Spieth defeats Reed, O'Hair in Valspar playoff

By Doug FergusonMarch 15, 2015, 11:04 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - Some of the best short-game shots Jordan Spieth has hit in his young career have been on the final two holes on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

Two years ago, it paved the way for him to get his PGA Tour card as a teenager.

He came full circle Sunday by making two improbable par saves to get into a playoff, and then winning the Valspar Championship on the third extra hole by making a 30-foot birdie putt to beat Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair.

"I would rank those definitely in the top five I've ever had given the lies and the scenario," Spieth said.

And the winning putt?

"That's just luck," he said with a smile. "Guess it was my day."

It put an end to an afternoon of back-nine charges, big birdie putts and clutch par saves, the latest chapter in a PGA Tour season that already has featured eight playoffs.

This one was off the charts.


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Reed rammed in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to cap off a 5-under 66, and then was lounging in a chair waiting to see if anyone could catch him, and they how many would join him. O'Hair got there with a 30-foot birdie on the 16th hole and a tough par save on the 18th, making a 5-foot putt look far easier than a guy who has now gone 87 starts since his last win.

Spieth looked like he wouldn't make it to the finish line. Tied for the lead, he left his 6-iron well to the right on the par-3 17th and hoped for the best. He said to caddie Michael Greller, "Please be a good lie or not on a downslope."

It was a terrible lie on a downslope.

Spieth hit a flop shot that landed perfectly and rolled 6 feet by the hole, and he saved his par. On the 18th, he hit a fat shot from a fairway bunker some 35 yards short, with a clump of grass behind it and the grain of the grass into the ball. Greller's advice was for Spieth to at least have a chance for par. He hit another flop to 12 feet, and the putt fell on the last turn from the left side of the cup.

"A crazy back nine," Spieth said.

Three behind with six holes to play, Spieth closed with a 2-under 69 to catch a faltering Ryan Moore and win his second PGA Tour title, both in a playoff. It was his fourth win worldwide - he now has three wins in his last eight starts around the world - to reach a career-high No. 6 in the world and already surpass $10 million in career earnings.

The 24-year-old Reed went his final 30 holes without a bogey and made two par saves in the playoff that were as good as anything Spieth did.

From a plugged lie in the lip of the bunker on the 18th in the playoff, he blasted out to 10 feet and rolled it in like it was a 3-footer. On the next playoff hole, the 16th, he went deep over the green into grass so deep he couldn't see it, and nearly holed the shot.

He was in deep trouble on the third playoff hole, too, and hit a bunker shot to 6 feet.

"I didn't even have to hit the putt because Jordan poured it in," said Reed, who beat Spieth in a playoff for the first of his four PGA Tour wins at the Wyndham Championship in August 2013.

O'Hair hasn't won since the 2011 Canadian Open, and he had to earn back his full PGA Tour card the last two years at the Web.com Tour Finals. In contention for the first time since longer than he can remember, his swing and his nerves held up fine. O'Hair had a 12-foot birdie putt to win on the second playoff hole, and it caught the right edge of the lip and spun away.

He played bogey-free on the back nine and shot 31 to close with a 67.

"I gave myself a chance," O'Hair said. "That's really all I can do. I played solid all day, played solid all week, and then the playoff was a ton of fun. Two young guys made me feel really old."

O'Hair is 32 with four children. He turned pro when Spieth was in the first grade. This was a big boost for O'Hair, who was never far from the lead for four days.

Henrik Stenson, in his Innisbrook debut, ran off three straight birdies and closed with a 67 to fall one shot short of the playoff.

Only two players in 2015 have had at least a share of the 54-hole lead and went on to victory on the PGA Tour. Moore did not become the third. He holed a 7-iron on the sixth hole for an eagle to take a two-shot lead, and back-to-back birdies early on the back nine stretched his lead to three shots with six to play.

Moore went long and into thick rough on the par-3 13th and made bogey, and then dropped another shot on the 16th. He made one more bogey on the 18th when his hopes were gone, closed with a 72 and finished fifth.

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.