Spieth doesn't care about criticism

By Jason SobelMay 13, 2014, 9:22 pm

IRVING, Texas – Here’s an inconvenient truth about Jordan Spieth that only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and very few other young phenoms in recent history have witnessed: The better he’s played, the more ripe he’s become for criticism.

Think about it. If Spieth had flamed out at last month’s Masters Tournament, posting a pair of 76s en route to a Friday afternoon exit, it would have been written off as a rookie learning curve, barely causing a ripple in the headlines. If he’d struggled at last week’s Players Championship and never found his way to the leaderboard, it would have been chalked up to youthfulness on a course that demands experience.

Instead, he contended at both events. Nearly won each of ‘em. He played in the final pairing at Augusta National, shot 72 and finished in a share of second place, three strokes behind Bubba Watson; he again played in the final pairing at TPC Sawgrass, shot 74 and finished in a share of fourth, three strokes behind Martin Kaymer.

In each instance, there was a groundswell of support for the notion that Spieth isn’t a closer. He’s not clutch. He doesn’t have the right mental fortitude to step on his fellow competitors’ throats and not let ‘em up. Forget the fact that he’s only 20. Forget the fact that the list of so-called “closers” at such a young age consists of exactly nobody. This has still been a prevalent discussion.


HP Byron Nelson Championship: Articles, videos and photos


Though he contends that he doesn’t watch much TV or read many stories about himself, Spieth has heard this opinion. And he takes offense to it.

“I don’t really care about the criticism,” he told GolfChannel.com during a Tuesday afternoon practice round in advance of this week’s Byron Nelson Championship, “because the people criticizing and even the people supporting me, there have only been a few people that have been in the positions that I’ve been in at my age, being able to try and compete the first time at these events and win them.

“I’m disappointed in myself, because I feel like I could have pulled them off. But I could care less what anybody really thinks.”

There’s no doubt Woods or McIlroy or any other player who’s been in a similar situation would applaud those words. Any mental guru worth his weekly stipend will agree that letting the criticism fester to the point of frustration is adverse to improvement.

But for Spieth, it’s about more than just not letting it bother him. As he maintains, it’s not as if he’s played poorly on those last two important Sunday afternoons. He just hasn’t gotten things to go his way.

“Augusta was three holes – one was a bounce and two were two feet from perfect. I look back at it like that was almost the greatest Sunday I ever played,” he explained. “This past week, I look back at the shots that I hit and on 9, it wasn’t that bad of a shot that I couldn’t make birdie, but I got up there and I couldn’t make birdie. The bounce on 10 was tough; I thought I hit a really good shot in there. So I look back at those moments and there’s no reason to be criticized for them when I was that close.”

Even the critics can agree that time is on Spieth’s side. Woods didn’t win his first major championship title until he was a year older than Spieth is now; McIlroy didn’t win one until he was two years older.

And those guys are the exception to the rule.

Perhaps an even better comparison is that of Phil Mickelson. He didn’t win his initial major title until he was 34 – or 14 years older than Spieth’s current age. Still, Mickelson has transformed from being the game’s most criticized player, one for whom those catcalls echoed for so many years, to a five-time major winner who is widely believed to be one of the game’s 15 most successful players of all-time, if not very close to the top 10.

“He would be a great guy for me to sit down and talk to about how you deal with people who are critical,” Spieth admitted. “He dealt with it when he was No. 2 in the world for five, six, seven years. He had close calls; he had the lead on the last hole a few times and blew it. It was necessary for him. I think he’d be a good guy to sit down and talk to about going into the round, the preparation for it, what you’re thinking about the course – that kind of stuff.

“I’m looking forward to picking his brain – and I know he’d be open to that.”

Within that comment is an important lesson that Spieth already understands, but his current detractors could stand to learn. Getting into contention at big events should be considered a positive rather than a negative. It’s more important to have gotten close and experienced the ride than never having gotten there.

Spieth knows that it was necessary for Mickelson to endure that scar tissue before he started winning. And he knows that it just might be necessary for him, too.

“When I say that I think experience helps a lot, it’s not experience on what shots to play; it’s experience on how you feel out there, how comfortable you are,” he said. “That’s what I take away positively. At Augusta, I was out there and every single shot was just heavy packed with nerves. I woke up [Sunday] morning and until two hours after the event, my heart was beating faster than it ever has.

“When I got on the course this past week, I felt more comfortable; I settled down quicker. I wasn’t really that nervous as the day went on. So that’s reassuring.”

You wouldn’t think a 20-year-old with top-four finishes in each of the year’s two biggest events so far would need any extra reassurance. Then again, you wouldn’t think such a player would be receiving a dose of negative criticism, either.

Spieth has heard these attacks. He knows they exist. And like the very few other players who have found themselves in this unique position in the past, he can’t wait to prove ‘em all wrong.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern of architects.

"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," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.