The Open 2018: Kevin Kisner leads on day one after spending his time shooting both golf balls and footballs with 7-a-side US team


THOSE ‘frat boys’ from America are planning another party, after Kevin Kisner shot a flawless 66 to grab the first round lead at Carnoustie.

Kisner is part of a gang of seven Americans who are staying together, eating together – and playing football together, even though it means having to go baseball cap in hand to ask the neighbours if they can have their ball back please.

Kevin Kisner leads The Open after day one in Carnoustie
Kevin Kisner leads The Open after day one in Carnoustie
AP:Associated Press

That group includes defending champion Jordan Spieth and 2015 Open winner Zach Johnson.

A third Claret Jug in four years would spark a rowdy celebration, especially as it would mean the Yanks have won six Majors in a row for the first time since 1982.

That party could require a few more apologies, and Kisner revealed it was Spieth who was their best footballer – although he also tends to give the ball an “’ave it!” type thump.

Kisner explained: “Yeah, Jordan is absolutely our best player – until he sends it over the goal and four houses across, and we’ve got to go knock on neighbours’ doors for the soccer ball.”

Jordan Spieth is part of Kevin Kisner's 7-a-side football team in Carnoustie
Jordan Spieth is part of Kevin Kisner’s 7-a-side football team in Carnoustie
AP:Associated Press
2015 Open winner Zach Johnson has been enjoying a kick-about with Kevin Kisner and Co
2015 Open winner Zach Johnson has been enjoying a kick-about with Kevin Kisner and Co
AFP or licensors

“The thing that impresses me with all those guys is how close everyone is as buddies – and that you’re pretty much the best at everything.

“When you get around those guys, everybody is really good. So it’s pretty cool to watch how athletic a lot of those guys are. Except Jason Dufner!

“No, I’m just kidding. Duff is athletic too. He’s the all-time goalie, and I just try to smash the ball into his face.”

The magnificent seven is completed by Rickie Fowler and USPGA champions Justin Thomas and Jimmy Walker.

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Dufner has also won the USPGA, while Spieth is three quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam and Johnson is also a Masters winner.

That means the fraternity has eight Major titles between them, although Kisner said that was news to him.

Jason Dufner is making a name for himself in goal during The Open
Jason Dufner is making a name for himself in goal during The Open
Getty Images – Getty

He shrugged: “I have zero towards that total, so I don’t really know how many they have.”

Kinser, 34, was in pole position to break his Major duck at last year’s USPGA, when he held the lead after the first, second and third rounds.

But a closing 74 saw him slip into a tie for seventh, with Thomas shooting 68 to storm to victory.

Asked if he had learned anything in that event that would help him this week he replied: “Yeah – all those other guys are really good at golf!

Rickie Fowler is another of the 'frat boy' American team relaxing by playing football
Rickie Fowler is another of the ‘frat boy’ American team relaxing by playing football
Reuters

 

Jimmy Walker has been playing football with the Americans at The Open
Jimmy Walker has been playing football with the Americans at The Open
Getty Images – Getty

The man from Aiken in South Carolina is pretty useful himself. He has won twice on the PGA Tour, and gone close on plenty more occasions – he has lost FOUR play-offs in the last three years.

He is also 19th on the Ryder Cup points list, and was one of only five Americans who joined US captain Jim Furyk on a fact-finding mission to this year’s venue near Paris last weekend.

Most of his potential team-mates boycotted the trip to gain extra links practice – yet Tony Finau, one of the men just a shot behind, was another of the quintet who made the trip to Paris.

Maybe getting familiar with the links is a bit over-rated.

Kisner added: “There’s no doubt that I want to be on our Ryder Cup team – I would hope every American player would want to be on the team and every European player. But it doesn’t matter how bad you want it if you don’t play well.

Kevin Kisner hopes to be part of US captain Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup team
Kevin Kisner hopes to be part of US captain Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup team
AFP or licensors

“I knew coming here that this was the start of a four-week stretch here where if I played well, it would be a great opportunity to move up the list.

“And I’m really looking forward to playing over there. The golf course in France was sweet. I think it’s perfect for my game, so like I said, I have to go make the team.

“Look, If you don’t believe in yourself out here, you’re going to get run over pretty quickly. I tolled the ball beautifully today and had only 22 putts. If I do that for the next three days, I bet I’ll have a pretty good shot.”

Finau’s four under par 67 was matched by Erik van Rooyen, who only squeezed into the Open field by finishing fourth at the Irish equivalent two weeks ago, and fellow South African Zander Lombard.

South African Eric van Rooyen matched Tony Finau's four under-par 67
South African Eric van Rooyen matched Tony Finau’s four under-par 67
AFP or licensors
South African Zander Lombard is another who could break the American stronghold
South African Zander Lombard is another who could break the American stronghold
AP:Associated Press

If the American stranglehold on the Majors is to be ended this week, it is the Springboks who look most likely to send them packing as things stand now.

Brandon Stone, who was inches away from shooting the first 59 in European history as he powered to victory in the Scottish Open on Sunday, shot a 68 to give them three players in the top seven.

But there are also two more Americans on three under par, Ryan Moore and Brendan Steele, and you have to look a further notch down the leaderboard to get to the men leading the European challenge, including Rory McIlroy.

Thankfully, they have plenty of time to make the Americans scrap their party plans.


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