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The story behind Spieth's 'Go get that' line to Greller

By Doug FergusonDecember 26, 2017, 6:15 pm

With three words, Jordan Spieth delivered a British Open moment as memorable as the 50-foot eagle putt that prompted his famous line.

''Go get that.''

He was telling Michael Greller to get his ball from the cup as Spieth stood to the side of the 15th green, still soaking up the significance of such a long eagle putt that restored his lead with three holes to play.

And there's a story behind it.

The reaction, while entirely spontaneous, might not have happened except for Spieth being in the makeshift gym all week at Royal Birkdale.

''I had been watching replays of the Open in the gym,'' Spieth said. ''There was a TV in there, and they were playing old Opens. For whatever reason, it intrigued me earlier in the week that the guys, when they made putts, they never went and picked their ball out of the hole. The caddie went and got it on long putts. And I guess that stuck in my head: 'You don't have to pick the ball out of the hole. Michael can go get it.'''

There was more to the moment, of course.

Two holes earlier, Spieth missed the 13th fairway so far to the right that it hit a spectator in the head and caromed into the dunes. When he found it, he realized the driving range was not out of bounds, took a drop, had to take relief from the equipment truck and sent Greller toward the green to scout out the shot. The whole process took some 20 minutes as Matt Kuchar waited at the green.

On the 15th hole, he was in a bunker in two and blasted out to about 6 feet, and then Spieth made his 50-foot eagle putt.

''Michael, when I looked over, he's laughing,'' Spieth said. ''For whatever reason, I didn't want to walk all the way up there. It was pretty far away. He started to walk toward the bag, but I was already walking toward the bag and I was really intense at that point. 'Michael, go get that!'

''It was half being serious, like: 'Go get it quickly because Kuch still needs to putt and we don't need to drag this on. I've already been in his way too much the last couple of holes. Let's not do that anymore.' And it was half intense - 'Pick that ball out of the hole.'''

Either way, Greller went and got it. Spieth added two birdies and his name was etched into the silver claret jug.


MASTERS UPDATE: Some of the best mail during the holidays is a simple white envelope from Augusta National, officially extending invitations to those who have met criteria for the Masters (and for past major champions no longer exempt who will be honorary invitees).

At the end of the year, 80 players already were eligible and expected to compete, a list that includes (for now) Tiger Woods.

That's two fewer than at this time a year ago, increasing the odds that the Masters again will meet its target of having fewer than 100 players at Augusta National the first full week in April. Having a small field is important to the club. The Masters has not had more than 100 players since 1966.

One spot awarded next month is reserved for the Latin American Amateur champion. No more than 13 spots will be available for winners of PGA Tour events (except for the new Dominican Republic event held opposite the Match Play). One of those is at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where all but seven players at Kapalua already are exempt.

There also is one more chance for players to qualify by being among the top 50 in the world on March 25.


TOUR LEVELS: Kevin Kisner has learned all about the different levels of the PGA Tour based on performance.

It starts with getting a PGA Tour card, a big deal until players realize they are limited in where they can play. Kisner didn't play a tournament with guaranteed money and no cut until two years ago at the Bridgestone Invitational.

The next stage is keeping a full tour card, followed by winning.

At the close of a year that saw him win Colonial for his second PGA Tour title and make his first U.S. team at the Presidents Cup, Kisner noticed something else about his change in fortunes.

''The tournaments I play now, I don't even see half the guys I used to see all the time,'' he said.

There's also the case of Scott Brown, one of his best friends who grew up with Kisner in Aiken, South Carolina, and is a member with him at Palmetto Golf Club.

''It's almost three levels of the tour,'' he said. ''But that's fine. It's part of it.''

Brown was a rookie in 2012, and Kisner had returned for a second season on the PGA Tour after losing his card. They played 23 of the same 24 events that year, the difference being Brown played the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook and Kisner played the Houston Open.

Fast forward five years, and Brown played 32 times in 2017. Kisner was only in 17 of those tournaments. The seven tournaments Kisner played that Brown didn't were three majors (Masters, U.S. Open and British Open), three World Golf Championships and the Tour Championship.

Kisner doesn't play the tournaments he did in 2012. He builds his schedule around the big events.

''Any time you move up in the world ranking, you change your schedule and your outlook,'' Kisner said. ''You start working around majors and World Golf Championships instead of playing every tournament you want to play.''


WORLD RANKING: Only one award is given for the Official World Golf Ranking, and Dustin Johnson earned that three months ago. He will be presented next year with the Mark H. McCormack trophy for most PGA Tour events in a calendar year.

But to look only at ranking points earned in 2017, it was tight at the top.

Jordan Spieth earned 450.43 points, finishing one-third of a point ahead of Johnson (450.12). PGA Tour player of the year Justin Thomas kept it even closer by earning 446.43 points. They were followed by Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.

The other players in the top 10 were Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood.


TALE OF TWO YEARS: Kevin Chappell won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Texas Open, sending him to Kapalua for the first time.

But was it his best year? Better than last year?

''Good question,'' Chappell said. ''I won this year, but I didn't have as many chances.''

A year ago, Chappell was runner-up three times, losing in a playoff at the Tour Championship (won by Rory McIlroy) and to a birdie-par finish by Jason Day at Bay Hill. He had seven top 10s, was No. 8 in the FedEx Cup and finished the year at No. 32 in the world.

The Texas Open was his only serious chance to win this year. He finished at No. 27 in the FedEx Cup and ends the year at No. 34.

Chappell attributed the difference to some back issues and untimely illnesses that kept him from getting any momentum.

What made this year memorable was playing on his first Presidents Cup team. He earned the 10th and final spot by 0.073 points over Charley Hoffman, and went 1-1-1 in a resounding victory at Liberty National.

And he won't be waiting until the January to get started on a new year. He leaves for Maui right after Christmas.


DIVOTS: Twenty players who began 2017 outside the top 50 finished the year in the top 50. The biggest jump belonged to Patrick Cantlay, who had been out of golf for nearly three years and started at No. 1,866. He ended the year at No. 38. ... Tiger Woods ends the year at No. 656 in the world, just four spots lower than he began in 2017. He played seven rounds of golf and had a missed cut, a withdrawal and a tie for ninth in the 18-man field at the Hero World Challenge. ... Dustin Johnson has to keep his No. 1 ranking for seven weeks to start 2018 to become only the fifth player to hold the No. 1 ranking for an entire year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day and Rory McIlroy ended last year at No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. Neither won a tournament and ended this year out of the top 10.


FINAL WORD: ''I know I'm constantly going to get reminded of what I did last year versus this year and whether it's better or whether it's worse. I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it's a new year. It's a new opportunity for great things.'' - Justin Thomas.


Note: Ferguson is the golf writer for The Associated Press.

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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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.