Spieth 'wasn't intimidated' by big stage with Woods

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 25, 2014, 12:16 am

SAN DIEGO – There was an innocent moment here Wednesday between the 20-year-old star and the man he grew up idolizing.

Both Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods sat on a dais, next to the PGA Tour commissioner, to collect their respective year-end awards – Spieth for the Rookie of the Year, after a one-win, nine top-10 campaign; Woods the Player of the Year, after yet another five-win season.

When Woods stood up to say a few words, he went out of his way to praise Spieth – how he went from having no status anywhere to winning an event, to reaching the Tour Championship, to earning a spot on the Presidents Cup team, to finishing inside the top 25 in the world rankings.

“It’s going to be fun for a number of years battling it out,” Woods said. “I’m going to enjoy it.”

Well, the first battle went to the kid – and it wasn’t really a contest.

On a course that Woods has owned since the late ’90s, Spieth thoroughly outplayed the world No. 1 in every facet on his way to a second-round, 9-under 63 and the halfway lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. On the easier North Course, Spieth hit all but one green and one-putted six of his last eight holes to take a one-shot lead over Stewart Cink.

As for playing with Woods for the first time in competition?

“I wasn’t intimidated by any means,” Spieth said.

Woods (71), meanwhile, failed to birdie a par 5 for the second consecutive day, three-putted the last for bogey and sits nine shots back, needing an epic weekend comeback to win for a record ninth time at Torrey Pines. Ever the optimist, Woods recalled what he did here in 1999 – 62-65 on the weekend to win by two – and maintained there’s still a long way to go.

Spieth, staked to his first solo 36-hole lead on Tour, believes that too, which is why he didn’t much dwell on his eye-opening play over the first two days here.

Still, for a kid already brimming with confidence, his start at Torrey can only help, especially given the big-time stage.

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Sure, he had played with Rory McIlroy in San Antonio. And yes, he was paired with Phil Mickelson on the final day in Boston. There was even that Presidents Cup practice round with Woods in October. But this was different. This was Spieth coming into Torrey Pines – Tiger’s personal playground – and beating him handily, looking completely unfazed.

“Jordan prefers to play with the best in the world,” said his caddie, Michael Greller. “He loves it. He gets good nerves when there are more people, and he thinks more clearly. He’s more focused in those situations.”

Spieth and Greller began working together at the 2011 U.S. Junior. That week, Spieth was listless and looking for a spark, and he found it when Golf Channel cameras came out to watch his match.

“It’s time to go now,” Spieth told his caddie, and after a birdie on that hole he was well on his way to becoming the first player since – you guessed it – Woods to win multiple U.S. Junior titles.   

For Greller, it’s a surreal experience to be back here at Torrey, a year later, after so much has changed. His boss is now the game’s hottest star, and he’s a multimillionaire, and he’s in commercials … and he’s not even old enough to legally enjoy a post-round beer. “I keep pinching myself,” said Greller, who before hopping on Spieth’s bag was teaching 12-year-olds at Narrows View Intermediate School in Washington.

After all, consider where they were a year ago: slamming the trunk after rounds of 72-73 here in the pro debut. At the time, Spieth had no status, anywhere, and his next few months were full of unknowns.

Frustrated and disappointed, Greller recalls bumping into Spieth’s father, Shawn, after they missed the cut: “He said, ‘Michael, it’s a marathon. You’re going to have weeks like that.’”

Well, they haven’t had many since.

Spieth had a win and three runners-up while missing just five cuts in 2013, and already in the new wraparound season he has three top 20s, including a second-place showing at Kapalua, where he shared the 54-hole lead.

“He’s got some kind of x-factor,” Greller said. “I don’t know where it comes from, but he has it.”

And yes, Woods is a believer too, especially after the first battle went Spieth’s way.

“The kid has got talent,” said Woods, providing the early favorite for understatement of the year.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry