Spieth ready to return focus back on golf at Heritage

By Rex HoggardApril 15, 2015, 6:10 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – This record may stand for some time.

No, not Jordan Spieth’s performance last week at the Masters, where he set or tied 36-, 54- and 72-hole scoring records on his way to a four-stroke victory. What’s truly impressive is the 21-year-old’s 25 interviews in 25 hours during a whirlwind media tour of New York City.

Over the last two days golf’s new headliner did interviews with ESPN Radio, “NBC Nightly News”, Fox, “The Late Show with David Letterman”, “CBS This Morning”, NBC’s “Today”, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive”.

It was all part of an odyssey that began when he putted out on the 18th hole on Sunday at Augusta National and included an early flight on Monday to the Big Apple and ended at about 10 p.m. ET Tuesday when he finally arrived at his rented house for the week in Hilton Head.

“[Tuesday] my energy level was maybe a two (on a scale of 1-10),” said Spieth, who tees off in Round 1 at the RBC Heritage at 12:40 p.m. “Today I’m back up to about a six. I should be at a nine tomorrow.”

Spieth’s presence at an event that has struggled in recent years to attract a marquee field in unquantifiable.

“Any time you have the Masters champion is unbelievable. He’s such a class act and to honor his commitment ... he has no idea how important that is to the community,” said Steve Wilmot, the RBC Heritage tournament director.

It will likely take some time, but chances are good Spieth will remember his decision to play this week’s event as an equally important next step in his evolving career.

Spieth becomes the first Masters champion to play the Heritage since Zach Johnson in 2007, and even the most jaded arm-chair pundits would have been challenged to criticize him if he’d decided to politely pass on a tee time at Harbour Town.

This is Spieth’s fifth start in six weeks, a run that included two victories and two runner-up showings. But as the world is learning, Spieth’s maturity extends well beyond his 21 years.

“I was asked Friday or Saturday when I was in the lead, ‘Hey, if you were to win Sunday are you thinking about maybe not going?’” said Spieth, who was offered a sponsor exemption into the Heritage in 2013 but ended up not needing it after quickly securing his PGA Tour card.

“From the get-go I was always planning on coming here. This tournament has been very good to me. I love it here.”

Johnson and Spieth spoke briefly on Wednesday at Harbour Town and although he didn’t offer any advice he could certainly relate to what the younger player is going through.

“It’s a whirlwind. I just actually sat down with Jordan for 30 seconds. It’s a good whirlwind,” Johnson said. “Every opportunity that comes through you want to say, ‘yes’ but you can’t. That’s hard.”

Spieth didn’t appear to tell anyone “no” since slipping into his coveted green jacket. On top of the parade of press interviews he estimated he’s received something close to 200 text messages and e-mails congratulating him for his victory.

And the coronation didn’t stop when he arrived at Harbour Town just before lunch on Wednesday. As he made his way through the club’s new locker room he was stopped every few feet by a fellow Tour player.

“Since I’ve been here each player, as expected, congratulated me because these are great guys, guys that I try and learn from on Tour,” Spieth said. “Everyone has come up and said, ‘Congrats man, it was fun to watch.’ Someone said, ‘I wasn’t planning on watching because I wasn’t there, but I really wanted to watch that. It was awesome.’”

Tour officials excused Spieth from Wednesday’s pro-am at the Heritage and he won’t see the golf course until he sets out Thursday afternoon from the first tee, but as Johnson learned in ’07 getting back to work brings its own version of solace after so much time in the spotlight.

“The best thing for me, looking back on it, I was exhausted and I’m sure Jordan is as well, was getting back inside the ropes,” said Johnson, who made a similar media tour in New York City after his victory. “That was a sense of normalcy. It was therapeutic.”

It also turned out to be a competitively productive week for Johnson, who finished in sixth place at the ’07 Heritage and was paired with eventual champion Boo Weekley on Sunday.

Given Spieth’s performance in his last four starts there’s another record he may be eyeing at Harbour Town. In 1985, Bernhard Langer is the only player to follow a victory at Augusta National with another the next week in Hilton Head.

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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.