Fearless Spieth meets scariest Sunday in golf

By Randall MellMay 11, 2014, 12:59 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Fearless Jordan Spieth meets the most fearsome Sunday in golf.

This ought to be fun.

Spieth, competing in his first Players Championship, begins the final round tied for the lead with Martin Kaymer. A month after losing a final-round duel to Bubba Watson at the Masters, Spieth is back in the mix in another elite event.

“Augusta left me feeling a little hungry for it again,” Spieth said.

Just 20, Spieth will be looking to become the youngest winner in the 41-year history of The Players Championship. He’ll be looking to become just the fourth player to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event in his first try, thrusting him into a small club that includes Jack Nicklaus, who won the inaugural championship in 1974.

How fearless is Spieth? He hasn’t made a bogey over his first 54 holes in this event. He’s the only player in the field who hasn’t made a bogey this week. In fact, he’s the only player besides Greg Norman in 1994 who has played the first 54 holes of this championship without a bogey.

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That’s absurd. Rory McIlroy has made 10 bogeys and two double bogeys this week.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really done that in a tournament, even going back to junior days,” Spieth said.

Spieth’s caddie loves the fearlessness in his player.

“When Jordan comes to a golf course, he’s not intimidated,” Michael Greller said after the first round.

This might be the matchup of the year.

No, not Spieth vs. Kaymer, though nobody should be dismissing Kaymer, not as solidly as he’s striking the ball.

It’s the kid who doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything against the scariest Sunday in golf.

That’s the compelling matchup, because make no mistake, that’s what The Players Championship is for Sunday contenders. It’s the most frightening championship to close out because there is so much potential calamity awaiting mistakes.

You get it going wrong under final-round pressure at the TPC Stadium Course, and a loss turns into a collapse quicker than anywhere else.

Pete Dye designed a mausoleum of misery for contenders who become pretenders.

Nobody exposes fear and swing flaws more than Dye does on a Sunday here.

Just ask Sergio Garcia. He was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods stepping to the 17th tee on Sunday last year and dumped two balls in the water and made quadruple-bogey 7. He followed that with a double bogey at the 18th.

Or Alex Cejka. He opened the final round with a five-shot lead in 2009 and closed with a 79, finishing eight shots behind the winner, Henrik Stenson.

Or Kenny Perry. He started Sunday a shot behind Paul Goydos in the final pairing in ’08 and shot 81, with Garcia winning.

Or Sean O’Hair. He led by a shot going into the final round in ’07 and knocked two balls in the water at the 17th, making a quadruple-bogey with Phil Mickelson winning.

Or Len Mattiace. He was one shot behind Justin Leonard stepping to the 17th tee in the final round in ’98 and dumped two shots in the water, making quintuple-bogey 8.

There’s more, but you’ve got the idea.

This isn’t just the test for Spieth. It’s the test for Kaymer. It’s the test for every player with a chance on Sunday.

With Tiger Woods out with an injury, golf’s been waiting all season for a star to break out. If Spieth makes The Players Championship his second PGA Tour title, this just might feel like the official arrival of the next American star.

The way Spieth closed out Saturday should give him a load of confidence come Sunday.

Spieth showed he can’t just get it up and down from anywhere on the planet. He can get it up and down from hell, because that what Dye creates here, so many hellish lies. Spieth leads the field in scrambling. He’s 16 for 16 getting up and down to save par this week.

Kaymer held off Spieth most of Saturday, until making bogey at the 18th, where Spieth saved yet another par to create a 54-hole tie for the lead.

“It’s very tough to beat those guys that don’t make mistakes,” Kaymer said.

Spieth missed four of the last six greens Saturday without tainting his scorecard.

“It was really ugly coming in, but somehow I did it,” Spieth said.

At the 16th, Spieth looked like he might finally make his first bogey, but he got up and down from behind the green, holing a 5-footer for par. At the 18th, after hitting his drive in the woods, he punched out, leaving himself 56 yards to get up and down for par. He did it, coolly holing a 12-footer from the fringe for par.

“I’m very excited,” Spieth said. “This is the position I wanted to get into in another big event.”

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.

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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.”

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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.

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''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.''