Punch Shot: What should Spieth do?

By Golf Channel Digital, Rex HoggardJune 30, 2015, 7:00 pm

Jordan Spieth is halfway home to the single-season Grand Slam. He is also slated to play the John Deere Classic ahead of the Open Championship. Should he keep to his plan? Should he get in some prep work at St. Andrews? Should he skip the Deere in favor of the Scottish Open? Our writers weigh in:

By REX HOGGARD

Blame it on Mike Davis and Robert Trent Jones Jr.

After the USGA’s executive director and the outspoken architect made it clear that Chambers Bay was a test that would need an increased level of preparation, major championships have suddenly become fortnight gatherings, with players needing the extra time to learn the intricacies of the golf course.

In this case, the pitch is St. Andrews and the Old Course for the Open Championship and the player who is enduring an exorbitant amount of armchair quarterbacking is Jordan Spieth.

With the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam hanging in the balance, Spieth will fulfill his commitment to the John Deere Classic and play the week before the British Open.

Those with short memories and narrow focus consider the move a mistake, suggesting the 21-year-old’s time would be better spent learning the nuances of the Old Course.

Lost in that assessment, however, is the fact that Spieth played the week before the Masters this year, finishing second at the Shell Houston Open before lifting the green jacket.

Tiger Woods ingrained into a generation of golf fans that less is more when it comes to scheduling, but what was best for Tiger isn’t necessarily a winning formula for everyone.



By WILL GRAY

All signs point to Jordan Spieth honoring his commitment to the John Deere Classic, and that’s exactly what he should do.

At age 21, Spieth doesn’t have a lot of tournament stops that would classify as familiar, but TPC Deere Run is certainly one of them. He’s been playing in this event since 2012, and he has taken the cross-continental charter from there to the Open Championship each of the past two years. Nothing about that process will prove unusual.

What is unusual, of course, is the quest for the third leg of the Grand Slam that awaits him at St. Andrews. He will have plenty of time to get acclimated to a newfound level of scrutiny in Scotland, and he should be able to shake off the jet lag well before his first-round tee time.

Spieth has managed to bring his game from Illinois to the U.K. each of the last two years – in fact, after a playoff win in 2013, he scrambled to make the charter and still shot an opening-round 69 at Muirfield.

His week at the Old Course will be like nothing he has ever experienced. An extra few days in Scotland won’t change that, so he might as well take a familiar route to the season’s third major.


By RYAN LAVNER

The ideal prep for the Open is to tee it up alongside Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy at the Scottish Open, but I respect the kid for honoring his commitment, as he did with a post-Masters trip to Hilton Head.

Besides, there are worse ways for Spieth to spend the final few days leading up to his bid at history. He’ll be feted like a movie star at the Deere, where he earned his first title in 2013, and it’ll only help his confidence to fill up the hole at the annual birdie-fest.

At 21, Spieth has already shown an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion in the sport’s biggest moments. I have no doubt he’ll be ready to play come Thursday at St. Andrews. 


By NICK MENTA

Spieth's loyalty to his commitments is admirable. He showed up at Harbour Town the week after winning the Masters, and the Deere holds a special place in his heart after he made it his first PGA Tour victory in 2013.

That said, he'd be better served getting over to Scotland early. Nothing about TPC Deere Run is going to prepare him for St. Andrews, and Chambers Bay wasn’t exactly traditional links golf. If he wants to play the week before so his game is competitively sharp, the Scottish Open is his best bet to get acclimated to what he’ll face the week after. (Then again, he’s celebrating in the Bahamas and I’m not, so maybe he knows what he’s doing.)

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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.