Spieth comes up short at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 27, 2014, 2:17 am

SAN DIEGO – Jordan Spieth sighed deeply before stepping onto the podium Sunday at Torrey Pines.

His face was smudged with sunscreen.

His hands were stuffed in his pockets.

His mind appeared in overdrive.

That flashy second round with the world No. 1? Oh, by now, it seemed but a distant memory. Instead, what Spieth will take away from his week here are the bad shots, the driver woes, the cracks in his mental game, the overwhelmingly lost feeling.

Up on that podium Spieth talked not about his fast start but his sluggish finish. He revealed that he felt “very comfortable” all weekend. That he “didn’t feel nervous at all.” That there was “no tension.” That, in the end, he “just didn’t have my stuff.”

Staked to his first outright 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, the 20-year-old wunderkind shot 75-75 on the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open. No one in the top 45 had a worse final round than Spieth. Just like that, he sank to joint 19th. 

There is a rush to anoint the kid as the next superstar, and there remains plenty of evidence that he’ll reach headliner status soon, if he hasn’t already.

After all, Spieth has been a winner at every level, from the peewee ranks (multiple U.S. Junior titles) to the college campus (NCAA champion in lone full season at Texas) to the pros (John Deere Classic). Here at Torrey Pines, he was vying to become the youngest two-time PGA Tour winner since 1932.

But such hastiness tends to obscure the fact that he’s still just 20 – with a lifetime full of successes and disappointments ahead. He’s still learning how to win and, more often than not, lose, since this was the 12th time in the past 10 months that he had started a weekend round inside the top 10.

On Friday, Woods, who knows a bit about outsized expectations as a young star, remarked that one of the reasons that Spieth is such a great putter is that he rolls the ball with reckless abandon. His mind wasn’t cluttered with old feelings and bad thoughts.

“You haven’t experienced enough yet, you know?” Woods said.

Twenty-seven starts into his PGA Tour career, this one likely the most disappointing, Spieth continues to supply the memory bank.

This week, he played the first two rounds alongside FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker and Woods – the first time he’s played with the 14-time major champion in competition. Afterward, Spieth learned that he wasn’t “intimidated by any means,” and he ended up dusting his childhood idol by eight shots.

“It’s not something he’s going to dwell on,” his caddie, Michael Greller, said after that round. “He’s going to play with Tiger for a long time, hopefully.”

That confidence waned over the weekend, though, when Spieth began to get out of sync with his driver. (It didn’t help, of course, that he “tweaked” his ankle at some point during Friday’s round, making it difficult to properly load onto his right side.)

This weekend, on the more punishing South Course – which featured long, gnarly rough a few feet off the fairway – Spieth hit just 12 of 28 fairways, leading to only 10 greens hit each of the last two days.

“When I’m struggling with my driver, mentally, it’s very difficult for me to stay neutral and refocus and finish off a good round,” he said. “It’s something I really need to work on.

“It’s a detriment to my success – learning how to get over it and find a go-to shot. Typically, I can, and this is really the first event where I just had no idea where the ball was going to go."

Look at the 18th hole, he said. Spieth pulled an 8-iron for a lay-up, with a 30-yard-wide landing area, and missed the fairway by 10 yards. “It was a borderline shank,” he said, shaking his head.

The self-critique continued on the podium when he lamented letting “stuff get to my head too easily.”

After Spieth hit his approach through the back on the par-5 sixth, an unwitting photographer stumbled around the green and stepped on his ball, sinking it deep into the grass.

Spieth was alerted of the incident by a group of spectators. “OK, OK,” he told them, clearly perturbed. “Just tell the rules official that when he gets here.”

Spieth was awarded a free drop, but that ball, too, settled down in the thick stuff. He rolled his eyes. After a nice pitch to 5 feet, he tugged the putt and settled for par.

Stewing, he chomped on his gum and fidgeted with the bottom button on his shirt. In the background a few clever fans yelled, “Step on it!” and “Fluffy!”, like the lie in the rough that he previously had enjoyed.

“When that putt missed, it got in my head,” said Spieth, who went on to bogey the next hole (No. 7) and squander birdie opportunities on the upcoming par 5s. He finished at 4-under 284, five shots behind winner Scott Stallings. “I’ll learn from that just to brush it off. There’s nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t prevent it.

“So, all in all, I just really wasn’t mentally ready to win this week.”

And with that, Spieth stepped off the podium and headed toward a line of spectators, Sharpie in hand. Up next is a week of physical therapy and practice and reflection, this humbling weekend – not the 63 with Tiger – weighing heavy on his mind.


Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm