Spieth (64) off to brilliant beginning in 79th Masters

By Randall MellApril 10, 2015, 1:11 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth’s golf bag looked a lot like a quiver full of lightning bolts.

The kid made his way around Augusta National Thursday like some baby-faced Zeus.

Spieth took charge of the Masters hurling nine birdies at the field. If not for a lone bogey, the 21-year-old Texan would have equaled the record low score in a major championship. While more than content with his 64, Spieth was kicking himself for not knowing he could have made history shooting 63.

“That’s a little frustrating ... but I’m certainly OK with the day,” Spieth said.

That remark sent a jolt of laughter through the Masters interview room.

The innocence of youth.

Greg Norman and Nick Price are the only men to have shot 63s at the Masters. They’re both Hall of Famers, multiple major championship winners, former world No. 1s and PGA Tour Player of the Year winners. Price shot his 63 in the third round in 1986, with Norman doing it in the first round in ’96. Though, neither man went on to win.

Overall, a 63 has been posted 26 times in majors.



This week opened with excitement over Tiger Woods’ return and with Rory McIlroy trying to win the career Grand Slam, but Spieth stole the show in the opening round. He ignited the grounds with a buzz over whether he’s poised to finish what he started last year.

Playing his first Masters a year ago, Spieth built a two-shot lead early in the final round, only to watch Bubba Watson outplay him down the stretch to win his second green jacket.

Of course, after Thursday’s brilliant start, Spieth refused to think ahead to what drama this fast start might set up for him on another Masters weekend.

“It's Round 1,” Spieth said. “It's just a lot of good breaks and good putting, chipping and short game. I don't think that way right now. There are 54 holes left and anything happens in a major.”

Spieth isn’t just capturing the imagination of the patrons here at Augusta National. He’s winning over fellow Tour players who see something special in him.

Two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw might be the leader of the Spieth fan club.

“When I first met him, I’ll never forget it,” Crenshaw said. “I looked at him, and I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp. He just had that look about him, just wonderful.”

Ernie Els, who’s in the hunt after shooting 67, wasn’t surprised to see Spieth off to such a fast start.

“What a player,” Els said. “You just cannot see this kid not win many, many majors. I think he is by far the most balanced kid I've seen ... Jordan, he's got that little tenacity to him, and he's really got a fighting spirit, and he's the nicest kid in the world. So I just love playing with him.”

Billy Horschel played alongside Spieth Thursday and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show.

“It was impressive to see the kid play,” Horschel said. “I mean everyone was showing their appreciation for the great round of golf that he was playing.”

It wasn’t just the shot making Horschel appreciated. It was the way Spieth commanded the stage, the animated way he plays and talks to his golf ball.

“If anyone ever wants to call him out and criticize him for the way he is emotionally, I'll stick up for that kid,” Horschel said. “I'll be the first guy in the line.”

Spieth hit some great shots. He hit a fantastic recovery at the 14th. From behind a tree right of the fairway, he opened the face of his 7-iron and hit a big bending fade around the tree. The gallery around the green erupted when Spieth nearly holed it. He hit the flagstick, leaving himself a couple feet for his birdie there.

Over a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round, Spieth made six birdies. He sent a couple jolts through Amen Corner with birdies at the 12th and 13th holes.

“It’s Jordan’s Corner now,” Horschel said. “It’s Amen Corner no more.”

A year ago here, there were questions about Spieth’s ability to close out leads. He brings confidence and momentum this year having done it since. He won the Australian Open last November and the Valspar Championship last month.

“I'm sure it has struck all of you that he's way mature beyond his years,” Crenshaw said. “He has an innate ability to score. I think one of the really wonderful things, that I really do like about him, he's got competitive fire. You can see it. I think he carries that off in a great fashion.”

He did that and more Thursday at the Masters.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.