The Open Diary: Glorious Royal St George's is the star

By Sports Desk July 15, 2021

As if to welcome the return of this glorious tournament after two years in the dark, the sun shone brightly on the opening round of the 149th Open Championship.

Royal St George's was initially basked in a warm glow as a crowd of more than 30,000 were treated to a spectacular day of golf at the famous links in Sandwich.

Louis Oosthuizen closed the round top of the leaderboard, but it was the course itself that took centre stage.

And Stats Perform's man on the ground was out and about, taking notes of all the happenings on the other side of the ropes.

SEAVIEW AND FREEVIEW!

There is a large grass mound at the far end of the course that affords a stunning vantage point across the whole links.

A sizeable crowd gathered there from early in the morning, taking in the view from high above the sixth green, with the North Sea glistening in the sunshine away to the east.

But there is another option, with Princes Drive running alongside the course but outside of its perimeter and allowing an unobstructed view of the fifth green, while the sea is a stone's throw away, with plenty of projectiles available on Sandwich Bay's pebble beach.

DINO-SOARING TEMPERATURES

Fancy dress is a common sight at golf tournaments but you should choose your outfit wisely.

The weather forecast in Kent is promising to serve up the best of British summertime over the four days of competition and it made one man's decision to don a dinosaur onesie appear quite ill-judged.

He was to be found roaming the fairway's edge around the seventh hole, and would no doubt soon have been in search of water. Or maybe he was just waiting for Roary McIlroy...

FAN-TASTIC

It was a joy to see so many fans in attendance in Sandwich, with several players commenting on how much it improved the experience for them.

After a prolonged spell of being deprived of such things, Jordan Spieth was among those to welcome the return of crowds to enhance the spectacle.

He said: "I feel like the fans here are very knowledgeable about the sport, and they're also having a great time.

"It's just like at Augusta, it's just a beautiful setting a lot of times, shaping a lot of the holes with people."

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    Rory McIlroy wants to follow Tiger Woods' lead as he strives to return to the peak of his powers this season.

    It is seven years since McIlroy won the last of his four major titles and he was reduced to tears when frankly stating he "should have done more" to try and prevent Europe from slumping to a record defeat to the United States in the Ryder Cup last September.

    McIlroy went on to end 2021 with a flourish, winning the CJ Cup and finishing in a share of sixth in the DP World Tour Championship after holding the lead heading into the final round.

    The 32-year-old, who will start his season at the Abu Dhabi Championship this weekend, has outlined his intention to adopt an approach that worked so well for the legendary Woods over the years.

    "There are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game," said the Northern Irishman.

    McIlroy is not looking to try match Bryson DeChambeau in the driving department, though.

    He added: "No, I don't need to. The goal of hitting more fairways, it maybe means throttling back and hitting three-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway.

    "I'll certainly pick and choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it, the best player of the last 30 years, Tiger, he picked and chose where he hit driver and he played a very, very controlled game. It didn't work out too badly for him."

    McIlroy revealed he is taking a different approach when setting his goals for the year.

    "I used to sit down on the flight here and write down I want to win five times, I want to win a major, I want to win The Race to Dubai, I want to win the FedExCup, I'd love to win six times in a season as I've won five in the past, I want to do this or that," he said.

    "And all those things are great goals and they are things to try to work towards. But I think the biggest thing for guys at the level that we're at is I want to hit over 60 per cent of my fairways.

    "I want my proximity [to the hole] inside 150 yards to be a certain number. I want my strokes-gained putting to be a certain number. I can't control if I win five or six times a year.

    "There's so many other variables in there. I'd rather set goals that are objective and measurable that I'm in control of.

    "I can certainly control if I hit 60 per cent of the fairways and I'd love to get my iron play back to where it was a few years ago. I can control if my stats are better than they were the year before."

  • Matsuyama's remarkable eagle seals Sony Open in Hawaii Matsuyama's remarkable eagle seals Sony Open in Hawaii

    Hideki Matsuyama produced a stunning second shot on the first playoff hole to claim victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii as he triumphed over Russell Henley.

    The reigning Masters champion had trailed by five strokes on the back nine but produced a surge capped with a birdie at the last to force a playoff with Henley after both finished 23 under par.

    Henley's putt on the 18th to win the tournament skimmed the outside edge of the hole and he was left to rue that miss in quite astonishing fashion.

    They returned to the same hole for the playoff and Matsuyama, having gone for the 3-wood off the tee, elected to use the same club for his second shot from 277 yards away and could not have hit it any better, sending it to three feet for an eagle putt to secure his eighth PGA Tour title and his third in less than a year as Henley made bogey.

    Waialae Country Club holds a special place in Japanese golf history, with it being the course where Isao Aoki became the first player from the country to win on the PGA Tour.

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    "I got on a roll, I'm glad it came out this way," said Matsuyama. "To follow him [Aoki] up, I'm over the moon."

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    Russell Henley remains in the lead ahead of the final day of the Sony Open in Hawaii but 2021 Masters Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama surged into contention on Saturday.

    Henley carded a three-under-round of 67 to maintain his lead after being three strokes ahead at the halfway mark at the Waialae Country Club.

    Japanese 29-year-old Matsuyama, though, moved up the leaderboard into second spot, two shots behind Henley, with a seven-under-63 to be 16 under overall.

    Henley leads at 18 under, with Matsuyama 16 under, before four players are tied at 14 under in third in Adam Svensson, Seamus Power, Matt Kuchar and Haotong Li.

    The American, who won the Sony Open in 2013, had two bogeys and five birdies in his round, including a 16-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to buffer his lead after Matsuyama made his move earlier in the day.

    Matsuyama, who carded rounds of 66 and 65 on the first two days, improved with a day-three 63 headlined by four birdies in his final seven holes.

    Svensson and Power both hit five-under-rounds of 65 to remain in contention, while Kuchar and Li are close but carded rounds of three-under and two-under to fail to close on Henley.

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