Local knowledge? Only so much for Spieth, Greller

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2015, 11:31 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Jordan Spieth’s only competitive round at Chambers Bay was a forgettable one. He shot 83 in the second round of stroke-play qualifying at the 2010 U.S. Amateur, on a day when the USGA admittedly lost control of the baked-out course.

“It was a short-lived trip for me,” Spieth said Monday. “I tried to throw out the round that I shot on this course from my memories. I’m kind of going in with a blank slate.”

The more he’s played Chambers, though, the more his opinions of the links-style course have evolved.

That shift began in summer 2013, when Spieth skipped the no-cut, big-money World Golf Championships event at Firestone to attend his caddie Michael Greller's wedding.

It just so happened that Greller was tying the knot at Chambers Bay, where he used to loop in the summer, so Spieth and a few of Greller’s buddies played the day before the nuptials. Spieth shot 72 from the back tees and won a few bucks off the groom.

Many have suggested that Spieth is the favorite this week on the 8-year-old course, not only because he’s the second-ranked player in the world but also because of his caddie’s local knowledge.

The latter part might be deceiving. Yes, Greller estimated that he has done about 40 loops here, but none since 2011. The course has undergone several alterations since the U.S. Amateur, and the course will play differently this week under the USGA’s watch. Greller’s experience, in other words, extends only so far.

Spieth generally goes solo when reading greens anyway, so Greller will be called on only for a second look or for reassurance. Instead, Spieth says that his caddie can be most helpful off the tee, with picking sight lines. Because this already has the makings of a dusty Open, with firm and fast fescue turf, being able to judge how a ball will react once it hits the ground will be important.

Spieth logged a pair of 18-hole practice rounds over the weekend and will play nine holes a day leading up to his Thursday afternoon tee time. He says that he “really enjoys the layout” and thinks it’s going to be a “fun challenge.”

And that's not just lip service. 

It’s instructive to go back to that U.S. Am in 2010, when Spieth blew up and only a 78 was needed to make match play. Even then, even after that round, Spieth said that he “absolutely loves the golf course” and simply felt as though the greens were too difficult. (Many of the most treacherous putting surfaces have since been recontoured.)

Spieth is a more complete player now than when he was a rising high school senior, of course, and he enters this Open trying to sustain his major momentum. He reminded himself of his major chops last week while watching TV in the privacy of his home in Dallas. One night he slipped on the green jacket ... you know, just because.

“Why wouldn’t I put it on?” he asked with a smile.

This week he could become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the first two majors of the year.

“I have a chance to make history in many ways,” Spieth said. “There are certainly a lot of goals left for the year. It’s never even crossed my mind to let it kind of sink in that it’s been a great year. If I didn’t do anything the rest of the year, I’d be pretty frustrated at the second half.”

After a surprising missed cut at The Players, Spieth has recorded a pair of top-3 finishes in his last three starts. In fact, his ball-striking has been so sharp in practice so far, “I wish the tournament started two days ago,” he said.

After a disastrous early exit here five years ago, it seems Spieth can’t wait for Thursday’s opening bell.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.