Spieth, McIlroy invite you in to the new era

By Randall MellJune 24, 2015, 9:00 pm

We’ve all got front row seats now to the majors.

In fact, we’re all invited a little closer to all the game’s big events.

That’s what it feels like with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy separating themselves at the top of the game, with Spieth and McIlroy combining to win the last four majors, with McIlroy and Spieth reigning as Nos. 1-2 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

This new era unfolding in the game isn’t just younger. It’s different in another way, too.

Spieth, 21, and McIlroy, 26, are making it feel more accessible, more intimate even, more open to all of us.

Each in his own way has reached out a hand, invited us to share their journeys in meaningful ways. They’ve welcomed us to closer glimpses of how and why they do things. They both do this in news conferences. They’re already two of the best interviews in the game, insightful and even precociously wise. They do it hanging around for scrums after news conferences end, giving us extra time to explore topics, to pick their brains about the way they’re thinking.

There’s a gravitating charm in these two, undeniable but also distinct.

There’s the Texan’s charm in Spieth.

“I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp,” Ben Crenshaw said of the look he saw in Spieth’s eye in a practice round at the Masters this year. “He looks like he wants to gun you down.”

That’s only half the amalgam. There’s also the chivalry ingrained in Spieth, and we mean that in the way C.S. Lewis defined chivalry, in an ability to be tough to the nth degree and gentle to the nth degree. We see that in Spieth’s relationship with his little sister, the way he adores Ellie, a special needs child born with a neurological disorder.

And there are the charms of the Northern Irishman, gifted with the eloquence the Irish are so famous for. When he’s opening up on a topic, McIlroy has the ability to make you feel like you’ve both got a pint of Guinness in front of you, bellied up to the bar at a local pub. He has that disarming, earnest and engaging nature.

Spieth and McIlroy will practically write stories for you in their interviews, revealing opinions, beliefs or insights that change the nature of what you planned to write.

Spieth engages us beyond interviews. It feels as if he’s talking to us when he’s playing, when he’s chastising his golf ball, or bouncing ideas off his caddie, or muttering to himself. The way he corrals and wrestles disappointment over mistakes, it’s more than fun to watch. It’s fun to listen to. He commands a stage in his own engaging way.

When McIlroy is striping it, he walks in a way you want to emulate, with a confident gait and bob of the head, like a fighter pilot on his way to his jet.

Of course, there’s no escaping the shadow the game is emerging from, the once overwhelming but now fading presence of Tiger Woods, whose reign was so towering, so majestic and yet often so cold and forbidding. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Woods. Nobody’s stage presence in the history of the game compares to his. His march through the game’s history books was electric, crackling with unforgettably brilliant moments. His footsteps landed so hard they echoed through time, his fist pumps summoned thunder, his glare and smile mesmerized, but he always made sure he was more than an arm’s length from us. In fact, he often stiff armed us. He was more like Ben Hogan than Arnold Palmer, with an intimidating aura he seemed to like to cultivate. That was Tiger’s style, and it worked for him, though we’re seeing a gentler side of him now.

But that brings us back to Spieth and McIlroy, who are almost Palmer-esque in the way they engage us, in the way they let us in.

Tiger was like the Beatles were, a storm of brilliance, with a breathless, chaotic swarm of energy always chasing after him. Spieth and McIlroy are showing more the brilliance you see in singer songwriters, performers motioning for us to pull our chairs a bit closer to enjoy their music.

Spieth and McIlroy aren’t perfect. Who is? They’ll reveal human frailties. They’ll make mistakes along the way, but there’s something refreshing in the charms they’re bringing to the majors, to the top of the world rankings. Here’s hoping we all continue to enjoy having front row seats.

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Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

They were at 7-under 135.

Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.