Spieth has history on his side at Riviera

By Rex HoggardFebruary 16, 2016, 11:07 pm

LOS ANGELES – For a kid from Texas, it’s interesting how Riviera Country Club in the heart of Los Angeles can feel like a second home.

This is after all one of three layouts, along with the sixth hole at Carnoustie and Colonial C.C., dubbed Hogan’s Alley after Texas legend Ben Hogan, and the rolling layout was nearly enough to woo the Dallas-born Jordan Spieth to the West Coast to attend college.

“In all honesty, a huge thing for me was I heard that [USC] had four playing memberships at Riviera,” Spieth said on Tuesday at Riviera. “When I came on my visit, I was offered one of the memberships at Riviera for the time you're at USC, and that's a pretty awesome perk.”

It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that the would-be world No. 1 would decide to stay closer to home and attend the University of Texas, but his relationship with Riviera was far from over.

This is Spieth’s fourth time playing the Northern Trust Open, having missed the cut in 2012, tying for 12th in ’14 and finishing one shot out of a playoff last year.

And, of course, there was the 2012 NCAA Men’s Championship when Spieth beat Justin Thomas, 3 and 2, to help lead the Longhorns to the national title.

On Monday during a qualifying round with current Longhorn Beau Hossler, Spieth literally took a stroll down memory lane at Riviera.

“Me and [Texas golf coach John Fields] were recalling, kind of letting Beau in, hey, this is where this match was, and this is where I holed out to beat Justin Thomas, and oh, let's take a video and send it to Justin of the 15th hole,” Spieth laughed.

Northern Trust Open: Articles, photos and videos

While that triumph is how Spieth would like to remember Riviera – and those good vibes will be fueled by a pairing with Thomas for Rounds 1 and 2 this week at the Northern Trust Open – it’s last year’s near-miss that drew the most interesting answer on Tuesday from the 22-year-old.

Spieth bogeyed the 72nd hole last year after missing the green with his approach shot, a mental lapse that may have cost him a title but allowed him to learn that heroics come in all shapes and sizes.

“Last year, it was a crazy finish and it kind of taught me a little something about this golf course. You just never know exactly what's going to happen at Riviera coming down the stretch,” said Spieth, who finished at 5 under par.

“I was thinking I needed to birdie 18 for a playoff. I got a little aggressive with the chip, not wanting to leave it short, and I ended up missing about an 8-foot par putt that I thought, you know, obviously was important but I didn't think it would have been good enough to get into a playoff.”

Instead, both Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia bogeyed the 17th hole to drop into a tie with James Hahn, who would win the playoff, and Paul Casey at 6 under.

It was a rare mistake for Spieth in 2015, and he would go on to win back-to-back majors (Masters and U.S. Open) and the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award. It also gives the fourth-year Tour player additional confidence this week.

Riviera is an unusually known quantity for Spieth on the Tour landscape. Although he’s won seven times there are few places where he has as much experience as he does in Los Angeles.

“I've probably played this course close to 30 times now, which is a lot compared to other tournaments,” Spieth said. “It's one of my favorites in the entire world.”

For Spieth, who is something of an armchair golf course architect, Riviera also checks off all of the right boxes. At 7,349 yards it’s not among the Tour’s longest layouts, yet the course ranked the fifth most difficult last year with a 72.59 scoring average.

In other words, it’s an architecturally arranged marriage for a player who is statistically middle of the pack in driving distance (he’s 89th this season with a 292-yard average) and is at his best when par is a good score and clutch putting is at a premium.

“I think golf courses a lot of times are rated in my opinion based on their par 3s, and there are some phenomenal ones here,” he said.

It’s an L.A. love story that began when Spieth was 12 years old and won’t be fully requited until he etches his name into the Northern Trust Open trophy.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.