From adrift to A game, Spieth on verge of history

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2017, 8:41 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Remember when Jordan Spieth switched putters a few months back at the AT&T Byron Nelson and almost broke the internet?

Yeah, that was nuts.

Fast-forward two months and the Golden One is now on the brink of breaking one of the game’s most unique records, becoming the first player to win 10 PGA Tour events and three majors before age 24.

It wasn’t exactly a New York minute, but it is an indication of how quickly a player of Spieth’s caliber can go from adrift to A game; if not the measure of his unrelenting resolve.

He told us not to panic back in Dallas. We didn’t listen.

Since then he’s won a dramatic overtime bout against Daniel Berger at the Travelers Championship and played the first three frames at The Open like someone created a Tom Watson-Jack Nicklaus hybrid in a lab.

Always a threat on the greens, whether he’s wielding his trusty Scotty Cameron 009 prototype or not, but it’s been Spieth’s tee-to-green game that may well secure him the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

On Saturday in nearly perfect conditions, he hit 11 fairways and missed just four greens in regulation on his way to a 5-under 65 and three-shot advantage over Matt Kuchar.

“Our goal was to shoot 4 under today. I told [caddie Michael Greller] I wanted to get two aside, get to 10 under. Nothing changed, it played exactly how we thought,” said Spieth, whose bogey-free round was eclipsed only by Branden Grace’s historic 62 and a 64 from Dustin Johnson.

It’s far too premature to proclaim the 146th Open over, there’s enough history etched into the claret jug to discourage any such assumptions. But Spieth’s record here is rather relevant. He’s 2-for-4 in converting 54-hole leads/co-leads in majors and 8-for-9 in his career on the PGA Tour after three round.

Just by proximity, Kuchar is the most likely candidate to derail what began to look like a coronation late Saturday. Once again, the last two-ball on Sunday will be a study in contrasts.

The Open: Full-field scores | Live blog: Day 3 | Full coverage

Spieth is demonstrative and effusive, while Kuchar seems to embrace a more subdued, simpler approach. That Kuchar played the ’98 Open at Royal Birkdale as an amateur when Spieth was 5 years old could also serve to highlight the glaring juxtaposition between the two leading men.

Although the duo is a full field goal clear of the rest of the field, Kuchar, who is at 8 under after a 66 on Day 3, was reluctant to subscribe to the two-man race theory, at least just yet.

“I think it only matters maybe come the 71st hole to adopt your strategy. 70th hole. To go, hey, maybe I'm three-down, now maybe I need to be a little more aggressive than normal,” Kuchar said. “Other than that I don't know that you adapt strategy a whole lot.”

Without any help from Spieth, who has made just four bogeys all week, the alternative might be something in the neighborhood of what Grace accomplished on a picture perfect day along the Irish Sea. The South African became the first player to shoot 62 in a men’s major championship, that he didn’t know of his historic fate until after his round only made the story more surreal.

But that doesn’t seem likely for a variety of reasons. A forecast that calls for much higher winds on Sunday would be the primary culprit, but there’s also the inherent pressure of playing with a Grand Slam title on the line.

Rory McIlroy may have given a glimpse of that unique stress on Day 3, when he charged out with three birdies over his first five holes only to fade to a 1-under 69 that left him nine strokes off the pace at 2 under.

“Once you're up there near the lead of a major championship or an Open Championship you don't play quite as free as you may have done the first two days,” McIlroy conceded.

If Spieth falters there’s no shortage of would-be champions to step up with world Nos. 1 and 2, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, respectively, poised within nine strokes; along with U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and defending Open champion Henrik Stenson.

But that’s a big if.

Two months ago when Spieth went searching for answers off the face of a new putter the idea that he could go wire-to-wire at Royal Birkdale would have been met with a measure of skepticism.

Although Spieth has done special things in his career, for much of the early summer he didn’t have the look of a world-beater. From mid-February through the Nelson in late May his best finish was a tie for 11th at the Masters and he missed back-to-back cuts before things fully clicked starting at last month’s Travelers Championship.

“I thought Hartford was big,” Spieth said. “I went in and I knew I didn't feel great with the putter, and it's been kind of off and on this year and I was able to win feeling really poorly with the putter and that's never happened before, going back to junior golf.”

What Spieth is doing is special and he knows it. As he made his way up the 18th hole on Saturday, Kuchar approached: “This is pretty cool to be here walking up the last hole of a British Open,” he beamed.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Spieth slipped his yardage book back in his pocket and embraced the moment.

“Everyone is giving us an ovation and it's a time to appreciate that, enjoy the walk,” Spieth said.

Although the high-octane cast assembled atop the leaderboard may still make things interesting, absent any real drama on Sunday it’s best to simply appreciate what Spieth is accomplishing and how far he’s come in two short months.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who was the low amateur at the 2014 Aussie Open, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.