Spieth not second-guessing decision to play Deere

By Ryan LavnerJuly 7, 2015, 8:42 pm

Jordan Spieth has already landed two big prizes this season. He reeled in a third (and a fourth) last month in the Caribbean, where he was vacationing with friends following his stirring victory at the U.S. Open.

One afternoon in the Bahamas, Spieth and his buddies were out on a boat snorkeling when they threw in a few lines, just to see if they could catch anything. He wound up in a two-and-a-half-hour game of tug-of-war with a 12-foot-long, 300-pound black tip shark that had eaten the tuna he’d hooked. A 2-for-1 deal. 

“I had to take a break,” Spieth told reporters Tuesday. “My arm couldn’t move anymore.”

His pals offered to take over for a while, but Spieth, ever the competitor, didn’t dare lose his catch.

“I’m like, ‘You bet your ass you’re not taking over,’” he said, laughing. “’This is my fish. There’s no way you’re stepping on this. You’re going to lose it.’”

His arm was sore a few days after the trip but is fine now.

Good thing, because after the unfortunate injury news surrounding world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the sport can’t afford another star on the disabled list – especially one with as much on the line as Spieth, who is trying to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same season.

But how Spieth has prepared for that shot at history has come under scrutiny.

Some suggested that he should have headed over early and logged as many practice rounds as he could at St. Andrews, a course he has played only once, while on his way to the 2011 Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen.

Others argued that he should have teed it up at the Scottish Open, because then he would have gotten adjusted not only to the five-hour time change but also the weather, conditions and links golf.

Instead, Spieth stayed true to the John Deere Classic, the down-home Tour stop in Silvis, Ill., that features one of the smallest purses on the calendar but is a place that holds special meaning to him. The tournament first offered him a sponsor exemption the summer after his freshman year at Texas, a crucial time when he was deciding whether to make the jump to the pros. A year later, he holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole and won the first of what is now four Tour titles.

“It never really crossed my mind to drop out,” he said.

Assuming Spieth makes the cut this week, he will board the Sunday-night charter that the Deere provides for players who are also in the Open. That leaves him only two-and-a-half days to prepare for the most pressure-packed tournament of his life.  

Yet to hear Spieth on Tuesday, his decision to play the Deere isn’t because of nostalgia, or simply because he made a commitment months before he won two majors. He’s playing the Deere because he believes it gives him the best chance to be successful in the year’s third major.

And doesn’t Spieth know his game best?

“I think this is good preparation for me to get good feels, to get in contention, and to find out what’s on and what’s off when I’m in contention,” he said. “I’m here because I believe I can win this week. I believe that it’s advantageous for me to try and win this week and to continue the momentum into the Open Championship.”

That formula seemed to work during the first two majors of the year.

He prepared for the Masters by finishing second in San Antonio and losing in a playoff in Houston.

He prepared for the U.S. Open by tying for third at the Memorial on the strength of a closing 65.

Now, he is preparing for the third leg of the Grand Slam at a place that has produced at least a 19-under-par winning score every year since 2009.

Besides, it’s a familiar routine. After his win in ’13, he flew across the pond for the Muirfield Open. Playing his fourth tournament in a row, he ran out of gas after an opening 69 and faded to a top-45 finish. Last year, he didn’t have his best stuff and still recorded a T-7 at the Deere, but then continued his mid-season swoon with a pedestrian showing at Hoylake.

“I just want to get in contention here,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where it is. I will certainly have enough energy. I will certainly have enough rest, and I will be as prepared as I can be by the time I tee it up at St. Andrews.” 

Spieth’s biggest challenge the past few weeks has been blocking out all of the “noise.” He can’t avoid the Grand Slam talk, but he’s trying his best to minimize it, whether that’s staying off of his phone or changing the channel when the topic comes up.  

“I’m ready to just get inside the ropes and start playing,” he said.

After his recent fishing adventure, a fifth big prize awaits.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."