Spieth (74) resilient, maintains lead at halfway point

By Ryan LavnerApril 9, 2016, 12:35 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Marching toward the scoring building, flanked by a pair of security guards, Jordan Spieth’s face was bright red. It was from windburn, presumably, and not the five hours and 35 minutes of frustration.

The four-putt.

The botched chip that rolled down the slope.

The rushed shots around Amen Corner while on the clock.

“That was tough,” Spieth on Friday night, but even after his worst-ever score at Augusta National, a 2-over 74, even after the four-putt and the botched chip and the rushed shots, he still will take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the 80th Masters.

Through two days here, it’s painfully obvious that this is nothing like last year’s tournament. Spieth won’t blow away the field. He won’t pour in every 25-footer. And no, most importantly, the coronation won’t begin on the front nine Saturday.  

Spieth still holds the lead for the sixth consecutive round at the Masters, but never has he been more under duress at a place that, for the better part of three years, has looked like his personal playground.

Five shots clear at one point Friday, Spieth is now, at 4-under 140, only one stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy. Eleven players are within four shots.

With the wind gusting to 25 mph through the Georgia pines, Spieth, flawless through 22 holes, made four bogeys and a double. He needed a 14-footer for par on the final green just to preserve a one-shot cushion heading into Saturday’s third round, when conditions are expected to be even more difficult.

“That’s going to be the biggest advantage for us,” he said, “is to go out tomorrow, pretend it’s a new golf tournament and try and beat the field from here on in.”

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Midway through the second round, you wouldn’t have blamed the tournament committee for trying to relocate Spieth’s size-42 green jacket. After a “dream start,” with birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, he was five shots ahead of the field.

But Spieth wasn’t immune from the trouble, not on this day. The wind switched on his second shot into the par-4 fifth – it was supposed to be downwind, off the right – and his ball came up well short of the flag. He four-putted from 47 feet, missing three times inside 7 feet. Short of the ninth green, he made another mistake with his chip, walking off with bogey.

By then, the wind was howling, requiring his full attention on every 2-footer, and his patience was being tested, too, with good shots turning out poorly and bad shots getting severely punished.

“It was very tough to stay cool,” he said. “It’s a lot easier said than done. You could say, ‘Looked like you got emotional out there.’ But I mean, you guys try it. That was a hard golf course.”

Spieth’s frustration boiled over on the 11th hole, when he was told that his group was on the clock after falling out of position. After flaring his approach out to the right, leaving a 70-foot birdie putt across the green, Spieth complained to Greller: “I’m being freakin’ timed. I want to take my time, wait out the gust. But we can’t.”

Spieth said later that his annoyance stemmed from not receiving a warning earlier that his group was out of position.

“Have fun getting put on the clock at 11 of Augusta,” he said, “and then play 11 and 12 rushing with gusting winds. It’s not fun. It’s not fun at all.”

Spieth held it together through Amen Corner, and he even pushed his lead back to three shots with a two-putt birdie on 15. He immediately followed that with a three-putt on 16 and another dropped shot on 17.

When Spieth flailed his approach into the greenside bunker on the finishing hole, leaving a devilish shot with little green to work with, he appeared on the verge of dropping into a share of the halfway lead with McIlroy. Then Spieth, as he’s already done so many times here, canned the par putt to stay one shot ahead, tying Arnold Palmer as the only players to hold at least a share of the lead for six consecutive rounds at Augusta.

“It makes me smile walking off the green,” he said of the par save, “versus wondering how you just went bogey-bogey-bogey. That’s definitely a difference-maker there.”

And so now we’re left with a Masters Tournament that has morphed into a U.S. Open - unforgiving and unpredictable.

A year ago, Spieth won majors with both birdies (Augusta) and pars (Chambers Bay), and he says that his skill set lends itself better to brutish tests than birdie barrages. In the scoring building afterward, he compared the feeling of last year’s Masters, when he’d breezed to a four-shot lead at the halfway point, to this year’s edition.

“I like this better,” he said. “I didn’t like the fact that if I were to go out and play a decent round but shoot even par, because stuff doesn’t go in, guys could take the lead. Now, if I strike the ball the way I want to strike it and kind of map my way around the course the way we do so well here, you don’t need to force anything.”

Even if the storyline is Jordan vs. Rory, expect a weekend that is more slugfest than shootout.  

The second-round scoring average was a shade above 75. The best round was 71. Greens that received 4-iron shots early in the afternoon sent wedge shots bounding over the back by the end of the day.

“This has now gone very much to a U.S. Open style of play,” Spieth said, “but with more difficult greens.”

And so another brutal day awaits.

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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.