Spieth steals spotlight from Woods, leads by one

By Doug FergusonJanuary 25, 2014, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO - Jordan Spieth turned out to be the star attraction Friday playing with Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines.

Spieth again showed game well beyond his 20 years with a 9-under 63 on the North Course, giving him a one-shot lead over Stewart Cink going into the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open. Cink drilled a 3-wood from 280 yards onto the green at the par-5 ninth on the tougher South Course for a two-putt birdie and a 71.

Woods rarely gets upstaged at Torrey Pines, where his eight professional wins include the 2008 U.S. Open.

But in his first competition in six weeks, Woods hardly looked the part as the defending champion. He did not make birdie on any of the par 5s for the second straight day, and a three-putt bogey on the par-5 ninth hole on the North gave him a 71.

He was nine shots behind.


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, videos and photos


Phil Mickelson's ailing back wasn't much better, though Lefty plodded along and shot 73 on the South to finish eight shots out of the lead. Mickelson contemplated pulling out to rest his back, and said only that he would give it a shot Saturday depending on how he felt.

It was the first time Spieth has played with Woods in a tournament - they played a practice round together at the Presidents Cup last fall - and the Texan felt and played as if it was any other round on the PGA Tour.

Then again, the first time he played with Mickelson, Spieth closed with a 62 at the TPC Boston last year, a round that led Mickelson to call Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples and lobby for Spieth to be picked for the team.

In both cases, Spieth was more interested in the score than the audience.

''Any time you can shoot a lower score than a 66 or 65 and you can really get it deep and be in a zone and not worry about what your score is ... that's special,'' Spieth said. ''That's proving that I can play my best golf when it matters on a PGA Tour venue. Each time you can do that, you get more and more confident that you can do it more often.''

As for playing with Woods? He only shrugged.

Spieth grew up watching, idolizing and being amazed by Woods. But this was only a Friday.

''They were both rounds that I needed to move up the leaderboard,'' he said about playing with Woods this week and Mickelson last year. ''They weren't in the last couple groups on Sunday, so they weren't to win. They were to get myself up and in a position.''

Spieth was at 10-under 134 and will be in the last group Saturday with Cink and Nicolas Colsaerts, who shot 67 on the South and was two shots behind.

''I'm looking forward to playing with Jordan. I've never seen him hit a ball, so that will be fun,'' Cink said. ''It's always exciting to see the young guys play. I'm playing really well. I'm really excited about golf right now and the way I'm playing. I'm having some fun out there and seeing a lot of good things.''

The final two rounds will be on the South, which is about 600 yards longer and on Friday played more than 4 1/2 shots harder.

Spieth didn't hit the ball better than his opening-round 71 on the South. His putter made the difference. He rolled in a bending 18-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole and his confidence grew there. He avoided a three-putt on the 17th by making a 15-footer for par, and he really took off down the stretch. He holed another sidehill birdie putt on the par-3 sixth from about 20 feet, and he made a 15-footer for his final birdie on the eighth hole. The rest of his birdie putts were inside 4 feet.

''The kid's got talent,'' Woods said. ''He hits it a long way, phenomenal putter. He made a boatload of putts today from the 10- to 20-foot range, and on poa greens, that's not easy to do. He was pouring them in there. He had speed to them, too. That's what you have to do to putt on poa.

''He putted with a lot of confidence.''

That wasn't the case for Woods, whose only birdies came on his opening hole and on his sixth hole, a flip wedge to 4 feet. He didn't feel like he was off by much, but that's all it took. The course is set up in such a way that the thickest grass is just off the fairway.

''I wouldn't say it's rusty,'' Woods said. ''I was just a fraction off, and at this level and on golf courses like this, if you're just a fraction off it doesn't take much, especially as tight as the North Course is. I had so many balls that landed in the fairway that went in the rough. Now I can't be aggressive, I've got to play conservative into some of these flags. When you should be able to fire at some of these flags, I just couldn't.''

The cut was at even-par 144, and 83 players advanced. There will be another cut to top 70 and ties after the third round.

Woods wasn't ruling himself out just yet. He remembered the time he made the cut by two shots in 1999, and then had a 62-65 weekend to win by two shots. But that was before the South Course was lengthened. No had better than 67 the first two days this week on the South.

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.