College coach: Spieth a diamond-encrusted billboard

By Ryan LavnerApril 13, 2015, 4:22 pm

John Fields is well aware that his life changed forever on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010, when he received a phone call at 2:30 p.m. from a 16-year-old named Jordan Spieth.

Fields had just gotten back from his team’s tournament in Hawaii, and he was sitting in his TV room at home when his cellphone buzzed. The conversation was brief, maybe five minutes. But five little words – I am coming to Texas – changed everything.

Thirty months later, in his first season at Texas, Spieth raced onto the 18th green at Riviera to celebrate after he helped the Longhorns capture their first NCAA title in 40 years, since guys like Kite and Crenshaw were on the team. Spieth would turn pro a few months later, after his fall semester, the beginning of a magical 2 1/2-year run that culminated with him slipping into the green jacket Sunday night in Augusta.

The college dropout still got his Masters. 

“It doesn’t surprise me because I knew he had that ability and that belief,” Fields said by phone. “It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve seen it.”

The first time he watched Spieth play was at a Texas junior event in Ardmore, Okla. On the par-3 second hole at Dornick Hills, the then-12-year-old hit an amped-up iron over the green because the popular Texas coach was watching. The shot Spieth played next was one that Fields will never forget: From a gnarly lie in the rough, he hoisted a flop shot onto a downslope that landed soft and trickled within 6 inches of the cup. Ho-hum par.

“I knew he was going to be great,” Fields said. “He had that look about him.”

Spieth blossomed into the top recruit in the country, and every big-name program wanted him. On his fifth unofficial visit to Austin – about three hours from his hometown of Dallas – he was relaxing in Fields’ office when the coach asked him a question.

“Jordan, do you know what I’ll be if you come to Texas?”

“No, I have no idea,” Spieth replied.

“Well, if you come here, I’ll be a great coach.”

Spieth laughed.

“Great players make great coaches,” Fields reminded him. “It’s not the other way around.”

Fields had already been at the helm for more than a dozen years and led the team to a handful of top-five finishes at NCAAs, but Texas athletics was demanding and the competitive recruiting landscape required thick skin. The pressure to win was mounting. The 2011-12 season – with Spieth and South African Dylan Frittelli leading the way – was a game-changer for everybody involved, but particularly Fields.

That summer, in the wake of the national title, he told me, “When you’re out there recruiting and you haven’t won one and you’re at Texas, they say, ‘That guy can’t coach. He’s the worst coach in America. He can’t get kids where they need to go.’ They throw mud. To have something like this happen, it kind of validates you.”

Look at Fields now: He oversees a roster loaded with can’t-miss prospects and USGA champions. His Longhorns are the No. 3 team in the country, the winners of four of their last five events (five overall), and the favorites for the NCAAs in less than two months. And to think, Spieth would be a senior right now, a month away from graduation.

“We were blessed to have him,” Fields said. “He’s a diamond-encrusted billboard for this golf team."

And so, as his Longhorns played a college event this weekend in Northern California, many asked Fields: Aren’t you going to head to Augusta for the coronation?

“I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “Jordan loves these guys. If I showed up at Augusta, he’d look at me cross-eyed, like, What are you doing here?”

Sure enough, Texas swept both the team and individual titles at Pasatiempo, another Alister Mackenzie gem that is the inspiration for Augusta National. And then, a few hours later, as the college kids ate lunch in the clubhouse, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth won the Masters.

Back in Austin, the university honored the new No. 2 player in the world by lighting its iconic tower burnt orange.

No one will soon forget Spieth’s 15 months as a Longhorn. Especially not Fields.

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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 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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.