Jun 12, 2014 | 08:04 AM

Fading From First

The 2014 U.S. Open is now officially underway at Pinehurst No. 2 and a first round leader will soon be analyzed by experts everywhere. But being that guy (or guys) is not always a good thing. Only 20 first round leaders have gone on to win the national championship. Rory McIlroy (above) was the last to do it during his win in 2011 at Congressional Country Club. Phil Mickelson opened with the lead last year, but you know how that worked out. So did Brendon De Jonge (2010), Mike Weir (2009), Nick Dougherty (2007) and Colin Montgomerie (2006), among others, who all failed in their quest for a U.S. Open title. Here are some other first round facts from U.S. Open history to keep in mind today:

  • Largest Lead After First Round: 5 strokes (Tommy Armour, 1933)
  • Lowest First Round Score by Winner: 63 (Jack Nicklaus, Baltusrol, 1980)
  • Highest First Round Score by Winner (post WW II): 76 (Ben Hogan, Oakland Hills – 1951; Jack Fleck, Olympic Club – 1955)
  • Most Players Tied For First Round Lead: 7 (1977 – Southern Hills)
  • Most Sub-Par First Round Scores: 39 (1990 – Medinah)
  • Fewest Sub-Par Rounds by Field, First Round: 0 (1951 – Oakland Hills; 1958 – Southern Hills; 1974 – Winged Foot; 1986 – Shinnecock Hills)
  • Start-to-Finish Winners (no ties): 7 (Most recently Rory McIlroy, 2011)
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Jun 11, 2014 | 09:39 AM

Billionaire Caddie

He may not be the biggest name in the U.S. Open field, but he certainly has the most interesting name—Maverick McNealy—a Stanford sophomore (with three brothers named Dakota, Colt, and Scout) who earned a spot through the sectional qualifier in Northern California. And no matter how well he does this week, Maverick won’t have to worry about how much to tip his caddie. Shouldering the bag is his father, Scott McNealy, the billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Maverick tees off at 8:46 tomorrow when one of his playing companions will be another name to reckon with—Smylie Kaufman.

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Jun 10, 2014 | 11:07 AM

While We're Young

The Three/45 Golf Association, a non-profit of golfers, course owners, manufacturers, and architects advocating quicker play, has just released its first advanced study of pace of play, perhaps the most comprehensive report ever. Rather than relying on surveys like past studies, the researchers utilized GPS-equipped carts to collect precise information on more than 40,000 rounds last June at 175 public and private courses. The findings:
•    The average round took 4 hours and 17 minutes.
•    There’s a great variation from course to course, day of the week, and time of day.
•    The five fastest courses averaged 3 hours and 36 minutes and were all private.
•    The five slowest courses averaged 4 hours and 50 minutes and were all public.
•    Course length or difficulty had no statistical bearing on the time it took, so “Play it Forward” might not help.
•    A statistically significant relationship was found, however, between how long a round took and the number of tee times. The five slowest courses had two-and-one-half times more play than the fastest, adding strong evidence to the importance of tee-time intervals.
The takeaway? Growing the game is in direct opposition to speeding up the game, at least on the weekend at crowded public courses. To read the full 31-page report, click here.

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Jun 09, 2014 | 06:41 PM

Why Did Phil Do It?

Okay, we're not sure he did do it, and by "it" we mean engage in insider trading as potentially alleged by the US government. The story broke a little more than a week ago, tying Phil Mickelson to corporate raider Carl Icahn and Las Vegas big-hitter Billy Walters in reaping large gains from the trading of stock in Clorox a few years ago. Did he do it, did he not do it, that's not the issue right here. What is is an article worth reading from the New York Times by financial writer James B. Stewart on what makes people like Mickelson—for whom money is not the object—"gamble" like the do. It's interesting stuff, especially as Phil comes to Pinehurst this week looking to finally win the U.S. Open, an event in which he's been badly hurt by gambling with his game.

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