Spieth wrestles with 'hardest decision I’ve ever had to make'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 12, 2016, 2:11 pm

TROON, Scotland – It was Sunday night, the clock was ticking, and Jordan Spieth was no closer to deciding whether he would don the red, white and blue when golf made its much-maligned return to the Olympics.

It was a decision that proved more difficult than when he chose Texas over a slew of other powerhouse college programs.

More difficult than when he opted to turn pro at the halfway point of his sophomore year.

More difficult than when he picked an equipment company or mapped out a schedule or turned down some charity outing because he didn’t have the time.

Nicknamed the “Golden Child,” because everything seems to have gone right during his gilded career, Spieth recently found himself in an unenviable position: Would he single-handedly save the Olympics by going all-in, or simply fall in line with the rest of the dropouts during what has been an uneasy run-up to golf’s return after an 114-year absence?

“This was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life at 22 years old,” he said Tuesday at The Open.

Ultimately, we now know, Spieth decided to withdraw from the Olympics, from Team USA, because of health concerns. That he waited until Monday morning, a few hours before the teams were to be announced, was revealing; he’d been waffling for weeks, so much so that he said he went to bed Sunday night still undecided about his status.

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Spieth sensed the impending doom as he headed into a packed media center at noon local time Tuesday. After handling a softball question by the R&A moderator about how much it would mean to capture The Open, Spieth woofed, “I can already tell that’s going to be the easiest question I receive.”

And indeed, it was.

Spieth was pressed, repeatedly, about his choice, about whether he faced any external pressure, about what kind of medical advice he’d received and whether he could understand why the public would be skeptical of players’ rationales.

As always, Spieth was honest, intelligent and charming, though the timing of his decision could have been better, with The Open just 48 hours away. Of the 19 questions he was asked, 15 were about the Olympics. As he rose to leave, Spieth wondered aloud whether there was actually a golf tournament this week.

So, yes, this could have been resolved weeks, maybe even months ago. And he felt bad about that. Slow-playing his Olympic decision left the International Golf Federation, USA Golf and his eventual replacement, Matt Kuchar, all in a bind. But Spieth had doubts and questions, and they didn’t subside no matter how many professional athletes he consulted or medical experts he queried.

“I certainly wasn’t trying to wait until the last minute,” he said. “I just couldn’t make a decision, and then I had to by the last deadline. I was very indecisive about it.”

According to the timeline offered by the IGF, July 18 is the deadline for players to confirm their participation in the Games. But if Spieth had waited until then, until after the teams were announced, he’d have been skewered.

Spieth had spoken at length with both Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler before they made their Olympic announcements last week. On Friday, Johnson withdrew. Sunday night, with Spieth seated next to him in their rental house, Fowler confirmed he was in with a patriotic tweet.

There have been more than a dozen withdrawals in all, everyone from major champions to afterthoughts on the FedEx Cup bubble. But Spieth was the final, and arguably the biggest, domino to fall.

“Do I think it looks bad on golf?” he said. “Maybe. But I’m making the decision of what I think is best for me. I don’t feel like I have to carry the torch for the sport or anyone else. This is bigger than that for me personally.”

And so he decided that these Games, at this site, were not worth the risk.

A shame, too, he said, because he had hoped to be an Olympian ever since golf rejoined the program back in 2009. But no one could have foreseen the trouble that Rio now presents: the Zika virus; the security issues; the general instability. Though he might regret missing the opening ceremony, the competition and the medal presentation, Spieth is already looking forward to Tokyo in 2020.

“This is just a really unique circumstance,” he said.

Despite reports that he faced mounting pressure from Cola-Cola, a longtime Olympic sponsor, Spieth said the decision was “90 percent me, 9 percent the team, and 1 percent anything else that came our way.”

“Whenever I talked to our team,” he added, “the responses I got were, ‘We are 100 percent behind you either way, but you need to make this decision 100 percent yourself.’”

And so he did, just as Adam Scott, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Johnson had before him. That didn’t make Tuesday any easier.

“I will continue to carry (the decision) with me throughout these Games and for a while,” he said. “It’s that tough. It’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm