July 20, 2012
by Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –
On an uncommonly benign day at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Georgia Tech was fairly represented in Thursday’s kickoff of the British Open.
Four former Yellow Jackets are chasing the Claret Jug, and they didn’t leave a lot to write home about unless you happen to be a fan of schizophrenic golf. In that case, Troy Matteson — who qualified for the field at the literal last second by making it to a playoff last Sunday in the John Deere Classic — was your man. His back nine was radically up and down even as his net for the day, one of the most eventful rounds of 70 there might be, was both par for the course and symbolic of the Tech quartet overall.
The low Jacket was Matt Kuchar. He fired a fine 69 which a lot of years would find him sniffing the lead. That wouldn’t surprise anyone; “Kooch” is having a stellar year as he ranks No. 6 on the PGA money list with $3.3 million earned to date.
Yet with almost no wind to be battled and just a few spits of drizzle in the afternoon, scores were more microscopic than usual. Kuchar is in 22nd place — tied with 14 other golfers. Shoot, the sun even showed its face Thursday!
That score was saying something, though, because Matt was two-over after the first three holes. He bogeyed Nos. 2 and 3 before covering his tracks with birdies at Nos. 8, 10 and 11. Everything else was a par.
Kuchar will go off today at 8:43 a.m ET in a group that is to include Open leader Adam Scott. He’s at six under.
Not so long ago, Stewart Cink won this thing. Thursday, there wasn’t much sign of his 2009 form. His 72 left him two-over and tied with 18 others, including fellow former Open champion John Daly, in 80th place. For reference, the low 70 and ties will make the cut after the end of Friday’s second round.
Two former Open champions from Tech are in England this week, and David Duval fared worst. His 74 left him tied for 115th, and a long way from the style he used to win here in 2001. Here, courtesy of ESPN.com, is a clip of Duval’s work at the time: (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8149356&categoryid=2630020). The par 4s were Duval’s undoing Thursday; four of his five bogeys were there.
If you were to look for a Tech poster boy, that would’ve been Matteson for sure.
When he played for coach Bruce Heppler at Tech from 1998-2003 (including a redshirt year), he as a junior became the first Jacket to win the NCAA individual title since the format of the tournament changed years earlier, and repeated as a first team All-American when he was a senior. For good measure, he was the Byron Nelson national Player Of the Year. He won or tied for the title in six tournaments over his final two collegiate seasons. He was one of the most successful Tech golfers in the school’s outstanding history.
Thursday, he was one-under upon stepping up to the 10th tee and onto a roller coaster.
He doubled to start his back nine, and then after a par on the 11th, Matteson went birdie-par-birdie-bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey.
That’s the way I play except you have to substitute bogeys for his birdies and so on, and I would be nowhere near tied for 37th like Matteson.