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.''

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.