Spieth ready to prove rookie year wasn't a fluke

By Doug FergusonOctober 30, 2013, 3:22 pm

SHANGHAI – Jordan Spieth followed the flight of his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole at Sheshan International, and his amateur partners took great interest just watching his body language. Finally, he offered the slightest slump of his shoulders when he saw the outcome.

''Over the green?'' one of the amateurs asked him.

''I thought it was in,'' Spieth replied. The ball turned just below the cup and settled about 4 feet away.

It's been that kind of year for the 20-year-old Texan.

A year ago, he was in his sophomore year at the University of Texas. A few weeks ago, he was a guest on the sidelines of the OU-Texas game. In one amazing year, he went from failing the second stage of Q-school on the PGA Tour to playing a World Golf Championship in Shanghai. He went from not having a tour card to playing in the Presidents Cup. He showed up for the HSBC Champions at No. 20 in the world.

And even though the calendar still shows 2013, this week marks the start of his encore.

Spieth just last month wrapped up a rookie season that featured $4.5 million, including his FedEx Cup bonus for finishing at No. 7. He starts at zero on Thursday.

''I think there's a lot to prove this year to follow it up,'' Spieth said. ''Obviously, last season was more than I could have dreamt. But I met with my coach and we've set new goals. I'm changing my schedule, and most of the events I'll play will be against a lot harder fields for most of the year. I'm just looking ahead. I never really did look back.''

That would be a lot to digest.

Spieth had no status on any tour when he took a right turn in March by skipping a chance to get a Web.com Tour card in South America so he could honor a commitment to play in the Puerto Rico Open. He tied for second and was on his way. Spieth had temporary PGA Tour membership locked up by May, he contended on the weekend at Colonial and Congressional, broke through with a win at the John Deere Classic, and the hits kept coming.

A playoff loss in the Wyndham Championship. Playing with Phil Mickelson for the first time and closing with a 62 at the TPC Boston. The phone call – it still gives him chills thinking about that – from Fred Couples making him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup. Nearly winning the FedEx Cup with a 64 in the final round of the Tour Championship. And then going 2-2 in his Presidents Cup debut. He had to reset his goals about five times during the course of nine months.

There are times when he remembers his youth. As he finished up his pro-am Wednesday, the conversation turned to the Asia-Pacific Amateur, which was won last week by 19-year-old Lee Chang-woo of South Korea.

''He's about the same age I am,'' Spieth said.

But when he sets up on the practice range next to Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and PGA champion Jason Dufner, he realizes he's in another league. And he knows the only way to stay there is to keep moving forward.

''The Presidents Cup was real exciting to reflect on,'' he said. ''As far as the year goes, the only thing I looked back on was gaining confidence in pressure situations, and being able to make some putts. I had goals and I had to set new goals. I never had to do that before. It was cool to see each goal get surpassed so quickly. We were riding a lot of confidence.''

There was something different about this kid last year. He had a confidence about him that only increased with every opportunity and every big moment. To see Spieth reminded Phil Blackmar of his early days on the PGA Tour, especially his first major at Cherry Hills for the PGA Championship.

''I'm playing with Hale Irwin,'' Blackmar said in a recent interview. ''I had never played with him. The eighth hole is a par 3, and we had to wait on the group ahead of us. I was minding my business, and he comes over, looks up at me and turns to the crowd and says, 'He doesn't have it. You can tell by the look in his eyes.'

''So I said, 'How in the hell can he tell? He can't see this high.' And Hale turned bright red,'' Blackmar said. ''But what he said was true. You can tell something about guys that are on the right side of the edge. There's something about their body language, their facial expression. Jordan has that. He would have had a similar response. To me, he has that same sort of makeup.''

Spieth didn't do anything after the Presidents Cup when he returned home to Dallas. He is moving into a new house he bought, which took up his time. He is starting a workout program to get stronger as he prepares for the big events. And even though he couldn't stop talking about meeting with Texas coach Mack Brown the night before a 36-20 win over the Sooners, perhaps the most important day of his break was with coach Cameron McCormick.

They looked over his statistics and tried to identify strengths and weakness. They set new goals – again.

''Overall short game, wedge work, long irons,'' Spieth said. ''What we said is if I take the same routine and spent a little extra time – maybe an hour a day, 30 minutes, whatever it is – and work around the greens, it will be a better year.''

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.