Punch Shot: Biggest similarity between Tiger's and Spieth's games?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 12, 2016, 7:20 pm

Jordan Spieth has recently drawn comparisons to Tiger Woods, which even Tiger's old swing coach, Butch Harmon, agrees are fair to make. What part of Spieth's game is most similar to Tiger's when he was at his best? Our writers weigh in:

By RYAN LAVNER

It’s hard to quantify, but Jordan Spieth shares with Tiger Woods a rare ability to rise to the occasion.

It’s been that way for as long as I’ve covered Spieth. 

In 2011, he had one final chance to join Woods as the only players to win multiple U.S. Junior titles. He won the championship match, 6 and 5. The following spring, during the NCAA finals at Riviera, the Texas freshman played Alabama’s Justin Thomas in a battle of Player of the Year contenders. All square on the 15th hole, Spieth holed a long approach shot (shocker) and won the match, helping lift the Longhorns to the team championship.

That was only the start. 

To win his first PGA Tour title, at the 2013 John Deere Classic, he holed a bunker shot on the last hole to force a playoff. To win his first major, at the 2015 Masters, he got up-and-down from an impossible spot long and right of the 18th green to preserve his four-shot cushion heading into the final day. To become the youngest player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win back-to-back majors, Spieth sank a slippery putt on 16 and smoked a 3-wood to 15 feet on the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay. To win the Tour Championship and become golf’s first $22 million man, Spieth curled in a 45-footer on the 11th hole for the final dagger.

Woods was the master at this, seemingly willing every important putt into the cup for a dozen years. In his short career, Spieth has demonstrated the same uncanny ability to summon the goods at the best possible time, when the competition is closing in, when the pressure is at its most intense. 


By REX HOGGARD

Jordan Spieth won for the sixth time in 10 months on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, lapping the field in Maui by eight strokes and sparking comparisons to Tiger Woods at the same point in his career.

Although Spieth doesn’t overpower golf courses like Woods did at this point in their careers, his putting, particularly in pressure situations, is the most obvious similarity.

Butch Harmon, who was Woods’ swing coach from 1996 to August 2002, said he sees much of the same composure in Spieth that was such a big part of Tiger’s persona during those early years.

“I never thought I’d see anyone who can make as many pressure putts as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods did,” Harmon said. “But Jordan Spieth is definitely right there. Jordan makes more long putts then anyone we’ve seen in a long time with the exception of Arnold Palmer.”

Spieth is second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting, but specifically distinguishes himself from the field, like Woods, on mid-range putts at key moments.

For the week at the Tournament of Champions he made 368 feet of putts, including bombs of 46 feet (No. 2 on Saturday), 33 feet (the second on Thursday) and 35 feet (No. 2 on Sunday).


By RANDALL MELL

We do Jordan Spieth no favors comparing him with Tiger Woods, but it’s unavoidable.

Spieth knows that, and he gives the best possible answer when asked, saying it’s premature to compare but he’s flattered because it’s his goal to move into the company of greatness.

Tiger knows the impossible standard he set, because he is compared with himself all the time now. He was so good, there’s a sense of doom trying to measure up, even for him now. But it won’t stop us. It’s human nature to want to compare excellence, whether it’s the best performance we’ve seen in a decade or the best steak we’ve ever eaten. It’s the way we’re wired.

How does Spieth most compare to Woods? It’s the putting. We all see that. Spieth has a gift on the greens. We talk about how Woods could dominate with power in his youth, but he demoralized players with his putter, with all the great putts he drained. Spieth can do that. Of course, Spieth will have to keep doing that before it’s really fair to compare him with Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the greatest clutch putters of all time. In the meantime, we’ll be unable to resist forcing the comparisons. 


By WILL GRAY

The most striking similarity between Spieth and Woods is an innate understanding of timing. It’s knowing just when to go in for the kill, just when his closest pursuer might be reeling and can be knocked flat with a single swipe. It’s executing a risky approach shot, or converting an improbable up-and-down, or burying an 8-footer for par like it was a tap-in.

Spieth has had a few wobbles that we didn’t see from an early Woods – specifically, the 17th holes at both of the Opens last year. But overall his ability to seize the moment, especially when leading, is reminiscent of Woods. We see it when he is battling down the stretch or in a playoff, and it is equally evident at events like Kapalua, where he slowly grew his lead from three shots to five, and ultimately eight.

It’s shots like his approach to the 18th hole on Saturday, a low, running 3-iron that nearly rolled in for an albatross before setting up a closing eagle. It was Spieth telling the rest of the field, quite simply, that this was his tournament and no one else was permitted within arm’s length of the trophy.

We’ve seen similar shots recently from guys like Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, but the frequency with which Spieth hits the perfect shot at the perfect time draws comparisons to the player who did it better than anyone in recent memory.

 

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''