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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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."