Spieth hopes to gain ground on McIlroy at Players

By Randall MellMay 6, 2015, 8:47 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – This looks like perfect terrain for Jordan Spieth to up the ante against Rory McIlroy.

TPC Sawgrass levels the ground for Spieth at The Players Championship.

Spieth wants to be McIlroy’s rival. He wants to be No. 1 in the world. He wants to tower over the game, but he knows he has to prove he’s McIlroy’s equal before he can be anything more.

With his Masters victory last month, Spieth moved to No. 2 in the world behind McIlroy, but he still feels far removed from the top, especially with McIlroy winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship last weekend.

“As far as a rivalry goes, he moved even further away from it really being what I would consider a budding rivalry,” Spieth said Wednesday. “I could certainly appreciate if I could get to where he's at, but, right now, I don't see myself there. There's a lot of hard work that needs to be had to get there.”

McIlroy and Spieth will be grouped together along with Jason Day in the first two rounds this week. McIlroy dismissed Spieth when asked if he paid much attention to media hyping Spieth as his next rival.

“Not really,” McIlroy said. “Last year it was Rickie, this year it's Jordan, might be someone else, too, could have been Tiger. There have been four or five rivalries over the past year. So, it doesn't really do anything for me.”

Spieth knows he has to win more big events to distinguish himself from McIlroy’s wannabe rivals.

“It's certainly a huge goal of mine to make it interesting with him and possibly take over No. 1, but I know that he is as far ahead of me as I am with the next nine guys,” Spieth said. “So with that being said, it's kind of anybody's game to get up there and make it interesting. I just happen to be the one that occupies No. 2 right now.”

That’s why the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course feels like the perfect terrain for Spieth to make it interesting.

Architect Pete Dye’s design levels the ground for two completely different kinds of players.

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“I heard something that it tests everyone and favors no one," McIlroy said.

Just listening to McIlroy and Spieth Wednesday, you couldn’t help concluding the Stadium Course favors Spieth.

McIlroy missed the cut the first three years he teed it up in The Players Championship. He didn’t even break par, but he’s figuring out how to play the Stadium Course. He tied for eighth in 2014 and tied for sixth last year.

Still, when asked to pick one word to describe Dye’s design, McIlroy didn’t need much time to come up with it.

“Frustrating,” he said.

McIlroy, though, did call it his favorite Dye course. What that means is hard to know. His favorite form of torture?

“This golf course, it magnifies your weaknesses,” McIlroy said. “If your game is off just a little bit in any department, it really magnifies that during this week. You don't have to hit it that long off the tee, but you have to be really precise.”

Spieth tied for fourth in his first Players Championship last year. He was tied for the lead with Martin Kaymer going into the final round with Kaymer ultimately winning. Even with that, Spieth fell in love with the place.

“Incredible golf course,” Spieth said. “One of the best in the world, one of my favorites in the world.”

At 21, Spieth isn’t a power player. He plays tactically, maneuvering his way to the best angles. His short game and putting stroke are the envy of most players, including McIlroy.

Asked what part of Spieth’s game he would most like to have, McIlroy chose Spieth’s putting.

“He's obviously been putting phenomenally well over the past few months,” McIlroy said. “I think that's been a big thing for him. You look at the putts holed and the putts that he's holed when he needed to. That's been a big reason why he's done so well.”

At 26, McIlroy’s a power player. He’s one of the longest drivers on tour and still hits a lot of fairways. He’s 11th in driving distance and still impressively 58th in driving accuracy.

Asked what part of McIlroy’s game he would most like to have, Spieth’s answer surprised nobody.

“I would like to hit it as far as he does,” Spieth said.

At the Stadium Course, Spieth doesn’t have to hit it as far as McIlroy, who learned missing those cuts here that he can’t hit a lot of drivers.

“It's always hard for me when I can't get driver in my hand, because I feel like when I get driver in my hand I can give myself an advantage over the rest of the field,” McIlroy said. “It's just about being very patient and approaching it a different way, winning a different way.”

That McIlroy has to play differently here makes this perfect terrain for Spieth to make this rivalry talk more interesting to McIlroy.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.