Spieth playing better, thinking better on home turf

By Rex HoggardMay 20, 2016, 7:45 pm

IRVING, Texas – Which came first: the smile or the score?

Fun question, not that it really makes a difference to Jordan Spieth.

When Spieth bolted TPC Sawgrass a week ago, there were no smiles. He had just missed the cut at The Players and was less concerned with the physical aspects of his game than he was the psychological nuances.

“On the off days, I just need to do a little bit better job of being positive with myself and smiling a bit more, having a bit more fun,” he said at The Players.

Funny how rounds of 64-65 can turn a frown upside down.

Through two rounds, Spieth has penciled just two bogeys onto his card at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He walked off the course on Friday with a share of the lead at 11 under.

Whether it was his improved outlook on golf, if not life, that fueled his solid start at his hometown event or vice versa, the results were all Spieth cared about.

“I still got pretty frustrated at times because I would have a really good wedge number to a bowl pin where it can feed from anywhere around the hole. That should be within 10 feet all day. I've got 40 feet on the other side of the green,” Spieth said. “For those shots not to cost me and move on, that's been the difference from that extra frustration. My misses last week really cost me.”

That Spieth was able to embrace the brighter side this week also speaks to the value of a quiet mind.

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

The Byron Nelson is, after all, where he was thrust into the spotlight when tied for 16th place in 2010 as a 16-year-old. A year later, he tied for 32nd as an amateur, but he’s been unable to replicate that success as a professional.

“That's an event that, growing up, I've always wanted to win and haven't really had a chance to win since I was 16, 17. It's funny when I say that,” he said at TPC Sawgrass, referring to the Nelson.

But Spieth explained Friday that this week has felt different. There is a calm that’s been missing in recent years at TPC Four Seasons, which is about 17 minutes (depending on traffic) from Jesuit Dallas, where he attended high school.

Shawn Spieth, Jordan’s father, first brought the would-be major champion to the Nelson as a toddler. That kid is now 22 and a runaway crowd favorite, with officials doling out Jordan Spieth bobblehead dolls – even if they look more like Kevin Streelman – and fans with his likeness on them.

“This is an event that would be extremely, extremely special if we were to come out on top at any point in my life, to hold the Byron Nelson trophy, just given the memories here,” he said.

Still, perhaps the most encouraging sign for Spieth this week, beyond the improved outlook, is a game that despite his place on the leaderboard is still not perfectly aligned.

Although he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday, with his lone miss coming at his final hole (No. 9), he ranks 70th in the field in proximity to the hole with a 33-foot average.

Despite what he dubbed a “two-way miss” with his irons, the new Mr. Sunshine closed his first nine with three consecutive birdies and has converted 28 of 31 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

Picking apart his ball-striking is easy for an armchair analyst, but Spieth will always measure success with his play on the greens. At TPC Sawgrass, where he said he overcooked a putting drill he and his coach Cameron McCormick were working on, the longest putt he made was 12 feet. This week on the friendly confines of TPC Four Seasons, he’s rolled in seven putts longer than that.

“I don't feel like I'm tied for the lead right now, it’s not the feeling I have when I stand over an iron shot,” Spieth said. “But, when I stand over my putter right now it's back to where we like to have it.”

Spieth justifiably balked at the notion his game was in need of a competitive B-12 shot, rightly pointing out it was just two tournaments ago that he led for three rounds at the Masters.

Maybe all he really needed was another start to find his groove, and that smile is nothing more than a happy bonus.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x