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07/18/24 09:21:00

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07/18 09:09 CDT Thomas steadies himself in the wind and rain at Troon for early British Open lead Thomas steadies himself in the wind and rain at Troon for early British Open lead By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer TROON, Scotland (AP) --- Justin Thomas is off to another great start for the second straight week in Scotland, even if his British Open score doesn't look that way. He began the first round on Thursday with a 3-under 68 that set an early target and left him satisfied. Never mind that 62 he had a week ago in the Scottish Open. Royal Troon required hard work, and with just enough rain and plenty of wind the links along the Ayrshire coast showed it was capable of punishing players without notice. U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau kept missing par putts and, once, moved a shot from the deep rough only 4 yards that led to a double bogey. He shot 42 on the front nine and was looking at a short stay in Scotland. Rory McIlroy, hopeful of bouncing back from his U.S. Open collapse, took a double bogey on the famed "Postage Stamp" eighth hole, and piped a driver out of bounds on the 11th for another double bogey. He already was 5 over and fading. Thomas was not immune. He was one of three players who reached 4 under among the early starters and had the wind at his back for the inward nine at Troon. And then his tee shot landed in a bush that required a penalty drop and he missed a 4-foot putt and made double bogey. His next drive took a wild hop into grass so deep his caddie called out to the gallery, "Last call. Anyone see the other ball to the right?" They eventually found it, but it led to bogey. "A little bit of a hiccup in the beginning of the back nine but stayed patient and kept plugging," Thomas said. Indeed, Thomas managed to keep it together. He avoided another bogey with a 12-foot par putt, and finished with a 6-iron to 8 feet for birdie on the 17th and a birdie on the 18th that showed how much wind was helping --- 4-iron off the tee, wedge into 25 feet on the 458-yard closing hole. Justin Rose, who had to go through final qualifying to get into the Open, was equally impressive by playing bogey-free for a 69, joined by a group that included Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark and Alex Noren, who only qualified through the Scottish Open. Matt Wallace was one of those at 4 under early in his round, only to take triple bogey on the ninth hole. He finished at 69, along with Adam Scott. Justin Leonard, a winner at Royal Troon in 1997, returned for the first time since 2016 and was given the honor of the opening tee shot with the shiny claret jug positioned nearby on a podium. He had an 80, one of already five rounds of 80 or higher. That list included John Daly, who made an 8 on the final hole for an 82. Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the world's No. 1 player, and Tiger Woods were among those who played late in the afternoon. The wind was stronger. The rain was never far away. But it was tough for everyone. The back is longer and typically plays into a strong wind. It was the opposite direction for the early going and still caused its share of problems. "It's going to play as easy as it can all week, I think, because the ball is getting up there on these holes," Scott said. "Last time I played it, it was 2-irons and 3-irons into every hole, and today it was a sand wedge into 15. But trying to figure that out, it was like a practice round --- the back nine --- for me today." Thomas didn't do much after that 62 to start the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, a links-styled course but not links turf. He didn't read much into that except to say he felt he played much better for the 68 he posted at Royal Troon. Also a forgotten memory was the 82 he started with a year ago at Royal Liverpool. Thomas was in a different spot last year, trying to avoid missing the PGA Tour postseason (he did) while trying to get his game on track. He still hasn't won in more than two years. But he walked off Royal Troon feeling for certain he was headed in the right direction. ___ AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf
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