Spieth practices, thrives under pressure

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2015, 10:00 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – When Jordan Spieth began his final round Sunday at Augusta National with two birdies, many marveled at the 21-year-old’s fearlessness.

When he charged in a 20 footer for birdie at the 10th to move a half dozen clear of the field, the collective watched in awe at what could only be described as detached abandon.

And when Spieth rifled his 5-iron second shot at the par-5 13th over the tributary to Rae’s Creek to 14 feet, his competitive moxie appeared beyond reproach.

In just his second Masters, Spieth shifted the paradigm that winning a major championship is more often about dealing with nerves than it is a physical test of hitting golf shots, but then his apparent immunity to pressure is no accident.

Since Spieth was 12 years old, his swing coach Cameron McCormick has conditioned the would-be champion to the stress of competition. Put another way: “Combining the physical and physiological stress in training leads to quantum leaps in performance to bridge the step function of transfer.”

That was a tweet McCormick posted on March 3. On Monday, a day after Spieth won the Masters by four strokes, the Australian patiently obliged when he was asked to put that concept in layman’s terms.

“Essentially what that means is it’s really hard to expect a player who practices in a state of little stress that it’s going to be like that on the course,” McCormick told GolfChannel.com. “You want to simulate as much pressure as you can.”

In practical terms, that means making Spieth feel as uncomfortable as possible when the two are working together.

McCormick said he and Spieth always have “consequences” when they practice. Sometimes that involves your run-of-the-mill cash bets, but most of the time it features a symbolic gesture.

It started with McCormick offering Spieth a hat when he was a pre-teen and advanced to Spieth buying a nice dinner for his girlfriend if he fails a particular task.

According to McCormick, the key is to always make sure there are repercussions and that the duo maintains the delicate balance of challenging such a talented player.

“He’s very competitive. It’s always finding that point where he gets very uncomfortable,” said McCormick, who added that he tried to keep himself as busy as possible on Sunday to avoid the Masters telecast. “He’s the kind of guy who expects to do very well. I’ll push him to the point of frustration, and then I can dial it back.”

Through those drills and a stellar amateur career, Spieth forged a relative indifference to the pressures of competition. He still feels nerves, he’s just become extremely adept at dealing with them.

For McCormick, the transformation of Spieth from Masters runner-up last year to 2015 champion was a similar process.

Following last year’s Masters there was pressure, which was largely internal, to claim his second PGA Tour title and a desire to finish what he stated in 2014 when he took a share of the Masters lead into the final round.

Those pressures, however, manifested themselves in counterproductive ways.

“Last year, he put pressure on himself to validate that first win,” McCormick said. “He realized the pressure he was putting on himself was actually working in reverse.”

It was just before the Ryder Cup when Spieth began to square himself with that concept. He and McCormick made a few putting adjustments at the Australian Open in November, and Spieth dusted the field by six shots.

A week later, he cruised to a 10-stroke victory at the Hero World Challenge, and the die was cast for his Masters masterpiece.

“They learned so much about themselves and their teamwork in Australia was transcendent,” McCormick said of Spieth and his caddie Michael Greller.

Still, even those who have seen the ebb and flow of Spieth’s young career up close were equal parts impressed and surprised that he was able to control his emotions so well with so much on the line.

“Any time, no matter how good someone is or no matter how well you know them, if you told someone a 21-year-old would win the Masters by four strokes in record fashion, you’d have to be surprised,” said Justin Thomas, who first met Spieth when the two were 14 years old at a junior event in Texas.

But after nearly a decade of working with Spieth, McCormick has almost lost the ability to be surprised by anything he does.

Twelve months ago, McCormick talked to Spieth as he was making his way to Hilton Head after his Masters near miss. It was a much different phone call on Monday.

“Last year was more of a way to reflect and regroup as a team,” McCormick recalled. “[Monday’s] call is more looking back on what he’s accomplished. It will be hard to keep my tears back.”

Spieth may have mastered his emotions on the golf course, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the moment away from the fairways.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.