Newsmaker of the Year, No. 1: Jordan Spieth

By Rex HoggardDecember 20, 2015, 1:00 pm

Even when Jordan Spieth weaved right as the arm-chair analyst and 19th-hole historians argued that he should have hooked left in 2015, he emerged as a singular voice of reason.

With his best Opie Taylor shrug, Spieth dismissed the notion that he should have skipped July’s John Deere Classic to better prepare for the Open Championship, where he was poised to become just the second player to win the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam.

“When I get over there, whether I play well or don't play well has nothing to do with what I did the week before,” Spieth said at TPC Deere Run. “I will certainly have enough energy. I will certainly have enough rest, and I will be as prepared as can be, as I am for any other event, by the time I tee it up at St. Andrews.”

Spieth would win his second John Deere Classic title in a playoff against Tom Gillis, but not the coveted claret jug and yet his pre-Open detour through middle America was never revisited.

After the history and headlines he made this year, why would it be?

In 2015, the man dubbed the “Golden Child,” a nickname he abhors, by the way, proved to have the golden touch both on and off the golf course on his way to the best major championship season since Tiger Woods nearly ran the Grand Slam tables in 2000.

But even that comparison, one of many between Spieth in ’15 and Woods’ litany of accomplishments, is not exactly an apples-to-apples examination.

In 2000, Woods began his major championship season with a fifth-place showing at the Masters and closed with three consecutive victories at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship.

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

On paper, Spieth’s 2015 season – which included maiden victories at Augusta National and the U.S. Open and a tie for fourth at St. Andrews and second at the PGA – runs a respectable second to Tiger’s year in 2000, but there is something to be said for the degree of difficulty the third-year Tour player faced in his major quest.

Spieth bolted Chambers Bay, where he beat Dustin Johnson by a stroke, with history looming at St. Andrews.

Only Ben Hogan had won the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season, in 1953, but the Hawk never had a chance to complete the sweep because the PGA Championship and British overlapped that season, and Woods was not competing against the calendar in 2000 after finishing fifth in the year’s first major.

“I like to study the history of golf, and I think it's extremely special what this year has brought to our team and to have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn't come around very often,” Spieth said at St. Andrews. “I'm embracing that opportunity, but by the time I start on Thursday, it won't be in my head.”

Spieth endured the pressure, and multiple weather delays, at St. Andrews and began the final round a stroke out of the lead, but he bogeyed the 17th hole, which ranked as the toughest par 4 on Tour in ’15, and failed to convert a birdie putt at the final hole that would have lifted him into a playoff that was eventually won by Zach Johnson.

For all the news Spieth made on the course this year, however, it was his maturity that stretched well beyond his 22 years that helped make him much more than another celebrated champion.

It was a testament to Spieth’s unique sense of perspective that he bolted the scoring area after finishing his round in Scotland to watch the playoff and was one of the first people to congratulate Johnson.

“To have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes speaks volumes as to what he is,” Johnson said. “He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now, a lot of you guys know him, he's a better person than he is golfer.”

After finishing second to Jason Day at the PGA Championship he settled for a historic consolation prize, becoming just the fourth player – along with the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods – to win the year’s first two majors.

“For him to play St. Andrews for the very first time and to see it under different winds like he did and be able to play it that well was very impressive,” Woods said.

By the time Spieth finished his year with a victory at the Tour Championship to shatter the single-season earnings record ($12 million) and become the youngest FedEx Cup champion the comparisons to Woods’ past dominance were not just accurate but also inevitable.

Spieth joined Woods as the only players since 1940 with four Tour victories before age 22, he played 16 major championship rounds in 54-under par; and with his runner-up finish at Whistling Straits became the second-youngest player to ascend to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking, behind only Tiger.

Spieth is normally reluctant to spend much time digesting the accolades that his play produces. But even he acknowledged the similarities between his play this year and some of Woods’ accomplishments. Spieth also pointed out – as only he could – that while 2015 was Tiger-like, it was just one year.

“What we were able to do this season [Woods] did for 15 years straight. It took a lot out of us this year, and to imagine doing that, which is what obviously is the goal, it's really special,” Spieth said earlier this month at the Hero World Challenge.

It’s that kind of humility that made Spieth the top newsmaker in 2015 as well as the best story.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.