Spieth grinds out bogey-free 66 at Tour Championship

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2015, 10:57 pm

ATLANTA – It’s just looked like he’s played the game like a 32-year-old veteran the last few months, but Jordan Spieth is still a 22-year-old finding his way in the professional realm, albeit with bookend majors to show him the way.

Take Friday at the Tour Championship as a testament to Spieth’s ongoing education.

After playing his first four soggy holes in even par, Spieth’s drive sailed right of the fairway at the fifth and dangerously close to Second Avenue and the same out of bounds markers that led to Jason Day’s triple bogey-7 on Day 1.

“For a second I thought I might have to re-tee,” Spieth admitted.

But the two-time major champion who is a little more than two years removed from the University of Texas found his golf ball and scrambled for an unlikely par that included a chip from under a tree that he called a “one out of 10” shot.

“There was no other option, but it wasn’t necessarily smart,” he said of his 61-yard chip that rolled to 6 feet. “I had to have the wind blowing this branch back and forth, I had to hit it when it blew it this way or else it would have gone up into it.”

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At the next hole Spieth converted a 16 footer for par after finding a greenside bunker and he was off, keeping pace with Henrik Stenson with four birdies coming in for a 4-under 66 that left him three strokes behind the Swede in what is shaping up to be a two-man shootout for the FedEx Cup fortune.

It seems an apropos time to revisit the fact that even though Spieth has collected five PGA Tour titles and is playing his third Tour Championship these are still uncharted waters.

That was particularly clear when Heir Jordan missed back-to-back cuts to begin the playoffs for the first time in his professional career. After a run that included consecutive victories at the U.S. Open and John Deere Classic and near misses at the Open Championship and PGA Championship it appeared he’d hit the metaphorical wall.

“Maybe just a little bit of mental fatigue,” Spieth said. “I think that mistakes wear on me a little bit. They have worn on me a little quicker recently. Today it wasn’t the case.”

Learning that maintaining one’s focus is just as important as swing maintenance is a lesson every young player endures, and it’s no different just because you’ve already started to piece together a resume that seems destined for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But then Spieth, with the guidance of his swing coach Cameron McCormick, has become a master at embracing the small victories. It was the kind of long view that was on display on Friday as a series of poor shots at Nos. 5 and 6 threatened to derail his tournament and his FedEx Cup chances.

“I stayed mentally in it,” he said. “That’s what [caddie Michael Greller] mentioned today when we had just finished the round. He said, ‘Mentally that was the best round you’ve played in a while.’ It kept us in the tournament, it kept us in the round.”

It also kept him moving forward along a learning curve that has been more abbreviated than most but must be traveled nonetheless.

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm