New year, same mission for Spieth

By Rex HoggardJanuary 6, 2016, 1:37 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – It’s been less than a month since Jordan Spieth put the finishing touches on 2015 - a historic season by any measure - and began the process of reloading.

Five wins, two major championships and a shot at the single-season Grand Slam through 71 holes at the Open Championship all speaks to Spieth’s dominance last year. Now he faces the daunting task of following up what would be a once-in-a-career year for most players.

At 22 years old, Spieth knows he will be judged by 2015. It’s the way of sports.

“It just seems that you're judging from the previous year in my mind,” he said on Tuesday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. “That's the general public, so I give you my perspective as being in the general public.”

But the demands of a “now” public aside, Spieth also realizes that the realities of the modern Tour and a split-schedule create a blurred line between seasons that can be exploited.

For Spieth, there has been little distinction between the 2015 season, which ended with his victory at the Tour Championship in September, and the start of a new campaign.

He’s already posted a top-10 finish this season, a tie for seventh at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, and admittedly didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on what he achieved in ’15.

“I'm not even thinking of it as a new year. I'm just thinking of we had a three-week break and we're just continuing to hopefully stay at the same level,” Spieth said.

There was time to assess his game and focus on the areas he felt were needing, like his wedge play, which he called “average” in 2015, from 60 to 140 yards.

He and swing coach Cameron McCormick spent the abbreviated offseason devising a plan to improve his wedge game, which will be put to the test this week in Maui.

As for how he plans to improve on that 2015 campaign, which would not exactly qualify as low-hanging fruit, he does have goals for the new year, but is reluctant to give details.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Articles, photos and videos

Getting in contention at the year’s major championships is the most obvious area of interest after giving himself a chance at all four Grand Slam stops last season.

“If I can get there at least a couple times this year again, that means that our plan building up to the majors is working, continuing to work, and then it comes down to each individual event, being able to close them out,” he said.

Although it’s a small sample size, he also has room for improvement over the next two months.

Spieth, who turned pro in 2012, has never won before March as the Tour makes its way through the West Coast swing.

To be fair, it’s not as though Spieth is winless on the West Coast. Last year at Chambers Bay in Washington he won his second consecutive major, which would suggest it’s more about time than place.

His best finish to start the year on the West Coast is a runner-up showing the only other time he’s played in Maui, when he finished a stroke behind Zach Johnson.

On Tuesday at Kapalua, he explained that he “loves the grainy Bermuda” greens on the Plantation Course, which are largely considered some of the circuit’s most challenging putting surfaces.

It’s a nod to growing up in Texas on Bermuda greens, and he admitted that poa annua greens at other West Coast stops are more difficult for him.

“Poa annua throws me off with my speed a little bit. It takes breaks a bit different,” he said. “I've struggled a little in San Diego putting. Here and there I have good putting rounds, but I would say that makes a difference being on comfortable grass versus the normal California tournaments.”

But then getting off the West Coast swing schneid would only heighten the anticipation going into the major championship season, and he seemed to acknowledge the inevitable realities of unrealistic expectations born from 2015.

At such heights, only Tiger Woods in the modern era was able to maintain a level of profound consistency from year to year. Even Rory McIlroy, whose career now includes four majors, has proven himself vulnerable to the occasional swoon when he failed to add to his Grand Slam total in 2013 and '15.

Instead, Spieth has embraced the long view as evidenced by his answer on Tuesday when he was asked how he plans to pull off an encore in 2016.

“Doesn't an encore mean that the show is then over?” he smiled. “I hope I've got like 40 years out here . . . To be honest, I'm not thinking of this as anything different. When you write the date, that's about it in my mind. I think we've just had a little bit of a break.”

It may be a new calendar for the Tour, but for Spieth the mission remains the same.

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.