Kuchar shares lead at Harbour Town; Spieth 3 back

By Associated PressApril 17, 2014, 11:09 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – There were no major letdowns for Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.

Kuchar, who tied for fifth at Augusta National, shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 to share the first-round lead with Scott Langley and William McGirt.

The 20-year-old Spieth tied for second behind Bubba Watson last Sunday and continued his strong play with a 69, part of a large group tied for fifth at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Kuchar and Spieth both spent much of Sunday in the pressure cooker that is the Masters' final round. But neither player allowed any lingering disappointment or fatigue from a grueling week to slow them down here.

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''I was anxious to get back out and play another competitive round,'' Spieth said. ''So today was going to be kind of therapy, in a sense, from last week.''

Langley and McGirt each had five birdies on the front nine to match Kuchar.

Harris English was two shots behind after a 68 before Spieth topped a group of 15 another stroke back. In all, 54 competitors shot par or better despite the gusts of 20 mph that swept through the course much of the round.

The week after the season's first major is generally one of rest for many of golf's big names and this year's no different. Masters champ Watson took off as did Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods continues recuperating from back surgery that kept him from playing Augusta National for the first time in 20 years.

Just six of the world's top-20 ranked golfers teed it up this week, led by Kuchar at No. 6.

Spieth, who tied with fellow Masters rookie Jonas Blixt for second last week, didn't consider withdrawing at Harbour Town, convinced of the benefits of quickly getting back to work.

It was also a get-to-know-you session for Spieth, who was paired with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.

''It was unbelievable just to be playing with them,'' Spieth said.

For Kuchar, playing was a no-brainer considering the strong run he's been on the past month or so.

He tied for fourth at the Texas Open three weeks ago and lost in a playoff at the Houston Open a week later right before the Masters.

And Kuchar understands being focused at the Masters can mean being zoned in at Harbour Town.

''You're going to see a lot of guys, if they're not too run down from a major championship, come out and play some pretty good golf the week following.''

Kuchar played with confidence and precision, avoiding the winds when possible and playing to the meatiest parts of the smallish greens.

After starting on the back nine, Kuchar birdied both the par 5 holes on the front side before finishing with a birdie on his final hole, the ninth, to shoot in the 60s for the sixth time in his past 11 rounds here.

''It was some awfully steady golf,'' he said.

Langley, with his early birdie run, looked as if he might finish on top alone after a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th moved him to 6 under. But Langley wound up in the scrub along the 18th green and took bogey to fall into the three-way tie for first.

Langley has missed seven cuts this season, including his past two tournaments. But he felt confident in his game and took motivation from his friend Spieth's run at a green jacket last week.

''Seeing Jordan do so well, almost win the Masters, inspired me a little bit,'' Langley said.

McGirt played in the same group with Langley and matched his partner with five front-nine birdies. He chipped in on the par-3 17th to move up into the tie for first.

''Scott and I were both making birdies left and right,'' McGirt said. ''It was easy to feed off each other.''

DIVOTS: Nick Faldo may make his weekend TV job after all. The CBS Sports analyst opened his first RBC Heritage in eight years with a 6-over 77 to tie for next-to-last place. The 56-year-old Faldo won his first U.S. event at Harbour Town in 1984. ... Davis Love III has been the Harbour master at the RBC Heritage with five victories and a tour-best $2.63 million won here. But he missed the past two years with injuries and was back for the first time since 2011. The layoff didn't slow Love down as he opened with a 1-under 70 - his 59th career round under par at Harbour Town. ... Tom Watson was a two-time RBC Heritage champion who hadn't played here since 2001. He shot a 4-over 75.

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”