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Spieth not overthinking playoff loss to DJ

By Rex HoggardAugust 31, 2017, 7:24 pm

NORTON, Mass. – In the hours following Sunday’s showdown between Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at The Northern Trust, the runner-up sent the champion a text message.

Jordan: Man, congrats, that was a good battle, let's do it again next week.

Dustin: Absolutely. I had a good time. That was my turn. ;-)

To be completely accurate, Johnson didn’t add an emoji to the end of his text, but it would have been awesome if he did. Not that DJ comes across as a “smiley face” guy and he may have considered any light-hearted attempt at humor poor form.

Simply put, it may be too soon.

After all, Spieth had just lost a five-stroke lead with 13 holes to play on Sunday at Glen Oaks. Those types of scars normally need some time to callus over, but then Spieth didn’t exactly sound like a man who needed to be talked off a ledge on Thursday at the Dell Technologies Championship.

“People keep using the word disappointment. It wasn't a disappointment. It was a great week,” he said.

While “great,” might be a bit of a stretch, Spieth certainly appeared to have left his Long Island loss in the rearview mirror as he made his way up Interstate 95 for the season’s second playoff stop.

Part of that is simply the competitive reality of playing professional golf. Even players like Spieth end up on the wrong side of the trophy presentation more times than not, so a bit of Teflon is often the best club in the bag.

Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, video and photos

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We’ve seen this resilience before from Spieth, like in 2016 at the Masters when he lost a lead by depositing two pellets into Rae's Creek en route to a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole. He bounced back and won at Colonial a few weeks later.

Nothing to see here.

We saw it at the Travelers Championship earlier this summer when he lost a similar Sunday lead only to finish off Daniel Berger with a dramatic hole-out on the first extra hole; and at last month’s Open Championship when he began Sunday with a three-shot lead only to fall behind before a scrambling bogey from the practice range on the 13th hole ignited a late charge that led to his third major victory.

It’s become Spieth’s modus operandi for better or worse. Although he has shown he can dominate a field like any of the game’s best, in his last three Sundays in contention he’s appeared inclined to costly late miscues. At TPC River Highlands and Royal Birkdale, he overcame, which itself carries a weighty significance.

“You didn't see Tiger [Woods] hitting it off the practice ground at an Open Championship and making errors, and then amazing come backs,” said Paul Casey last Saturday at Glen Oaks. “Jordan's got something very special. What he did at the Open Championship was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, after the start. He has something.”

But last week that special something failed to materialize. Although he shot a 1-under 69 to finish 72 holes tied with Johnson, a double bogey-5 at the sixth hole opened the door for the would-be champion.

“What I learned from it? I won the tournament, besides the shot I hit in the water on 6,” reasoned Spieth, now four days removed from his Sunday loss. “The shot I hit in the water on 6, my ball speed was the fastest ball speed clocked in the last 10 groups on that hole. Yet, it went the shortest, which just tells me it was a wind gust. So I didn't do anything wrong.”

Perhaps. Golf is, after all, a game where luck can play a significant role; but he also bogeyed the ninth and failed to birdie any of his last five holes, including the overtime frame.

There’s always a key distinction in these types of situations, and Spieth was clear at Glen Oaks that he felt like Johnson won the event, as opposed to the 24-year-old losing it.

Johnson did close with a bogey-free 66, the second-lowest score of the day, and destroyed the playoff hole (No. 18) with a drive that sailed 341 yards for a flip wedge/birdie walk-off.

“I went up against another guy I consider the best in the world, and we had a good battle. And it went his way,” Spieth said. “I think there's a couple times he's battled against me he wished it went his way and this is one I wish went my way.”

Hindsight can be a patiently unfair benchmark in these situations. Maybe Spieth should have attempted to cut the corner on the first extra hole, like Johnson, but if he doesn’t pull off that shot the second-guessing would be deafening.

Always one of the Tour’s most retrospective types, Spieth seems content to not dig too deeply into what may or may not have been done differently.

“You can learn from wins and losses, and it being a loss, there really isn't much I can take out of that,” he said. “I was correcting mistakes that I had made in other losses. I was correcting tendencies and did a great job of it.”

Like everything else in Spieth’s career, the important thing now is what he does the next time he’s in the hunt.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.

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Stenson leads strong cast of Bay Hill contenders

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 11:38 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Henrik Stenson has a tortured history here at Bay Hill, a collection of close calls that have tested his mettle and certainly his patience.

Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational won’t get any easier. Not with a course that is already firm and fast and fiery, just the way the King would have wanted it. And not with 13 players within five shots of the lead, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and, yes, even Tiger Woods.

Without his best stuff Saturday, Stenson still managed to edge ahead of Bryson DeChambeau to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round. It’s familiar territory for the Swede, who posted four consecutive top-10s here from 2013-16, including a few agonizing near-misses.

Three years ago, Stenson appeared on his way to victory when he was put on the clock on the 15th hole. Rattled, he three-putted the next two holes and lost by a stroke. The following year, he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then hit it in the water on 16 and bogeyed two of the last three holes.

“It wouldn’t be the only tournament where you feel like you’ve got some unfinished business,” Stenson said, “but I’ve been up in the mix a few times and we’re here again, so of course I would like to see a different outcome.”

What will be interesting Sunday is whether history repeats itself.

Neither Stenson nor DeChambeau is quick-paced, with DeChambeau even acknowledging that he’s one of the game’s most methodical players, stepping off pitch shots and checking (and re-checking) his reads on the green. With so much at stake, it’s not a stretch to imagine both players grinding to a halt on a course that got “crusty” in the late-afternoon sun.

“We’ve got a lot of guys behind me,” DeChambeau said, “so I’ve got to go deep tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

The 24-year-old earned his breakthrough victory last July at the John Deere Classic, but that was one hot week as he tried to play his way out of a slump.

Even this week’s performance was unexpected, after he withdrew from the Valspar Championship because of a balky back.

Last weekend he underwent an MRI (clean), didn’t touch a club for three days and showed up here cautiously optimistic. His ball-striking hasn’t suffered at all – in fact, he’s ranked fifth in strokes gained-tee to green – and now he’s relishing the chance to take on some of the game’s biggest names.

“Whatever happens,” he said, “it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead, 10 are Tour winners. That includes McIlroy, whose putter has finally come alive, and Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to move within three shots, and Fowler, whose game is finally rounding into form, and also Woods, who has won a record eight times at Bay Hill. 

Even if he doesn’t pick up a pre-Masters victory – he’s five shots back, the same deficit he erased here in 2009 – Woods has showed flashes of his old self at one of his favorite playgrounds, whether it’s the blistered 2-irons off the tee, the daring approach shots or the drained 40-footers.

“I’ve got a chance,” he said.

And so do the rest of the major champions and PGA Tour winners assembled near the top of the leaderboard.

It should be a wild final round at Arnie’s Place – even if Stenson, for once, is hoping for a drama-free Sunday.

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DeChambeau uses big words to describe back injury

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 11:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bryson DeChambeau needed just 30 seconds of explaining the state of his lower back to send the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational spinning.

DeChambeau shot an even-par 72 in the third round at Bay Hill, and he will start the final round one shot behind Henrik Stenson as he looks to win for the second time in his young PGA Tour career. DeChambeau’s strong play this week comes in the wake of his decision to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship because of a bad back.

DeChambeau is no stranger to new vocabulary words or adopting a scientific take on matters, and it was when he delved into the details of his injury that things got interesting.

“It was because my quadratus lumborum wasn’t working. My iliacus, longissimus thoracis, they were all kind of over-working if you want to get technical on that,” DeChambeau said. “But they weren’t working very well, and I overworked them. Pretty much my lower right back was hurting and I rested it. How about that?”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

DeChambeau tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month, but he has struggled to find results in the weeks since. One of the keys to a quick recovery between Innisbrook and Bay Hill was some time on the couch this past weekend and a binge session of The Walking Dead on Netflix.

“I literally didn’t do anything, and that’s really the first time I’ve done that in my entire life. I’ve never actually taken three days off where I didn’t touch a club,” DeChambeau said. “So that was unique for me and actually took me some time to acclimate to that, my body to get comfortable to get in a rested state. And then once it was finally able to rest, it healed a little bit and I was able to make a run for it this week.”

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Woods fielding Masters practice-round requests

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Heading into what is likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Tiger Woods is starting to set up his schedule for the days leading into the season’s first major.

Woods has won the Masters four times, most recently in 2005, and in the wake of a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and a strong showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he’ll head down Magnolia Lane with more momentum than he’s had in years. As a result, it’s not surprising that he has received more than a few inquiries about a possible practice round at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week.

“I’ve gotten a couple requests here and there,” Woods said with a grin after a third-round 69 at Bay Hill.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Woods has played the Masters only once since 2014, but don’t expect him to try out some unfamiliar pairings on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the azaleas. Woods still plans to rely on a rotation he’s had for several years, playing with former champs Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara. O’Meara, who received his green jacket from Woods in 1998, plans to make this year his final Masters start.

“I traditionally have played with Freddie, if he can. We’re hoping he can come back and play again and play Augusta. I’ve played with Mark just about every single year,” Woods said. “It’s generally been those two guys, and those are the two guys I’ve grown up with out here on Tour. We sit next to each other actually at the champions’ dinner, and so we have known each other for a very long time.”

While Woods is no stranger to fielding offers for tips and advice from younger players, especially on a course he knows as well as Augusta National, one top-ranked name continues to stick out among the requests he’s received in recent weeks.

“Just the normal JT (Justin Thomas),” Woods said. “He’s always trying to get some practice rounds in.”