The odd couple: Spieth, Reed have unique rivalry

By Rex HoggardJanuary 8, 2016, 4:30 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Sports, and by association golf, is always best when served with a dollop of rivalry.

Ali had Frazier, McEnroe had Borg, Johnny Manziel has whoever that Billy Football guy was in Las Vegas, and it seems, at least at selected outlets, Jordan Spieth has Patrick Reed.

It’s a peculiar relationship. The Texas-born golden child who has engaged fans from Des Moines to Dallas and the Texas-born iconoclast who has a tendency to turn a phrase down the wrong path.

Although it’s easy to shoehorn characters as heroes and villains, when it comes to Spieth and Reed it would be a wild generalization and patently wrong.

Each player is far more nuanced than that, but the duo’s increasingly frequent bouts between the ropes are becoming something of a blueprint for a rivalry.

Reed clipped Spieth in a playoff in 2013 at the Wyndham Championship, Spieth returned the favor in extra frames last year at the Valspar Championship, and on Thursday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the tandem traded punches on their way to the top two spots on the leaderboard, with Reed clipping the world No. 1 with an eagle at the last for a 65.


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“He got me when I think I may have deserved it on the last hole of the Wyndham. Kind of left an itch on me to want to get that tournament back in the Valspar,” said Spieth, who is poised a shot behind Reed at 7 under.

“Any time Patrick loses in a head-to-head format, you're not going to see somebody that's that upset for a very long time. He hates it. I mean he hates losing in a match-play situation.”

The dichotomy of Spieth and Reed is straight out of central casting. While Spieth enjoys the role of fresh-faced and outgoing champion, Reed is more guarded in interviews and recedes into a competitive cocoon and the safety of clichés.

Spieth once declined to talk about how humble he was in an interview because, well, that wouldn’t be humble; while Reed raised eyebrows at the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship when he proclaimed himself a top-5 player despite an actualranking that hovered closer to 40th.

Spieth dotes over his family, spending the week before this championship frolicking in the Pacific Ocean with his sister; while Reed is estranged from his parents.

Spieth is a media darling with his likeness littered about Kapalua this week, while Reed – the defending champion in Maui – has gone largely unnoticed.

For all the differences, however, the two have created a unique, mutually beneficial bond over their relatively short careers.

The duo went undefeated teamed together in four-ball play at the 2014 Ryder Cup and added a foursomes victory at last year’s Presidents Cup to their collective resume.

“For whatever reason it is, whether we want to feed off each other or we want to beat the crap out of each other, we somehow play well together,” Spieth said. “We still want to outdo each other even when we're teammates in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. So it's a good pairing.”

Although not as effusive as Spieth, Reed seemed to acknowledge a connection born largely from competitive necessity. Simply put, for Reed to reach that goal of being a top-5 player - he’s currently 10th - the most direct route would be through Spieth.

“Any time I play with Jordan we always have a good time and we seemed to play pretty solid with each other,” said Reed, who will head out paired with Spieth for the second consecutive day on Friday. “So, just another day to go out and play some golf with a friend and we went out and played some fun golf.”

There are others who would more easily qualify as Spieth’s rivals in the current golf landscape.

Jason Day pushed him during last year’s FedEx Cup playoffs – giving players, however briefly, a reason to reconsider rubberstamping that Player of the Year ballot with Spieth’s name – and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy seems poised to reclaim the top spot in the world after being slowed by injury in 2015.

All three players, however, seem forged from the same mold. While there is no lack of competitiveness among the threesome, they share an easy likability that dulls the leading edge of any real rivalry.

They will battle on the course for titles and break bread at night recounting the round. Yet, be it real or perceived, for Spieth and Reed there is only grudging respect.

“I guess each time we're together we almost feel like we're playing each other in a match,” Spieth said. “Maybe he doesn't, but that's what I think of it, that's why I think we play well together. We certainly want each other to play well, to push ourselves, [but] I don't like losing to him in a round when I play with him.”

And that, by definition, is the central ingredient of any good rivalry.

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”