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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.