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postage stamp, royal troon, open championship
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The eighth hole at Royal Troon, the "postage stamp," always promises plenty of highlights and lowlights.

If I was a spectator at this year's Open Championship at Royal Troon, I would camp out at the eighth hole all day.

The "postage stamp" hole is only 123 yards, so there's always a chance for a hole-in-one lurking. Yet it's tiny 2700 square foot putting surface and five coffin bunkers also cause some incrediblely frustrating situations for the players.

Both of those were on display Friday. In the morning, when winds were calm and the rain was light, the hole was playing as the easiest on the course.

This lead to three really good chances for holes-in one, from Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer, and Jim Furyk.

 
 
Then as the day went on, the winds began to hit 25mph and stronger, and the hole became a nightmare for players. Jordan Spieth was among a handful of players who found the deep bunkers around the green and had a hard time getting out.
 
 
However, Spieth's effort seemed merciful compared to the adventure Shugo Imahira went on at the eighth hole.
 
 
Bubba Watson found his way into that same bunker on the right side of the green, but was able to pull off one of the more impressive shots of the entire day.
 
The postage stamp never disappoints. I can't wait to see what else it has in store for the players going into the weekend.
 
henrik stenson, the Open, royal troon
USA Today Sports Images
The weather became a factor Friday at Royal Troon, but the picture of the Open Championship became a little clearer.

1. Stenson makes a charge

After Phil Mickelson's 63 on Thursday, his lead seemed secure and there was a chance he could run away with the tournament. But Henrik Stenson came out firing in round two, carding a blistering 65 that leaves him just one shot behind Lefty going into the weekend.

Stenson already has three top-3 finishes at the Open, most recently in 2013 when he was runner-up to none other than Phil Mickelson.

The key for Stenson this week has been finding greens in regulation, a statistic in he leads the field. If he hits 31 of 36 greens in regulation on the weekend like he has these first two days, he has a good chance to hoist the Claret Jug.

RELATED: Phil nearly aces the postage stamp | Mickelson's 62 stopped by the "golf gods"

2. Players with afternoon tee times struggled

The organization of the tee times has an effect on every golf tournament, but nowhere is it more important than at the Open Championship.

Players who had afternoon tee times on day one played on a golf course with absolutely no wind. Those advantageous conditions yielded low scores, such as Phil Mickelson's impressive 63. This same group of players received a huge advantage on Friday, teeing off in the morning in a light wind and rain that may have been uncomfortable but softened the course considerably. All 10 of Friday's rounds in the 60's came from those that teed off in the morning.

The group that teed off in the morning on day one and afternoon of day two found themselves fighting the worst of the conditions. There aren't any players from this grouping in the top 14 on the leaderboard. The closest to the lead are Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, who find themselves eight shots off the lead.

3. Misery loves company

Calling the weather "a slight disadvantage" to those with Friday afternoon tee times is a huge understatement. With gusts reaching 35 miles per hour at some points and rain coming in sideways, those that had to make tracks around the course in the afternoon were not exactly enjoying themselves.

But incredibly, or perhaps predictably, the weather did little to deter the number of spectators on the golf course. Despite the wet and cold conditions, fans were still huddled around the holes on the back nine as light faded on Friday evening and most of the big-name players had finished.

RELATED: Darren Clarke drops gum, picks it up, keeps chewing | Best photos from Troon

4. The stars are struggling

There's some debate over who's in "The Big Three" or "The Fab Four" or whatever catch phrase we're using these days. But all six of the top players in the world rankings find themselves outside of the top 10 and no closer than eight shots from the lead at the Open heading into the weekend.

Jason Day actually had one of the best rounds of anyone with an afternoon tee times Friday, but his 70 only brought him to one-over for the tournament, 11 shots removed from Mickelson's lead. Red-hot Dustin Johnson found himself on the right side of the weather, yet only turned in a two-under par total.

Jordan Spieth struggled mightily with both the weather and his putter, and fought along the cut line for his entire round before shooting a 75 and coming in right on the cut number at plus-four. Rory McIlroy's strong opening round buffered his second round 71 and kept him within striking distance at minus-two.

Friday gave us the full Bubba Watson experience, as he pulled off some incredible shots but also posted some high numbers that ultimately placed him right under the cut line with a birdie on 18. Finally, Rickie Fowler did well just to hang on in the whipping winds and post a 72 that has him at one-under going into the weekend.

It seems unlikely that this year's "champion golfer of the year" will come from this marquee group of stars.

5. The postage stamp produces highlights and lowlights

The 123-yard signature hole at Royal Troon never disappoints.

We saw three really good chances at holes-in-one from Mickelson, Martin Kaymer, and Jim Furyk. We saw players like Jordan Spieth and Danny Willett find bunkers and not be able to get out. And we saw players find the bunkers and pull off incredible recovery shots, like Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson.

July 15, 2016 - 12:07pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Nicolo Ravano
@Challenge_Tour
It's very rare to see a score of 59 in an 18-hole round of golf. On Friday, it happened in the rarest fashion ever when Challenge Tour player Nicolo Ravano holed out for eagle from the fairway on the final hole for his 12-under 59.

We take this short break from Open Championship coverage to show you arguably the most dramatic way to card a 59 imaginable.

Nicolo Ravano -- playing in the Challenge Tour's Challenge de Espana on Friday -- holed out for eagle on his final hole to card the historic 12-under 59.

 

 

According to the Challenge Tour, Ravano didn't know he shot just the second official 59 in the history of the European, Challenge and Senior Tours until he reached the green.

Here was his reaction:

 

 

From the European Challenge Tour:

“It is a great, great feeling,” said Ravano, whose previous career best over 18 holes was eight under par.

“Throughout today I just played safe and gave myself a lot of chances for birdie. Then I went out and holed a lot of putts – I have never putted as well in my life – so am very happy.

“Walking down 18 nobody clapped so it was a really nice surprise to find that it had gone in the hole.

“I was afraid that the ball was spinning out of the green and in to the bunker – when I didn’t see it was on the green that’s what I was looking at.

“There was a ball on the fringe and I thought it was mine. But the caddy of Joseph [Dean] told me ‘it’s in’ and it was a great moment.

“When I realised it was 59 I was very proud as you don’t see many of those. I am hoping I can make it happen again and get it done. I now have to keep the momentum going over the weekend.”

 

 

July 15, 2016 - 11:44am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Darren Clarke
@GolfChannel
European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke wasn't going to let a little grass and a little dirt get in the way of his piece of gum.

Evidently no one in Darren Clarke's Friday threesome could spare a piece of gum for the 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain and 2011 Open Champion.

As he stroked a putt on the par-5 14th hole, the gum Clarke was chewing jumped out of his mouth and fell onto the green.

No big deal for Clarke, who clearly adheres to the five-second rule:

As you can see, Clarke made the putt, picked the gum up off the green, gave it a quick look and deposited it back into his mouth.

Carry on.

Sir Nick Faldo was more than a little grossed out. 

July 15, 2016 - 7:12am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Paul Casey
@GolfChannel
Ugh. Paul Casey turned what looked to be a routine par at Royal Troon's par-4 seventh hole into an ugly, 5-putt triple bogey in the second round of the Open Championship on Friday.

After shooting a disappointing 6-over 77 in Round 1 of the Open Championship, England's Paul Casey really needed to get something going in Round 2.

It looked as if he was going to do just that. After a bogey at the second, Casey rattled off three consecutive birdies.

Everything, however, was derailed at the 398-yard, par-4 seventh hole (where he made one of his two birdies in Round 1). After lagging up a long birdie putt, Casey faced a 4-footer for par.

Moments later -- five putts total, later -- Casey walked away with a crushing triple-bogey, instantly giving back the three birdies he worked so hard to get:

That was hard to watch. 

July 15, 2016 - 5:31am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Phil Mickelson
@TheOpen
Phil Mickelson is on fire at Royal Troon. The five-time major champ missed an ace at the famed "Postage Stamp" by 2 inches, setting up a birdie for an early five-stroke lead in Round 2.

One day removed from nearly setting a new major championship, 18-hole scoring record, Phil Mickelson is showing no signs of slowing down at Royal Troon in the 145th Open Championship.

Mickelson, who shot an 8-under 63 in Round 1 when his putt for a major-best 62 lipped out, jumped out to a five-stroke advantage early on Friday with birdies on three of his first eight holes to get to 11 under.

The five-time major winner's blitzing of the field early on has been thanks to shots like this one on the par-3 eighth hole, the "Postage Stamp" -- Royal Troon's signature hole and one of the most iconic holes in the game:

 

 

You can't get much closer to an ace without the ball dropping than that. Two. Inches.

And more good news for Mickelson: early indications suggest that he may be a luck of the draw beneficiary with his first and second round tee times. The weather is getting nasty in Scotland and it's expected to get worse as the day wears on. It would seem that all the stars could be aligning for Mickelson, who hasn't won a tournament since his 2013 victory in the Open.