Fellow pros feel sympathy, empathy for Spieth

By Rex HoggardApril 12, 2016, 6:02 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – All of the elements were there, the competitive version of Kübler-Ross’ five stages of death and dying unfolding like clockwork in the days and hours since Sunday’s shocking finish at the Masters.

No one died but the mood at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of this week’s RBC Heritage, matched the gloom that hung low over the course.

As players made their way out for drizzly practice rounds, the same elements Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined in her landmark book “On Death and Dying” surfaced.

In 1969, Kübler-Ross created the acronym DABDA to help map the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.

And they were all there on Tuesday as players continued to process what happened to Jordan Spieth on Sunday at the Masters when he blew a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play to lose the Masters.

Denial

“He was in such control with nine holes to play, we all thought it was over,” said Colt Knost. “Pressure does crazy things to you ...”

For Knost, Spieth’s implosion – which included a wrenching stretch through Nos. 10-12 that he played in 6 over par – was personal.

Both are Dallas residents and play plenty of practice rounds together. Knost has seen, more times than he can count, Spieth’s short-game brilliance and mental toughness, all of which made his Masters meltdown so stunning.


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Late Sunday night, Knost sent Spieth a text message but he really didn’t know what to say.

“Proud of you, handled yourself awesome. Keep your head up,” Knost finally thumbed into his phone.

Anger

“S*** happens,” shrugged Jason Gore. “It’s not like the guy has an issue with chunking wedges. It’s not like he has the driver yips or the wedge yips. The guy’s the best putter in the world and he screwed up. It won’t be the last wedge he ever chunks, it was just bad timing.”

Gore’s frustration was grounded in Spieth’s history at Augusta National. In his first 10 Masters rounds Spieth had posted a score worse than bogey just once – on Saturday last year at No. 17 – and his quadruple bogey-7 at the 12th on Sunday was one of just five “others” on that hole all week.

Bargaining

 “On that golf course there’s something like that waiting to happen, especially with all that water in play,” Lucas Glover said. “If you’re playing well at a U.S. Open, you just chip back to the fairway and limit the damage. If you hit a bad shot there [Augusta National] you’ve got a bad angle and a touchy shot. It’s hard to limit damage there.”

Those who have watched Spieth emerge as one of the game’s genuine superstars understandably saw Sunday’s collapse as an outlier, an anomaly unique to the exacting test that is Augusta National more so than a sign of what we can expect from the uniquely dubbed Golden Child.

The alternative would be to think there was a crack in an otherwise flawless armor, and given Spieth’s record last year in the majors – two victories, a runner-up showing and a tie for fourth place – that just doesn’t seem likely.

Depression

“Oh, man, you’re heart hurts,” Glover said. “Anyone who’s played this game for a length of time has done something similar. Anytime you see a guy struggling it’s painful.”

They say NASCAR drivers avoid funerals as a defense mechanism for a job filled with occupational hazards. Similarly, Tour types normally don’t spend much time watching meltdowns like Spieth’s, but much like a NASCAR pile up they just couldn’t look away.

“It happened so fast you try to get a handle on it. Even the best players try to bounce back and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it,” David Toms said. “Any momentum in any sport, once it gets on the bad side especially in golf it seems like it’s hard to get it back.

“In other sports, you try harder, you play defense, you do other things. In golf there’s no such thing.”

Acceptance

“There’s always situations where you have a chance to do well and it went bad,” Toms said. “It happens to everyone, but it shocks people when it happens to the best player in the world at a tournament he’s dominated and made it look easy.”

This is where most players ended up less than 48 hours after Spieth’s collapse. On any given week there is any number of similarly sensational meltdowns and everyone knows that once the unraveling begins it’s hard to stop.

“Before you blink, your mind is racing and before you know it, it all happens,” Ricky Barnes said.

As players continued to process what happened there was also a healthy amount of sympathy for Spieth, who is one of the most popular Tour members.

It was particularly tough to watch the awards ceremony, which under normal circumstances is an endearing tradition. But given Sunday’s happenings it seemed to only add to the surreal moment.

“I was watching with Tim Clark when he put the green jacket on Danny [Willett] and we both said, ‘This is going to be brutal,’” Knost said.

The adjectives, from brutal to cruel, varied, but the theme remained the same for Spieth’s frat brothers – the Masters runner-up didn’t meet his ultimate demise but it sure did feel like a funeral on Tuesday at Harbour Town.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.