Spieth showing character to stick around on Tour

By Jason SobelMarch 13, 2013, 7:28 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Jordan Spieth has character. It should be noted that this is inherently different from many up-and-coming young golfers who are characters or have a favorite cartoon character or have at some point served as a character witness.

Character is defined as “a complex of mental and ethical traits marking a person,” but Spieth’s character can be defined by four recent actions, results of an intangible quality that doesn’t show up on any scorecard.

Character Defining Moment No. 1: As a two-time winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship – joining Tiger Woods as the only multiple champions in tournament history – Spieth considered turning pro last summer before making the decision to return to the University of Texas.

That’s not what defined his character, though. No, that came a few months later, toward the end of the first semester of his sophomore year.

Knowing that he was about to join the play-for-pay ranks on Dec. 14, Spieth didn’t stop attending classes or blow off his final exams. In fact, he did just the opposite. He wrote lengthy papers as final exams for classes in English Literature and Rhetoric. His last act before turning pro was to hand in an eight-pager in the latter course, which received a grade of 95.

“I actually did a really good job on that paper” he said. “I took it deep – literally and figuratively.”

Plenty of young golfers are considered to have character, but there aren’t many who would continue working so hard in their classes when a clear path was already paved ahead of them. They may argue otherwise, but that would be considered – as Spieth knows all too well – rhetoric.

Tampa Bay Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Character Defining Moment No. 2: After opening his season – which includes no status on any tour – with a missed cut at Torrey Pines and a T-22 at Pebble Beach, Spieth started playing in events on the developmental Web.com Tour.

He finished T-7 at the Panama Claro Championship and T-4 at the Colombia Championship, leaving him just $4,649 shy of special temporary membership for the remainder of the season. Many people pushed him toward competing in the next week’s tournament in Chile, where a top-30 result would secure that status for the year.

Spieth had other plans. He had already committed to the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open after tournament chairman Sidney Wolf offered a sponsor’s exemption. For someone whose message is “gratitude” – toward those who watch him play, toward those who have helped him and certainly toward those who have offered exemptions – he didn’t feel right about forgoing the tournament in favor of reaching a more personal goal.

And so in another character defining moment, he traveled to Puerto Rico last week.

The share of second place? That was less about character and more about him being really good at golf.

Character Defining Moment No. 3: At one point during the final round, the 19-year-old Spieth found himself atop the leaderboard in an attempt to become the second-youngest PGA Tour winner ever.

He then posted six pars and a bogey during a seven-hole stretch before closing with a birdie to vault into a share of second place. The finish left him just $101,295 shy of special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, making him dangerously close to earning that status on both sanctioned tours.

“Being able to look at the leaderboard and be on the top with a couple other guys, it was a new experience and I enjoyed it and felt like I played really well, felt like I controlled my emotions and hit good shots,” Spieth explained. “I would have obviously taken second going in and I'm going to take a lot of confidence going forward. I still have a lot of work to do to have a permanent place to play.”

All of which leads to this particular character definer.

After finishing in second place, after nearly becoming the second-youngest champion ever, after almost being able to forget about where and when to play and trying to earn status, Spieth came away from the tournament angry.

Rather than content with his performance, he was disappointed in himself that it wasn’t even better.

Character Defining Moment No. 4: Technically, this one hasn’t happened yet, but just the fact that he’s planning on it speaks volumes about Spieth’s mindset.

One of the reasons he worked so hard on those end-of-semester final exam papers and studied enough to receive grade point averages of 3.75, 3.5 and 3.5 in his three semesters at Texas is that even though a full-time membership on the world’s most elite professional golf tour is now well within his sights, he still plans to graduate college in pursuit of a communications degree.

“Way down the road, I’d like to get into broadcasting someday,” he said. “That was my thought process going in and I’m definitely planning on finishing.”

Before that day comes, Spieth will first compete in this week’s Tampa Bay Championship, followed by PGA Tour appearances at the Shell Houston Open, Valero Texas Open and Byron Nelson Championship.

There are plenty of characters, players who like cartoon characters and character witnesses at the game’s highest level, but there’s always room for more guys with character. Expect Jordan Spieth to fill that niche sooner rather than later. His game is good enough to play here and his character is strong enough to keep him around.

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.''