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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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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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.