Sure bet: Spieth shows he belongs on PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonMarch 18, 2013, 10:47 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Except for the size and noise level of the crowd and the significance of the stage, the moment was reminiscent of 17-year-old Justin Rose chipping in on the final hole at Royal Birkdale in 1998 to tie for fourth in the British Open.

This was much more valuable for 19-year-old Jordan Spieth.

He needed a birdie on one of his final two holes in the Tampa Bay Championship to complete an amazing trip through four countries in four weeks and essentially lock up a spot on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year. His ball was in the rough to the right of the 17th green. With a smooth swing, Spieth produced a flop shot that came out pure and rolled into the cup for birdie.

''That was as loud as it gets,'' Spieth said. ''Hair on the back of your neck stands up.''

He followed with a 7-foot par putt on the 18th, a rapid-fire pump of the fists and a tie for seventh that was worth $148,893, pushing his Tour earnings to $521,893 for the year and giving him special temporary membership.

As he sat near his locker at Innisbrook scrolling through text messages, the mention of Rose didn't register immediately. That was a long time ago in his world.

''I was born in 1993, if that helps,'' he said.

That was the same year another polished talent from Dallas who went to the University of Texas – Justin Leonard – turned pro and did well enough in seven starts to earn a Tour card without ever going to Q-School.

Spieth still has a ways to go. He probably needs another $150,000 or so to secure a full card for next year. He technically would not fall into that group of players who never went to Q-School – Gary Hallberg, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Leonard, Ryan Moore and Bud Cauley – because Spieth failed to get out of the second stage last year when his putter let him down. He was still an amateur, still a Longhorn.

Spieth has faced a couple of forks in the road since then, and he keeps making the right turn.

Instead of returning to Texas for the spring season and a chance to repeat as NCAA champions, his heart was set on turning pro, hopeful of getting a mixture of exemptions on the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour to see where it would lead.

He started in Panama and tied for fourth and then tied for seventh in Colombia. With just over $50,000 in two starts, he was about $4,000 short of earning full status on the Web.com Tour and wanted to go to Chile to lock that up. But he had already accepted a spot in Puerto Rico on the PGA Tour and felt compelled to honor it.

''We sat there for 30 minutes trying to figure it out,'' Spieth said.

He chose Puerto Rico, which turned out to be a great move. Spieth was tied for the lead deep into Sunday afternoon until he couldn't keep up and tied for second, picking up $308,000. The top-10 finish got him into the Tampa Bay Championship, and suddenly his outlook changed.

''I thought my focus was going to be on the Web.com Tour for the year, and now my focus is out here,'' he said. ''It's a nice change.''

He took care of the rest on Sunday. The special temporary membership means Spieth can take unlimited exemptions the rest of the season, and that should be no trouble. He already is committed to play three times in Texas – the Houston Open, Texas Open and Byron Nelson – and more exemptions are sure to follow.

Spieth has all the trappings of a future star, though the real measure will be over the course of a year, instead of a month. Success at this level is all about consistency and learning how to cope with failure. There's still a long way to go.

But what a start.

''He's a great kid, obviously very mature,'' Leonard said. ''I can't imagine being out there. I don't even know how old he is – 19? I can't imagine being out here at 19 and to do what he's done. He hasn't just driven a couple hundred miles. He's been to three or four different countries this year already. It's pretty remarkable. It's beyond the game and what happens on the golf course. He's handling himself very, very well.''

In a much broader context, Spieth is another reminder that there was too much hang-wringing over the change in how to get to the big leagues. Starting this year, no Tour cards are awarded at Q-School, only a spot on the Web.com Tour. It took away the instant path to the Tour, and the complaint was that it required even the best college players to spend a year in the minor leagues.

But it can be done. Good play goes a long way.

Ben Kohles last year graduated from Virginia, turned pro and won twice in a row on the Web.com Tour to assure himself a spot on Tour. Luke Guthrie finished up at Illinois and did well enough in a partial Web.com Tour season to earn his card. He played in the final group at the Honda Classic this year.

Spieth had no status anywhere, but he has finished in the top 10 in four straight weeks and already has earned just over $572,000 this year.

''At the beginning of the year, when you know that you only get seven unrestricted exemptions – first of all, it's hard to get seven tournaments in, let alone make enough money to get your card – to be able to do it in really three events ... I never would have guessed that I would get in this quickly,'' Spieth said. ''I feel in control, and I know what it's like to be in contention in a Tour event. I just want to get back and get a win now.''

He finished too late on Sunday to make his flight home to Dallas. He was still excited Sunday night, so instead of going to bed, he got together with his father, his caddie and his agent for a late-night game of poker. They didn't have poker chips, so they used M&Ms. Spieth wound up the winner. No taking candy from this baby.

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.


Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:


Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''