Spieth, Johnson, Day pick key shots from major wins

By Doug FergusonDecember 23, 2015, 12:41 am

Jason Day's drive. Jordan Spieth's flop shot. Zach Johnson's putt.

Major championships produce shots that can be more memorable than the winner holding the trophy. Zach Johnson with a claret jug? The more lasting image from the British Open was Johnson holding his crouch and slowly clenching his fist on the 18th green at St. Andrews.

And then there are shots that stand out only to the player.

The three major champions were asked what they thought was the signature shot from their victory, along with a shot that was particularly pleasing to them because of the circumstances or the quality of the shot.

MASTERS

In a wire-to-wire win, the biggest moment for Spieth was on the 18th hole in the third round. A seven-shot lead only 20 minutes earlier was down to four shots, and it looked certain to shrink even more when he missed the 18th green well to the right behind the bunker. In a risky move, Spieth hit a flop shot that helped him save par and set the tone for the final round.

''That was the key shot,'' he said. ''You could pitch it 15 feet in front and hit it hard enough to at least be on the green. But given the severity of that slope, it's going to roll out. A good shot would be 15 feet. I decided to hit a higher one and spin it. That shot is certainly one I don't want over again. It was 1 in 5 getting it up and down.''

Not so obvious was the 5-iron on the par-5 13th. He had about 190 yards to the front from the left side of the fairway, but the ball was nearly knee-high because of the slope. He was coming off a three-putt bogey on No. 12. The danger comes from ball above his feet because the swing is flatter with less speed, and the ball won't go as far.

Spieth provided his own commentary: ''Go hard! GO HARD! GO HARD! GO!'' It narrowly cleared the creek and set up a two-putt birdie. Asked how many times he barked instructions to his golf ball, Spieth said, ''Less out loud than what was in my head. But still enough.''

U.S. OPEN

The winning shot for Spieth turned out to be a 3-wood on the par-5 18th at Chambers Bay, and he felt he couldn't miss.

''I had 281 (yards), but I only had 238 to cover the front,'' he said. ''The only other option was this 3-iron I was carrying, but it was off an up slope. I hit 3-wood and cut it. As long as I hit a fade, nothing could go wrong, so ultimately I ended up in a perfect yardage. I could miss it really bad and carry the front.''

It bounded to the back of the green and rolled back to about 10 feet for a two-putt birdie.

Lost in a wild final hour was a simple par that really wasn't that simple. Spieth's tee shot on the par-3 15th rolled back off the front, and the slope was much like the elevation at Augusta National - you have to see it to believe it.

''That slope was taller than me,'' he said. ''You had to judge the speed the right way. I had to cast it out to the right, but if I hit it too hard it goes 12 feet by. I can't be short or I'm re-hitting. It was perfect speed and went to 4 or 5 feet for a manageable second putt.''

Only after he made that putt did Spieth look at a leaderboard on the back nine and see that he was tied for the lead.

BRITISH OPEN

Johnson figured he had to make birdie on the 18th at St. Andrews to reach 15 under and have a chance. Known for his wedge game, this wasn't his best - some 30 feet behind the hole - ''but I at least gave myself a look at it.''

Give an assist to Danny Willett.

''Fortunately, I had a good read,'' Johnson said. ''He was 3 to 5 feet from me, so I had a good look at it. I know the putt is left to right, and I know the putt at the end flattens out and potentially goes left, especially after seeing Danny.''

Two thoughts crept into his mind. Johnson lipped out on the final hole a week earlier at the John Deere Classic that kept him out of a playoff. ''It's not a good thought, but it went through my head.'' And he considered the speed. That was a good thought.

''That green is not that fast,'' he said. ''I hit a solid putt, and I hit it perfect. It straightened out at the end, the last 3 feet it went left, and the rest is history.''

Not quite.

It got him into a playoff with Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen. Just as meaningful to Johnson was the 10-foot birdie putt he made on No. 1 in the four-hole playoff. Oosthuizen made birdie from about 15 feet. Johnson felt it was critical not to fall behind.

''The biggest of the week was the first putt in a playoff,'' Johnson said. ''It was huge.''

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

It's hard to find that one signature moment for Day, which speaks to the clinic he put on at Whistling Straits in winning at a record 20-under par. It was after his worst shot that Day was at his best.

He had a two-shot lead going to No. 9, drilled a drive down the middle and Spieth was in trouble in the rough. A model of perfection all week, Day inexplicably chunked his wedge. With momentum at stake, he followed with another wedge to 8 feet and saved his par. Spieth made bogey and Day was on his way.

''To hit such a terrible shot and then come back and get up and down, it was a good momentum change,'' Day said. ''To be able to hit a good pitch ... that's probably the biggest shot I've had to hit.''

It was a full, powerful swing that brought him just as much satisfaction, particularly the 382-yard shot on the par-5 11th that left him no more than a wedge to the green.

''Under those circumstances, it was the best drive I hit all year,'' Day said. ''If I had an off week with my driver, no way I would have won.''

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.