Spieth an experienced Ryder Cup rookie

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2014, 3:24 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It was another seminal moment in the growing legend that is Jordan Spieth.

On Tuesday Matt Kuchar, who seems to be the 21-year-old’s likely partner this week at Gleneagles, was asked if he planned to give any advice to Spieth? After a few moments the American’s face twisted and he asked, “Is this his first Ryder Cup? I didn't know that. Yeah, I thought he played.”

It was an honest mistake that Kuchar compounded, “Was last year his first Presidents Cup?”

Last year was Spieth’s first everything, at least as far as professional golf is concerned. He won his first PGA Tour title, earned his first trip to the Tour Championship and made his first international team as a pro. He even won the Tour’s Rookie of the Year award, which should have been a hint for Kuchar.

Even Spieth’s captain, Tom Watson, who in two turns as a Ryder Cup skipper has demonstrated a reluctance to lean on rookies, doesn’t see him as a first-timer.

“Jordan has a great attitude about this game,” Watson said. “He has a very strong, mature attitude about how he plays the game, and I couldn't be happier to have him on the team.”

If Spieth doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a Ryder Cup rookie it likely has something to do with his fascination with the event from a young age.

It was four years ago while he was playing in the Junior Ryder Cup at Gleneagles when the thought first occurred to Spieth that he could one day join the varsity team at the biennial grudge match.

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“I remember thinking, is there a chance that I could be here four years from now for the Ryder Cup?” he said. “I’m supposed to be a senior in college, so I would have to leave school early and have things go pretty well to be here.”

Things went swimmingly, as they say in this corner of the United Kingdom.

Spieth secured his Tour status at the 2013 John Deere Classic and finished seventh on the final FedEx Cup point list. Although he failed to add to that victory total in 2014, he finished runner-up twice and inside the top 25 in 18 of his 27 starts to solidify his spot on Watson’s team.

As a 17-year-old he figured his odds of returning to Gleneagles to be the proverbial “million-to-one shot.” Now, he’s staying in the same hotel and using the same team room, although he points out there was no “open bar” back in 2010.

That ’10 Junior Ryder Cup has also served as a form of motivation for Spieth in recent months. When he is at home in Texas he uses the same carry bag they gave him four years ago and a few months ago he switched to a commemorative head cover for his putter from those matches.

 “I’ve been using that for a month or so,” he said. “I used it through the playoffs just getting ready. I thought it was a cool thing to do.”

Spieth is the rarest of 20-somethings, a millennial with a sense of history and perspective.

While this may be his first Ryder Cup, Spieth has an impressive team resume, including an undefeated record at that 2010 Junior Ryder Cup and the 2011 Walker Cup which was also played in Scotland.

He was also an instrumental part of the U.S. Presidents Cup victory last year when captain Fred Couples made him one of his wildcard picks.

Paired with Steve Stricker, he went 2-1-0 in team play including a Day 1 fourball victory over Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge. That opening match may have been the last time Spieth had the look of a rookie.

“About halfway down the first fairway I kind of pulled him to the side and tried to calm him down,” Stricker said of the opening match last year at Muirfield Village. “After that he was fine.”

Some would say he’s been more than fine. Some, like Kuchar, may even mistake the youngster for a cagey veteran poised, along with fellow millennials Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, to lead the United States out of its Ryder Cup victory abyss.

“He seems like he's played good golf for a long time now. So no advice,” Kuchar said. “He seems to be very aware of what's going on and how to handle things. I mean, he's quite mature. At 21, he seems nearly a veteran. He seems like he could nearly be a guy to just speak like he's been here for years.”

For the record, Spieth is a rookie. But it’s a title he wears in name only.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.