Open Championship no longer 'too big' for Spieth

By Rex HoggardJuly 15, 2015, 12:51 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Playing his first Open Championship with four holes to go on Day 2 in 2013 fresh-faced Jordan Spieth found himself tied for the lead at 3 under par.

“I remember almost thinking like that was too big for me at the time, in a way,” he recalled on Wednesday at St. Andrews.

He would play his final four holes that day in 4 over par and finish the weekend with rounds of 76-75 to tie for 44th place, exposing a rare, albeit entirely understandable, vulnerability to the moment.

Now just imagine how that flood of contextual uncertainty will compare to the 21-year-old’s date with destiny on Thursday at the Old Course as he looks to become the second player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season following breakthrough victories this year at Augusta National and Chambers Bay.

As Spieth has proven in his short career, he’s a quick study when it comes to high-pressure situations – like when he converted his disappointment over his loss in the 2014 Masters into his first major championship earlier this year at Augusta National – and with the world watching he seems to have struck an impressive balance between competitive indifference and situational awareness.

“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,” he allowed.



“But by the time I start on Thursday, it won't be in my head. It'll be about how can I bring this Open Championship down to just another event, get out there and try and get myself into contention.”

It’s another example of how far Spieth has come in just two short years since Muirfield and at least partially explains why, in the absence of world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, he’s the clear favorite this week.

As looking glass moments go, last week’s John Deere Classic proved to be a compelling indication of how Spieth will handle the enormity of the moment this week.

Widely second-guessed for his decision to play last week in Silvis, Ill., considering what was on the line at the Open Championship, as well as his inexperience around the Home of Golf, Spieth answered by winning his fifth PGA Tour title in a playoff.

It was a subtle, and predictably respectful, counter-punch to all the critics.

“I don't think anybody is going to argue with a win, and that was what we set out to do last week, to feel the pressure,” he said. “The whole point was to try and feel pressure over the weekend and try and perform my best, and that's exactly what we did.”

Spieth did concede, however, that an extra few trips around the Old Course, as well as a few days to adjust to the time change, would have been beneficial, but if he’s proven himself adept at anything it is formulating – and then carrying out – a plan.

After landing in Scotland on Monday morning on the chartered flight from the John Deere Classic, Spieth played 18 holes, added 10 more on Tuesday and planned to brave a light rain on Wednesday for another 18 holes.

“I would have liked to see tougher conditions in practice rounds to get used to prevailing winds and wind switches. But that's part of the fun and the adjustment,” he smiled.

Spieth also allowed that despite his success and his status as just the sixth player to win the first two legs of the single-season Grand Slam, he doesn’t expect the field to buckle if he gets off to a good start. It’s a byproduct of his style of play, with greens in regulation and mid-ranging putting being his stock and trade as opposed to the bombing likes of McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.

“Jim Furyk said he has one of the best short games he’s ever seen,” said Ryan Palmer, who played a practice round with Spieth on Tuesday. “[He’s] 21, fearless, all the confidence in the world. Look at his stats and he’s No. 1 in almost every putting category.”

In theory, that kind of “small-ball” mentality shouldn’t make Spieth an undeniable force, particularly on a course that is billed as a bomber’s paradise.

But that’s the same company line held at Augusta National and Chambers Bay and we all know how that turned out. Spieth’s abilities have a tendency to eschew the status quo, an element that makes the enormity of this moment somehow less than the sum of its parts.

In 2013 the then-19 year old found the idea of hoisting the claret jug too big to consider, but there are always varying degrees of desire and pressure is always relative.

“I don't think of those other two majors as being in a row this year, I just think of them as tournaments that I've won that are of the same caliber,” he said. “I don't look at this as trying to win three in a row; I look at this as trying to win the Open Championship at a very special place.”

That it’s a very big moment filled with untold pressure is also obvious, just don’t expect him to spend much time thinking along those lines when his first tee shot goes in the air on Thursday.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.