Spieth shakes off post-victory rust in opening 71

By Nick MentaJuly 9, 2015, 10:55 pm

SILVIS, Ill. - Well, this is what happens when you win the U.S. Open, go to the Bahamas for a week, and only do range work the week after.

None of which sounds half bad, by the way.

In his first round since his second major victory, Jordan Spieth kicked off a whole lot of tractor rust Thursday at the John Deere Classic, turning in a lackluster even-par 71 in Round 1 that has him eight shots back of the lead shared his good friend Justin Thomas and Nicholas Thompson and two shots higher than the field average.

"Just a little rusty," Spieth said. "Yeah, just a rusty round. ... I certainly saw a lot of rust yesterday, and this was actually a slight improvement today." 

The debate for the last two weeks has centered on whether or not Spieth should be here at TPC Deere Run, whether he would have been better off at the Scottish Open or even practicing at St. Andrews.

What's clear after hearing his post-round comments and watching his shoddy short game is that he just needed to play somewhere, anywhere. Scotland, Illinois, Mars - which probably has the topography for links golf when you think about it - wherever he chose to do it, the 21-year-old reigning Masters champion needed to get on a golf course shake off the rust that had built up from his, albeit brief, post-U.S. Open break.

John Deere: Articles, photos and videos

"Rust comes from just not playing," he said. "I took a week off, didn't touch a club. I don't do that very often in the summertime. I came back and I worked really hard with my instructor, tee-to-green and putting, but it was all range work. I didn't get out on the golf course, like I maybe should have."

In fairness, he should probably be talking about a round closer to the mid-60s than the low-70s. Spieth, who's won the last two majors thanks in large part to his putter, missed seven birdie tries from inside of 15 feet. Two of those came on the first two holes, and both of them hit the lip and spun out. 

The second-to-last one came missed low at the par-5 17th and left him yelling at himself. Of course, he should have never been looking at that bending 11-footer in the first place.

"I'm going to have to do a little better than 2 for 7 on up-and-downs to be able to play the weekend," Spieth said.

He's a being a little hard on himself. He was actually just 2 of 6, and that's counting his heavy-handed chip up the hill at 17. His pitching proved the rustiest part of his game right from his first missed green on No. 8. Spieth short-sided himself and from a tight lie in the fairway attempted to bump a wedge shot into the upslope. Instead, he ran his ball 16 feet by and made his first bogey. His second failed save came from the greenside bunker on No. 9 and was set up by a poor drive tugged left.

And the third one on No. 11, that seemed to be all frustration. After bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 and another failed birdie try on 10, Spieth missed the 11th green far to the right and very much rushed his third shot. He hardly walked up to survey the green, failed to carry his ball far enough, and then saw it roll back down the slope, 30 feet from the hole.

It was at that point that aggravation appeared to be taking over. Another stubbed chip on 12 that prompted a brief staredown between Spieth and his ball didn't appear to help matters.

And then, improbably, after all those missed looks from close range, he made birdie from just behind the lip of the left bunker on 13, playing to the middle of the green and snaking a 32-footer from left to right. From there, he'd follow up with another birdie on the short 14th and par his way into the clubhouse.

It's worth nothing that Spieth didn't play particularly well in his first round after the Masters either, and then followed up at an opening 74 at Harbour Town with a 62 on Friday. He also opened with a 71 here last year and parlayed that into a T-7.

"I can draw on a lot of solid rounds,” he said. “I just need to play decent golf tomorrow. … My up-and-downs out here, given that they weren’t very challenging other than the one on No. 8, I really should have gotten the rest of them up and down. I lost five shots on those. Otherwise, I’m sitting here 5 under.”

Instead, he’s eight back. And if he doesn’t putt and chip a little better on Friday, that whole conversation about his overseas travel arrangements will be proved for naught. If he doesn’t go low at the birdie-fest that is the John Deere when he tees off tomorrow morning, he’ll suddenly have two extra days to get acquainted with the Old Course.

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

Getty Images

Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.