Spieth appears to be peaking at right time

By Will GrayApril 5, 2015, 12:39 am

HUMBLE, Texas – No, your computer screen isn’t frozen on last month’s leaderboard. That mobile app you use doesn’t need updating.

That’s Jordan Spieth’s name on the leaderboard. Just like last week, and the time before.

Get used to it.

With the countdown to the Masters measured in days, Spieth is rounding into form at just the right time. He emerged from a crowded leaderboard with a 5-under 67 in the third round of the Shell Houston Open and leads by one.

It continues a torrid stretch of golf for Spieth over the last month, one that began with his win in Tampa and included a runner-up finish last week in San Antonio.

Just don’t call it a run.

“Honestly, ideally I don’t look at this as a run,” Spieth said. “I look at this as this is the way I should be playing. If I look at this as a run, it means the normal me is something lesser than I am right now. I can’t think of myself that way.”

Part of that answer is the unabashed confidence of a 21-year-old firing on all cylinders, but the vast majority was spoken with a straight face. Spieth is the highest-ranked player in the field and appears poised to rise even higher before heading to Augusta National. While his feats may continue to impress fans and media alike, for Spieth it’s business as usual.

Shell Houston Open: Articles, videos and photos

Play with the belief that you’re the best player in the field, and the results will emulate the mindset. Wash, rinse, repeat.

“Ultimately in the grand scheme of things, in the big picture, my goal is to someday become the best player,” Spieth said. “Obviously I have a really good opportunity to improve on where I’m at tomorrow. That’s the game plan.”

Things have been going pretty much according to plan for Spieth for quite some time, but a win Sunday would be the fourth in his last 10 worldwide starts, ratcheting expectations up another notch heading into the Masters.

Granted, this is hardly a fait accompli. The tournament appeared to be Phil Mickelson’s to lose before he faltered in the third round, and Spieth holds a slim lead over a trio of players, each in search of a win that would bring with it the final golden ticket to the Masters.

That group includes veterans Scott Piercy and Johnson Wagner, the latter having won here in 2008. After losing full-time status last season, Wagner is playing this week on a sponsor invite.

“If I just keep doing the same stuff, I feel like I’ll have a good chance tomorrow late,” Wagner said. “I’m driving the ball great, and the putter is getting better and better every day.”

It also includes Austin Cook, a mini-tour player who earned a spot via a Monday qualifier. He successfully battled nerves alongside Mickelson, and a victory would be one of golf’s ultimate rags-to-riches stories.

“With the pressure of being in the final group and for my first time, I was pretty pleased with that,” said Cook, who shot a 2-under 70 to get within a shot of Spieth. “Now just rest, get a good night’s sleep and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.”

Cook entered the week at No. 993 in the world and will look to chase down Spieth, the No. 4-ranked player in the world with more wins (two) than Cook has prior starts on the PGA Tour (one).

It almost shapes up like a David-vs-Goliath contest – you know, if Goliath were more than two years younger than his counterpart.

Yes, while Cook turned 24 last month, Spieth won’t celebrate his 22nd birthday until July. The age check only offers further perspective on the meteoric nature of Spieth’s ascent.

Each brush with contention seems to better prepare Spieth for the next one, and after trying to chase down Jimmy Walker last week he is keenly aware of the benefits of the pole position.

“I can control my own destiny tomorrow,” he said. “I’m perfectly fine with that fact, and excited about trying to do so.”

Spieth is clearly confident, but far from cocky. Success begets success, and he’s been doing a lot of begetting these last four months. The cycle shows no sign of slowing down, and it should probably be cause for concern – both for the players looking to catch him this week and those who will look to slow him down next week.

“Ideally when I looked back to preparing the best way I could for the Masters, I wanted to get into contention as much as I could prior, to have as much experience and to limit those nerves and feel more comfortable each time,” he said. “Today was as comfortable as I’ve ever been with the lead on a weekend, which feels really good.”

Players speak regularly about trying to peak for the season’s four majors. For Spieth, another win would put an exclamation point on those efforts.

It would move him to No. 2 in the world, and it just might move him to No. 1 among the favorites for the Masters.

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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