Hero leader Spieth mature beyond his years

By Rex HoggardDecember 4, 2014, 10:55 pm

WINDERMERE, Fla. – Consider Jordan Spieth a player of a certain age.

At 21 years young there has been no apprenticeship, no soft opening, no easing into the world of professional golf. Instead, since he played his way onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has blown through more stop signs than a driver’s-ed student.

Considering that at this point two years ago he was a student-athlete at the University of Texas with a solid amateur resume and wishful thoughts, Thursday’s opening round at the Hero World Challenge was nothing short of veteran-like.

Spieth birdied the first hole, played Nos. 6 through 10 in 5 under and scrambled for par at the last for his 6-under 66 and the early lead at Isleworth. In short, he played like a guy who has been doing this for decades while Tiger Woods, who has been doing this for decades, was 11 strokes back.

It would all be a reason to question the balance of things if it hadn’t become such a normal occurrence.


Hero World Challenge: Articles, videos and photos


For all of Spieth’s attributes – a nuclear driver, solid ball-striking, steady putter – it may be his ability to channel his inner thirty-something that separates him from the other up-and-comers.

For a player who has admitted in the past that he has a tendency to run hot on the golf course at times, Spieth’s recent run is reason to start piling expectations onto his young head.

Spieth said his goal starting out this season was to win twice. In the waning moments of 2014 that benchmark has been adjusted to two wins in two weeks following his victory last week at the Australian Open and his start at Isleworth.

Fittingly, it was last week in Australia that Greg Norman seemed to unintentionally define Spieth’s calling card. “Norman said, ‘You learn a lot more from your failures than you do from winning,” Spieth recalled this week.

From his disappointing runner-up showing at Augusta National in April to his near miss at The Players (T-4), Spieth learned lessons it takes most players years to absorb.

“Each time I just lacked a little bit of patience,” he said. “I just want to jump too quickly out of the gate. I always thought of it as a sprint. Each time I learned and learned.”

From his Masters meltdown he learned that it’s better to remain patient, particularly on Sunday like he did last week when he roared home in 63 strokes.

And he gleaned from his finish at TPC Sawgrass, where he opened with a 67, that regardless of how well he starts a tournament it’s the finish that counts.

“It was a good Thursday,” Spieth figured when asked about his 6-under card on Thursday. “I missed it in the right spots today.”

By sidestepping golf’s normal learning curve Spieth has elevated himself to a new level. Just ask Patrick Reed, who like Spieth is unapologetically mature.

“We grew up watching Tiger and his mental strength and don’t really care what anyone thinks,” said Reed, who was paired with Spieth on Thursday at the World Challenge and teamed with the young American at September’s Ryder Cup to go 2-0-1. “I grew up playing with him so none of this really surprises me.”

Nothing Spieth does at this point should surprise the golf public.

In many ways 21 is the new 31, just consider Rory McIlroy’s four major championship titles by the age of 25 or Reed’s three Tour tilts by 24.

To put Spieth’s fast track approach in context, consider that his plans next week include moving into a new house  . . . his first house.

For Spieth and Co., they’ve come by their Rosetta Stone learning curve honestly, not subscribing to the idea that to be a great player one must pay their dues vis-a-vis time on the job.

Competitively Spieth has grown up before our eyes, transformed in real time from a player who earlier in his career – way back in 2013 – would have been rattled when a player like Adam Scott got off to a fast start like he did last Sunday in Australia.

“I didn’t care,” Spieth said of Scott’s early birdie. “That’s different from what would’ve happened earlier in the year.”

 Spoken like a true veteran.

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.