Marathon day prompts Spieth to put old putter back in bag

By Rex HoggardMay 24, 2017, 8:20 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – Superman never went with a backup cape, Thor never had a spare hammer in his trunk and Bobby Jones didn’t bench his iconic putter, dubbed Calamity Jane, for a newer model.

Well, Jones did bench the original Calamity Jane, which he won three majors using, because of wear and tear, but the parallels remain and at least partially explain why Jordan Spieth nearly broke social media last week when he benched his trusty Scotty Cameron for a shiny new model.

“I haven’t been comfortable standing over it for a little while so I just wanted something that’s a new look,” he said last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson when asked about the switch.

Like most love stories, this one has a happy ending. Or, at least it was on Wednesday at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational when Spieth acknowledged that he’s going back to his old putter for this week’s event, where he’s the defending champion.

With the new model, Spieth posted rounds of 68-75 to miss the cut for the second consecutive week for just the second time in his remarkable career.

Spieth lost 1 1/2 strokes to the field last week according to the strokes gained: putting statistic and rolled in a grand total of 39 feet of putts on Friday. By comparison, on his way to victory last year at Colonial he gained 9.12 strokes on the field and rolled in 151 feet of putts during Round 4.

Yet what Spieth didn’t find in his search for putting answers with the new model, a Scotty Cameron T5W Tour mallet, he said he discovered with improved alignment.

“I just lost a little bit of the feel that I had with the putter I've been using for however many years,” he said on Wednesday. “But what it did was now I feel a lot more comfortable with my alignment and feel like I got my set up back to where I want it and I have that feel.”

Spieth explained it wasn’t necessarily his play last week at the Nelson as much as it was a marathon day with caddie Michael Greller on Sunday at Dallas National that prompted his switch back.

Dean & DeLuca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I played 36 holes on Sunday and had a couple great putting rounds,” he said. “That kind of made the decision that it was time, and I felt comfortable back on short- and mid-range putts with my alignment.”

What didn’t factor into his decision to go back to his old gamer was a general outcry on social and traditional media following his switch. Despite three consecutive days of armchair quarterbacking and uninformed hot takes, Spieth said he was largely indifferent to the second-guessing.

“I’ve been off social media for a while and media in general,” Spieth said. “I'm not even really sure what the reaction was other than the players on the putting green, which was significant. Like, ‘Why in the world are you switching?’ Which is probably what it was elsewhere.”

That would be the Cliffs Notes version, and whether Spieth rediscovers his magical putting touch he should at least be applauded for accomplishing what so many others find so difficult – ignoring the noise.

It’s a measure of Spieth’s historic putting prowess that news of his switch prompted so much reaction. He’s completed each of the last three season ranked inside the top 20 on the PGA Tour in putting; and ranked second and ninth, respectively, in strokes gained: putting the last two years after a dozen starts. He’s currently 52nd in that category.

Although there are plenty of players who would like to have Spieth’s current putting “problems,” he does have a victory and five top-10 finishes, when the bar has been set so high any fluctuation, however incremental, will be picked apart.

“Every player goes through it,” said Ryan Palmer, Spieth’s partner at the Zurich Classic last month. “He's trying to get back to where he was. He's one of the best putters on Tour, there is no doubt about that. I'm not really too worried about him struggling.”

It’s safe to say Spieth isn’t overly concerned with either his current putting line or his decision to try something new last week in Dallas. Nor did the 23-year-old seem interested in the notion that he and his old putter have some sort of manifest destiny relationship, like Jones had with Calamity Jane.

Instead, Spieth remembers a teen-aged tale of why he put the Scotty Cameron 009 into his bag in the first place.

“I used to putt extremely well with a [Scotty Cameron] Teryllium with a different neck before that one. I switched because Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy used the putter I use now way back when,” he said. “I thought the putter was really cool. I didn't know if it was the best for me or not, but I thought the putter was cool so I started using it. That was when I was probably 15, 16.”

It wasn’t some mystic path that led Spieth to start using his old putter, only an adolescent's interests. Just as his decision to switch things up last week wasn’t the seismic competitive shift it was made out to be, only an attempt to change things up in search of a different result.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”