah Island, S.C., and 1993 at The Belfry in England.

But as nearly every player in contention here has said after his round, there is a lot of golf left to play. Today’s third round will provide a clearer picture of who might have his name engraved on the Claret Jug as “champion golfer of the year.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli