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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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.


Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)


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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”



Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

“She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”