Next task for Spieth: Win at St. Andrews

By Nick MentaJuly 13, 2015, 12:21 am

SILVIS, Ill. – The golf world may have spent the last two weeks debating whether Jordan Spieth would be better served in Silvis or Scotland, but for all the second guessing and all the unsolicited advice, here’s what Spieth had to say Sunday with the John Deere Classic trophy sitting on a table in front of him:

“I really didn’t care anyways. I came here for a reason, and we accomplished that reason, and certainly I’ve got some momentum going into next week.

“[After] starting off so slow, to be able to shoot 20 under in three rounds is obviously nice momentum.”

As if he needed any more momentum coming off two major victories – or any more motivation. Spieth enters next week at the Open Championship with the opportunity to win his third consecutive major, the third leg of the Grand Slam and the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Of course, before he could get on the tournament charter to St. Andrews, Spieth had the small matter of closing out his 54-hole lead at TPC Deere Run. And through the first 12 holes of his final round, it looked as if that wasn’t going to happen.

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From the first tee, when a hooked a 3-wood led to an opening bogey, Spieth looked off. Off with his driver, off his irons, off with his wedges, off with his putter. He exited the par-3 12th green 1 over on his round and four shots back of the lead held by Tom Gillis.

“To be four back with six to go, all we were saying was, ‘We birdied five of the last six two years ago to get into a playoff [and win],” Spieth said, referencing his conversation with caddie Michael Greller. “’Why can’t we do it again?’”

And so suddenly, Spieth snapped out of his funk, birdied both 13 and 14, holed out from off the green at 16, and made his final birdie at 17 to play his last six holes in 4 under, post a final-round 68, and force a playoff with Gillis.

It took him two extra holes, but after Gillis found the water left of the green on 18, Spieth tapped in for the fifth win of his PGA Tour career and his sixth worldwide victory in the last eight months. After entering the interview room, Spieth was mistakenly introduced as a still-four-time champion.

“You better get those facts right,” he joked. “I don’t get credit for Australia or Tiger’s event but at least give me credit for my PGA Tour wins.”

Spieth picked up the first of those five wins at the Deere two years ago, and while everyone else wants to talk about the Grand Slam, Spieth believes that opportunity wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t hole out from the bunker on the 72nd hole here two years ago.

“This tournament means a lot to me,” he said. “I mean this jump started my career. … I’d probably be six months to a year further back in my career had that shot not gone in and had I not survived the playoff. I wouldn’t have been in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs, the Presidents Cup, my world ranking would have been down given that I played the playoffs extremely well.

“So I would have been set back a little bit starting the next year. I could have played a different schedule. Who knows what could have happened.”

Here’s what happens now. Spieth will hop on a plane with the rest of the Deere participants heading to St. Andrews and he’ll start preparing to take to over the golf world.

Included in those preparations will be some diligent work with his driver, which got him in plenty of trouble this week at TPC Deere Run and could get him in even more next week in St. Andrews' ever-present pot bunkers. Spieth said he’ll spend the bulk of his time the next three days trying to “fine-tune” the longest clubs in his bag.

Otherwise, he’ll be taking in the sights and sounds and generally being as in awe of St. Andrews as the rest of us.

“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said. “I love the town. I love the R&A clubhouse. I love the – what do you call it – Himalayas putting green. The entire experience of being there was really cool. The golf course, specifically, I think it’s just mind boggling that it can stand the test of time and hold a major championship centuries after it was built.”

And now, after all those centuries, Jordan Spieth is headed to the Old Course, halfway to joining Bobby Jones as the only two men to ever win all four major titles in the same year.

Spieth would be the first to ever do it in the Masters era.

He would stand alone in history.

Surely, by now, that prospect has at least crossed his mind.

“If I win next week,” he said, “then I’ll think about it.”

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x