How will Spieth heal? Players share tales of recovery

By Rex HoggardApril 13, 2016, 8:23 pm

"Don't let a win get to your head, or a loss to your heart.”

- Chuck D (Public Enemy)

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – The subtle nuances of competition can only lead to open-ended conclusions.

Did Jordan Spieth lose the Masters?

Did Danny Willett win the 80th edition?

For each, these types of esoteric debates are likely irrelevant. Willett has a green jacket, however he arrived at his major crossroads, and Spieth has a hole that will take some time to fill.

He said as much on Sunday following the most dramatic collapse in Masters history.

“This one will hurt,” said Spieth on Sunday, his face etched with emotion. “It’s going to take awhile.”

How long it will take Spieth to embrace a competitive and cognitive reset is up to the 22-year-old; history suggests the amount of time it takes a player to recover from collapse varies wildly.

“I forgot about it straight away,” said Jason Day when asked how long it took him to recover from his biggest loss (the 2013 Masters). “That night sitting around and thinking, ‘I just lost the Masters,’ was tough. But I also started thinking, what can I do to learn and get better and change that around the next time?”

Day tied for the lead briefly on Sunday back in ’13 at Augusta National thanks to three consecutive birdies starting at the 13th hole. The Australian stumbled, however, with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 to finish two strokes out of a playoff that was won by Adam Scott.

That’s not to say there weren’t difficult moments for Day in the wake of his Masters loss.

“I was so angry that night, but the next week it was time to move on,” the world No. 1 said.

For Davis Love III, who turned 52 on Wednesday, reclamation was not so swift.

In 1996, Love began the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills two strokes back, but he charged into the lead with birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 15 to move atop the leaderboard. The implosion was just as abrupt as Spieth’s on Sunday, with back-to-back bogeys to close his day and lose to Steve Jones by a stroke.

RBC Heritage: Articles, photos and videos

“I had a putt to win and then I had a putt to get in the playoff and then I made the putt to not be in the playoff. I'll never forget it,” Love said.

Twenty years after his brush with disaster Love still seems somehow stung by that loss, a likely byproduct of the harsh realities of age and rapidly diminishing opportunities.

“Maybe you think you're never going to have another chance,” Love said. “At 22, you're going to have a lot more chances. I'm sure [Spieth] is looking at it differently. [But] it doesn't matter if he wins five Masters, he's still going to look back and go, I could have won that one. He'll never get over it.”

Although it wasn’t on the glaring stage of a major, Kevin Kisner endured his fill of missed opportunities last year on the PGA Tour, a run that began at the 2015 RBC Heritage when he lost a birdie exchange to Jim Furyk in extra frames.

Kisner’s is a tale of perspective.

Some will say he lost the Heritage, Players Championship and Greenbrier Classic, which were all three playoff decisions that didn’t go the South Carolina native’s way.

“I wouldn't say any of them I left feeling probably the way Jordan felt on Sunday,” Kisner said. “I felt like I never really gave one away, I just didn't win. I hit good shots coming down the stretch here. The Players I really thought I had that thing won, even on 17, the fourth [playoff] hole.

“But I can't be upset over the way I played; he played better.”

It’s always a delicate distinction for those in defeat. With the line between winning and losing so fine, the internal dialogue a player encounters after such a defeat can be complicated.

History will likely remember the 2016 Masters as the one that got away from Spieth, just as the 1999 Open Championship will always be the claret jug that Jean Van de Velde lost.

That, of course, ignores Willett’s flawless Sunday 67 that included a clutch birdie at the 16th hole after he realized Spieth had made a quadruple-bogey-7 at the 12th hole.

It also brushes over Spieth’s unflinching comeback attempt that included birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 after he’d deposited two golf balls in Rae’s Creek at the 12th.

Did Spieth lose the Masters?

Did Willett win?

For a player like Kisner it’s best to simplify such abstract concepts down to a much more personal option.

“When it’s ‘could have won,’ it’s like, yeah, we need to improve on that and win. ‘Should have won,’ it’s a kick in the gut,” Kisner explained.

Which mindset Spieth chooses to cling to remains unknown, but given his penchant for self-improvement you would expect him to embrace the former. But it may take some time.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.