No guarantees Spieth will get another chance

By Doug FergusonJuly 21, 2015, 9:15 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The odds of a Grand Slam were already long simply because no one had ever swept the four professional majors in one year. If that's the best measure, this sobering piece of history might make Jordan Spieth feel even worse.

No one ever got another chance.

Dating to 1960, when Arnold Palmer hatched the modern version of the Grand Slam on his way to St. Andrews, no one came closer to the third leg than Spieth. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play. Two pars would have been enough for a playoff. A par and a birdie would have sent golf into hysteria.

Instead, he missed a par putt on the low side at the 17th, and hit his drive so far left on the closing hole of the Old Course that Spieth was between clubs and had an awkward angle to a front left pin tucked just above the ridge that leads to the Valley of Sin.

The bogey-par finish left him one-shot out of a three-man playoff. He was reduced to the role – and a classy one at that – of spectator on the steps of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse as Zach Johnson won a three-man playoff to join a select group of names on the claret jug.

Kel Nagle, Lee Trevino and Ernie Els were the other three players who ended the quest for a Grand Slam. All of them are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. It's no longer a stretch to think Johnson might join them one day. In an era where it's hard to win anywhere on the PGA Tour, and when there is such a premium on power, the 39-year-old Johnson has 12 wins and two majors in his 12 years on tour. It's hard to dismiss those numbers.

As for Spieth?

''It's a tough feeling being that close in a major. It doesn't matter the historical element of it,'' Spieth said. ''I believe I'll have plenty of opportunities like I did today.''

If he's talking about winning another major, don't bet against him. Las Vegas already has installed him as the favorite at the PGA Championship.

The Grand Slam is another matter.

Palmer was 30 when he first tried for the Grand Slam. He thought he might get another crack at it when he won the Masters in 1962 and was tied for the lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Nicklaus, a 22-year-old Tour rookie, shot 69 in the final round and then beat The King in a playoff the next day. Palmer won one more Masters in 1964 and was one shot out of the lead in the U.S. Open that year until fading on the final day at Congressional.

Nicklaus was 32 when he closed with a 66 in the final round at Muirfield while going for the Grand Slam in 1972. He thought it might be good enough until Trevino chipped in for par on the 17th hole and made another par on the 18th for a one-shot victory. Nicklaus won the Masters again in 1975, but in the U.S. Open at Medinah, he shot 72 in the final round and wound up two shots out of a playoff.

Most surprising was Woods, based solely on his level of dominance.

Woods was 26 when he took himself out of the Grand Slam in 2002 with an 81 in the third round. He was back on top of his game in 2005 when he won the Masters, and he looked like the player to beat in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 until Michael Campbell stood his ground and won by two. Woods was the runner-up. Woods won five more majors, though never a Masters.

Spieth is 21.

He at least has youth on his side, though that only goes so far.

Spieth dominated Augusta National with a wire-to-wire victory. But the U.S. Open required some help. Dustin Johnson missed a half-dozen putts inside 10 feet on the back nine, including a three-putt par from 12 feet on the final hole at Chambers Bay that cost him a spot in the playoff. At the British Open, he had to contend with the likes of Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Zach Johnson.

Yes, he has closed out his share of tournaments.

''This just wasn't one of those,'' he said. ''It's hard to do that every single time.''

Woods said after winning the 1997 Masters that the Grand Slam was a matter of winning the right four weeks of the year. By the end of that year, when he didn't win another major, he said it was difficult just to contend in four majors a year.

Having done it once, Spieth will be on the short list of players who are asked about a Grand Slam after winning the first one.

In the meantime, there is much history he can chase, even if it isn't the holy grail. Ben Hogan (1953) and Woods (2000) are the only players to have captured three majors in one year. No one has ever won all three American-based majors, and Spieth will get that chance next month at the PGA Championship.

And if that doesn't work out?

Spieth already has $9.17 million, and with a World Golf Championship, one more major and four lucrative FedEx Cup playoff events on the schedule, Spieth is within reach of becoming the first $11 million winner in golf. He turns 22 next week and Monday crossed the $17 million mark in career earnings.

End of the Slam. Just not the end of the road.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.