Spieth's amazing ride continues at Presidents Cup

By Doug FergusonOctober 2, 2013, 9:59 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Every step of the way in the amazing rookie season of Jordan Spieth brings more than he could have imagined.

And then he stepped to the 12th tee Wednesday at Muirfield Village.

It got even better.

Spieth and Steve Stricker, his partner for the opening session of the Presidents Cup, were already behind in an abbreviated match against Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, who had made two eagles in the tough alternate-shot format. Woods blasted an 8-iron into the par 3. Typical of his year, Spieth wasn't about to be outdone.


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He tracked the flight of a smooth 7-iron, watched it bounce short and then disappear into the cup for a hole-in-one that sent cheers reverberating across the golf course.

''Everybody's hands went up, so our arms went up, and it was really cool,'' Spieth said.

Can it get any better?

He started the season without status on any tour. He assured himself a PGA Tour card in four months. He won the John Deere Classic in July. Only one of the best shots of the year kept him from winning again in August. Playing with Phil Mickelson for the first time, he shot 62 in the final round at the TPC Boston, such an impressive display that Mickelson sent a text message to Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples that said, ''Dude, you've got to pick this guy.''

Couples did, and Spieth made it look even better by nearly winning the Tour Championship.

The International team is rallying around the energy of seven newcomers to the Presidents Cup. The Americans are getting plenty of that from one rookie – a 20-year-old from Dallas who first showed poise on the big stage when he was on the fringe of contention at the Byron Nelson Championship at age 16.

The next big chance starts Thursday when Spieth makes his debut as the youngest American ever in the Presidents Cup. He plays with Stricker – at 46, the oldest player on this team – against Ernie Els and Brendon De Jonge.

Spieth had not celebrated his first birthday when Els won his first major championship.

The two days of practice leading up to the Presidents Cup have been relatively calm. Most of the players know this course from the Memorial, and most are still taking it easy after such a long stretch to end the 2013 tour season. Leave it to Spieth to deliver the first ''wow'' moment of the week.

Davis Love III, an assistant to Couples this week, was standing by the 12th green when Spieth made his ace.

''Every time I've been around him, great things happen,'' Love said. ''I've been kind of watching him since he was real young – like four years ago. He came through the junior ranks barely ahead of my son, so I've always been impressed with everything he's done. He says the right thing, does the right thing.''

Perhaps the strongest assessment came from Love's wife when she told him, ''He just walked in the room like he belongs.''

Spieth comes from an athletic family. His mother played college basketball; his father played college baseball. His younger brother, Steven, plays basketball as a freshman at Brown. Spieth dabbled in everything, but fell in love with golf early.

Inspiration comes from the youngest member of his family, 12-year-old Ellie, a special-needs child who brings Spieth even more joy than he can find in golf. As a high school senior, he volunteered in her classroom every Wednesday.

''I got to see her around her peers, which I don't think a lot of people get to do, to be in a special needs classroom,'' Spieth said. ''It's a lot of fun. It's more fun I think than I ever had at school. A lot of them are much smarter at certain subjects than we were at their age. They just have some things that they don't do quite as well. It's a lot of fun to be able to help, and that's what I look forward to doing for years down the road is getting involved with special-needs kids.''

His hope is to build a foundation around that.

For now, there is golf to be played. And for all that Spieth has achieved this year, the Presidents Cup is his biggest stage.

''I think he's ready to go out there and win some matches,'' Keegan Bradley said. ''He's not afraid of the big moment, which is important.''

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.