Lean on me: Caddie aids Spieth in second major win

By Rex HoggardJune 22, 2015, 4:52 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Jordan Spieth is unfiltered and utterly unfamiliar with an unspoken thought, like when he let the world know his feelings regarding Chambers Bay’s 18th hole masquerading as a par 4 on Friday.

“The dumbest hole I’ve ever played,” he muttered.

Late Sunday, as a picturesque sunset slipped toward the Puget Sound, he barked at his second shot at the 18th hole, which was this time playing as a proper par 5: “Get it wind, just any kind of wind get it.”

Always there to interpret and iron over Spieth’s running dialogue is Michael Greller, the ultimate wingman.

“Get that good picture, bud,” the caddie advised his man on the 18th tee and again before Spieth sent his 3-wood second shot soaring into the evening sky to 16 feet.

Two putts and 12 tense and turbulent minutes later, it was still Greller who was there for Spieth, the 21-year-old U.S. Open champion.

As the duo made their way back to the 18th green for the award presentation it was Greller, not Spieth, who was cheered by the crowd.

One of their own, one of Chambers Bay’s own had won their Open.

“To come here and win this one for him, it’s really special,” Spieth acknowledged following a closing 69 that was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson, who three-putted the last hole from 13 feet. “To hear the support for Michael made it feel like we were the crowd favorite.”

Greller will dismiss his part in Sunday’s proceedings and a historic victory that now sets the stage for a run at the single-season Grand Slam, and adhered to the strict caddie code of show up, keep up and ... well, when you’re with Spieth silence really isn’t an option.

“If anything, I felt more pressure because people think I know [Chambers Bay] so well,” said Greller, who began his looping career at Chambers Bay eight years ago when the course first opened.

“I really don’t and Jordan knew that. What I did bring is just really good vibes. In the end it comes down to Jordan being just an unbelievable player and I just try to stay out of his way.”

Caddies don’t stripe 3-woods to eagle range on the 72nd hole, they don’t recover from sloppy starts like the one Spieth endured on Sunday when he three-putted the first hole and, at least the good ones, never consider themselves to be anything more than an outdoor butler.

But Spieth, who became just the sixth player to ever win the first two legs of the single-season Grand Slam, will be the first to acknowledge that Greller is more than the sum of his parts.

“Michael is the one who just shoved positive thoughts into my head the whole week,” said Spieth, who forged a three-stroke lead with a birdie on the 16th hole but made his second double bogey of the week at No. 17 to drop into a tie with Oosthuizen and Johnson. “He deserves a lot of credit this week. That was the best week he ever caddied.”

In this case, as it does with all great player-caddie combinations, the relationship goes much deeper than simply pulling clubs and reading putts.

Spieth skipped last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to rest after a long season. At least that was the line at the time. In fact, he skipped the free-money, no-cut event to attend Greller’s wedding at Chambers Bay.

The two first met in the Pacific Northwest when Greller caddied for a then-17-year-old Spieth at the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at nearby Gold Mountain Golf Club, an event Spieth won.

And it was at Chambers Bay where Greller perfected his trade. The former sixth-grade math teacher would sneak out after summer school and “experience something different.”

During those moonlighting days Greller would take a “double-bag” loop in the morning and “single-bag” the same afternoon. Those endurance tests made Sunday’s 18 seem like a stroll.

“That bag gets pretty light late in the afternoon at a major,” he smiled.

As the week unfolded at a brown and bouncy Chambers Bay the good karma continued to build.

On Monday, a former member of the girls’ golf team that Greller used to coach was his standard-bearer, on Thursday it was a former student carrying Spieth’s score and on Sunday his former principal at Narrows View Intermediate School was the hole captain at No. 10.

“There were just so many fun interactions like that throughout the week and that made it so much more special,” Greller said.

But it was his interaction with Spieth that makes Greller such a key part of Team Jordan. The outspoken two-time major champion can appear rattled, even fidgety, at times on the golf course, like he did on Sunday when his tee shot on No. 17 sailed right.

Both player and caddie had been here before, like at the 2014 Masters when he went bogey-bogey just before the turn to lose his advantage and again this year at Augusta National when he answered a similar late miscue with birdies at Nos. 13 and 15.

It’s become a familiar formula, Spieth yaps at his golf ball and Greller gives Spieth something positive to focus on.

“Jordan is going to get fired up and I love that about him,” Greller said. “When something doesn’t go right he’s not going to stuff it in there and not say anything. He’s going to express himself.”

It was rare then that as the duo watched Johnson pull his birdie attempt at the last that both player and caddie were left speechless.

“There was really nothing said for about 10 seconds. After a long pause he finally said, ‘This one is for you, Michael.” And he gave me the ball from [No.] 18,” Greller said.

Caddies don’t win major championships, but this victory was a team effort by any definition.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.