Spieth shows brilliance on very difficult Augusta day

By Rex HoggardApril 7, 2016, 9:26 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jack Nicklaus once predicted Tiger Woods would win more green jackets than he and Arnold Palmer combined.

No one is claiming that Jordan Spieth will surpass the duo’s total (10) just yet, but it is starting to feel like the 22-year-old is playing a different Augusta National than the rest of the field.

Spieth carded his ninth consecutive round at Augusta National of even par or better, a 6-under 66 that lifted him to a two-stroke advantage.

That’s not to say Spieth’s title defense got off to a stellar start.

On the eve of Thursday’s first round Spieth cracked the face of his driver and he needed an 11th-hour tuning session to get a suitable backup in the bag for opening day of the major championship season.

Things started to look even more dicey when he teed off just before 10 a.m. (ET) and found himself in a precarious position after his approach shot at the first sailed wide right leaving him an unenviable chip.

But Spieth scrambled for a par that probably won’t be remembered come Sunday. But it certainly had the desired effect.

“That [Spieth’s par at No. 1] had to give him an emotional lift,” said two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, Spieth’s Masters mentor who walked with the defending champion early Thursday.

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It was two years ago when Crenshaw first saw the potential in Spieth. He had all the markings of not just a good PGA Tour player, but a major champion. A Masters champion.

Crenshaw first led his fellow Texan around Augusta National during a practice round two years ago. It was a Wednesday and in true hump-day fashion it was an intense study into the nuances of a course that never seems to give up all of its secrets.

“All the way around he would ask, ‘What are you doing on this shot here?’” Crenshaw recalled. “You just create situations and he liked that. He wanted to know the breaks and what I saw. I told him to keep matching your speed [on the greens], pace, pace, pace.”

He may have bolted the University of Texas early, but Spieth is nothing if not an impressive student.

In just his third Masters start, Spieth negotiated the swirling wind and rocking pine trees like, well, Crenshaw.

After setting the tone at the first, he birdied the third hole from 6 feet, the sixth from 12 feet, the eighth from 4 feet, the 10th from 10 feet and the 18th from 4 feet.

“I got a lot out of the round with what I felt like was kind of average‑ish ball‑striking,” Spieth said. “I just scored the ball extremely well, which is something I've been struggling with this season. ... Certainly made a lot of putts today. But I am extremely pleased with that round today. I felt like we stole a few.”

It was the grinding pars, however, that will likely give Spieth confidence heading into a cold weekend. Encounters like at the fourth hole on Day 1, where he missed the green well right with his 6-iron tee shot but played a brilliant chip under the trees for a stress-free par on a day that was outright stressful for the vast majority of the rest of the field.

“I gave a fist pump right there [at No. 4], because that was a really hard up‑and‑down, coming from that side of the green,” said Spieth, who beat the early field average by 8.9 strokes. “That was huge, it keeps momentum there and it allows me to be able to adjust kind of my swing on the next iron shots that I hit without losing strokes on my misses and that's very, very key.”

In his nine competitive rounds at Augusta National, Spieth’s position after each day reads like the number on an ATM card – T-12, T-3, T-1, T-2, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st and 1st.

Following his runner-up showing in 2014 and last year’s record-tying victory it would be easy to lapse into a misguided hot take replete with histrionics, but there is no denying Spieth’s current run in north Georgia.

Four solid rounds is a good week, nine rounds is starting to feel like a bona fide trend.

“I was impressed by everything he did today,” said Paul Casey, who was grouped with Spieth on Day 1. “That was a flawless round of golf on one of the toughest days I’ve ever seen at Augusta National.”

The cliché that the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday has never been more irrelevant, not with a forecast that is on the Open Championship side of awful.

If the weather continues down its current ominous path, Spieth’s front nine on Thursday may prove to be the difference between a series of legendary performances and what is starting to look like a true legend.

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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.