Spieth wins Open as DJ misses short putt for playoff

By Ryan LavnerJune 22, 2015, 6:49 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Jordan Spieth stared at the TV in the scoring trailer, wondering if he had thrown it all away.

Only a half hour earlier, it looked like he’d sealed this U.S. Open with a 25-foot slider on 16, a moment so electric that it sent sunburned fans tumbling down the dunes. But now, as Dustin Johnson lined up a 12-foot eagle putt to win, Spieth felt helpless.

“What did I do?” he finally asked his caddie, Michael Greller. “How did I possibly let this happen?”

The simple answer, of course, is that he blew a 6-iron so far right on the 71st hole that he briefly thought it would sail out of bounds. He staggered off the green with a double bogey, and soon his three-shot lead was gone. Though he played two perfect shots to birdie 18, he thought he'd blown the Open and a shot at the Grand Slam. 

“It would have definitely stung,” Spieth said. “It would have stung a lot because it was mine. I controlled my destiny. It would have been tough to swallow.”

Except it was Johnson who was reminded of that feeling Sunday. 

After rushing his eagle putt past the cup, he yanked the 4-foot comebacker to miss the 18-hole playoff, the latest in a series of major-championship crackups.

The ending was so sudden, so surprising, Spieth and Greller didn’t even know how to react. They looked at the screen in silence. Finally, after what seemed like 10 seconds, Greller rose from his chair and said: “Dude, give me a hug. You did it.”

“I’ve never experienced a feeling like this,” Spieth said Sunday night, glancing at the U.S. Open trophy to his left. “Just total shock.”

The 21-year-old is a self-styled golf historian, but even some of these post-round statistics blew him away:

• He’s the youngest Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

• The youngest two-time major champion since Gene Sarazen in 1922.

• The sixth player to capture the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

• The first since Jones in 1926 to birdie the 72nd hole to win.

Full-field scores: 115th U.S. Open

“You only get a few moments in your life like this,” he said, “and I recognize that. And to have two (majors) in one year and to still be early in the year, that’s hard to wrap my head around.”

This gripping victory was so different from his romp at the Masters, when he won on talent alone. That week he was flawless, dominant, unrelenting.

He prevailed at Chambers Bay largely because of his patience and toughness, because of his unwavering belief. His second major title revealed less about his skill and more about his character.

“He’s a fighter,” Greller said. “He’s gritty. He’s fiery. He doesn’t give up on any shot. If anything, this week he just validated who I know that he is, which is a world-class player with an unbelievable mind. He’s just a gamer.”

Spieth credited his “winning formula,” but he wasn’t about to reveal trade secrets. All he would concede is that it’s a feeling, a mental attitude, a focus. It allows him to overcome imperfect execution. 

“I’d rather not get into it,” he said with a smile, in case his peers were listening.

Hey, whatever works, because Spieth stamped himself as a once-in-a-generation talent and now will head to St. Andrews as one of the biggest stories in all of sports. Ben Hogan is the only player to win the year's three majors, back in 1953.

“The Grand Slam in one year?” asked Spieth’s father, Shawn. “The dream is still alive.”

And it’s not that far-fetched.

For the first time all week, the focus Sunday was on the players and not the most controversial course in U.S. Open history.

Chambers Bay is visually stunning, but it's also deeply flawed. At least two caddies suffered injuries while attempting to navigate the treacherous terrain. Spectators howled about being unable to see and follow the action, though perhaps that was best, because for the first three days all they would have seen were scores of frustrated players.

Wailing about the course and setup is an Open tradition. The difference this year was the frequency and volume of the criticism, even among the leaders, with practically everyone from Spieth to Rory McIlroy to Gary Player to Old Tom Morris weighing in.

Aside from a few qualms with the setup – most notably, the alternating par on the first and 18th holes – the players’ biggest beef was with the “predominantly” fescue greens that also had patches of poa annua. Henrik Stenson compared the bumpy surfaces to “putting on broccoli.” Player slammed the host venue, called it a “tragedy,” and woofed that one of his fellow course designers, Robert Trent Jones Jr., “had to have one leg shorter than the other” to draw up this place.

Were the greens championship quality? Clearly not, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Six temporary greens were used as recently as February, and then the USGA pushed them to the brink too early in Open week, creating an uneven surface. With all of its humps and swales and mounds, Chambers already tested players’ patience because of the inevitable odd bounces and hops; now, regrettably, luck was introduced as a significant factor on the greens.

“We got over it,” Spieth said. “Someone had to hold the trophy. There’s noise around every golf tournament, but someone has to win it. The quicker you realize that and don’t worry about it, the easier it is just to move on with your game and that’s what we try to do.”

A boldfaced champion doesn’t necessarily validate Chambers Bay as a worthy major venue, but the USGA redeemed itself Sunday by setting up the course for pyrotechnics and also playing the difficult 18th as a par 5, not a par 4, as previously intended. It ended up being the stage for the best drama all year.

And once again, it was Johnson on the losing end.

The 30-year-old has long been the most extravagantly gifted player on Tour, a physical freak capable of overwhelming his competition, but his ability to think clearly under pressure has led to a number of high-profile screw-ups.

There was the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he self-immolated during a Sunday 82. There was the PGA at Whistling Straits later that year, where he took a one-shot lead into the 72nd hole, then infamously grounded his club in a bunker and missed the playoff. And then there was the 2011 Open Championship, where late in the final round he sailed a 2-iron out of bounds to hand the title to Darren Clarke.

Even with victories in eight consecutive seasons, the longest such streak on Tour, Johnson has been labeled a player who doesn’t have the mental fortitude to withstand major pressure.

He cracked in another big spot Sunday, and it was his most crushing loss yet. 

Johnson played flawlessly on the front side, stuffing eight approach shots within 20 feet and opening up a two-shot lead, but a wayward shot into 10 led to a run of three bogeys in four holes. 

Even with all of his miscues and missed opportunities over the last two hours, Johnson still had a chance to win this Open. After Spieth’s double on 17, Johnson ran in an 8-foot birdie putt on the same hole to share the lead. A 353-yard bomb left him only a 5-iron into 18, and he nuked his second shot up the throat of the green and into an area 12 feet above the cup.

His eagle putt missed high, and then his birdie putt missed low, and at long last Johnson and Scott Hoch had something in common.

The crowd was stunned, even conflicted. There was muted applause, sure, but also a few boos. As Johnson stumbled toward his bag, his brother and caddie, Austin, slammed the flag back into the cup. 

“This was just an odd deal,” Spieth said. “Very odd.”

“We were numb, really,” Greller said. “Still are.”

The scoring area was somber. Johnson's fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, wiped away tears from behind black aviators. Once Johnson emerged from the trailer, he never broke stride as he grabbed her hand and bounded up the steps of the gold Ford E-350 passenger van. He skipped the trophy presentation and finally was tracked down near the locker room.

“I did everything that I could,” he attempted to explain later. “I tried my damnedest to get it in the hole and I just couldn’t do it.”

Meanwhile, down below on the 18th green, Spieth hoisted the silver trophy, dedicated the win to his dad and local caddie, and looked ahead to St. Andrews, one of his favorite places in the world.

“Can’t win ’em all unless you win the first two,” he said.

Suddenly, the dream doesn’t seem so improbable. 

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

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Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.