Spieth's mental strength matches the all-time greats

By Brandel ChambleeJanuary 7, 2016, 12:45 pm

Bobby Jones was just 21 years old when he won his first major championship, the 1923 U.S. Open. Before he retired in 1930, at the age of 28, Jones would play in U.S. Opens or Open Championships 14 times, winning seven and finishing solo or joint second four times. Jones was similarly successful in the U.S. and British Amateurs, where he won six of 16 starts. Some dismiss the ceaseless laudatory rhetoric that has been written about Jones as hyperbole, but these numbers don't lie.

Nobody could have been that good, that young, but Jones was.

Jack Nicklaus won his first major championship, the 1962 U.S. Open, at age 22. Over the course of three decades, he redefined the potential longevity of a major champion. Jones won seven professional majors over seven years and then he retired. Ben Hogan won nine majors over seven years, then his nerves betrayed him. Arnold Palmer won seven majors over six years, then inexplicably never won another. The seemingly ageless Sam Snead managed to extend his major-winning years into double figures, with seven wins over 12 years. But Jack proved that the history of all is not the history of each. From 1962 on, he just kept on winning, with eight majors in the 1960s, seven in the '70s and, after turning 40, three more in the '80s.

Nobody could have been that good, for that long, but Nicklaus was.

Tiger Woods came along at a time when it was believed that advancements in equipment were diminishing the importance of talent. That was until Tiger won the 1997 Masters. Since that win, the game, at least at the professional level, would never be the same.

Nicklaus' biggest victory margin in the Masters was nine shots, in 1965. Thirty-two years later Woods won by 12. Nicklaus' biggest victory margin in the U.S. Open was four shots, in 1967. In 2000 Woods won by 15. Nicklaus' biggest victory margin in the Open Championship was two shots, in 1978 at St. Andrews. A little more than two decades later on the same course, Woods won by eight.

Jack had the better career, but Tiger, at his best, was the better player. Nobody could have been that much better than Nicklaus, but Woods was.

Which brings us to Jordan Spieth and what he accomplished this year.

The facts are impressive enough – he won the year's first two majors before he turned 22 – something that Jones, Nicklaus and Woods never did. Spieth's winning Masters score of 270 (18 under) tied the record set by Woods (on a course that was 510 yards shorter) in 1997. And Spieth became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Jones in 1923. Spieth also – with a white-hot media spotlight glaring on his quest for the first three legs of the modern Grand Slam – finished just one shot out of a playoff at St. Andrews, then capped his major season with a second-place finish at the PGA.

It is said to be dubious, even odious, to compare players of different eras. The objection, I suppose, is that it inevitably robs one generation of some of the joy of their fanaticism for an athlete if the comparison deems that athlete to be less of a genius. But genius transcends generations, and so there is much to be learned by juxtaposing and contrasting the best players of various eras.

Jones, Nicklaus and Woods share various aspects of their swings, a subject for which I have a sweet tooth and go into great detail about in my book, "The Anatomy Of Greatness," which will be published early this year. But what made them who they were was more about the mind than their muscle.

This is true of Spieth, as well. Like this trio of greats, he seems to have clarity of purpose that allows him to play without insecurities, but also to not make decisions on the golf course based upon ego. The battle between insecurity and ego impoverishes almost every player at some point. But the very best live between these two thieves and are never distracted by either. Free to rely on their athleticism, they have a clear mind for contemplation, to consider myriad factors such as wind, lie, firmness of green, adrenaline, even grain.  And this is to say nothing of the supreme confidence that comes with that athleticism and contemplation.

These mental gifts, less obvious than the physical ones, perpetuate themselves. More than talent, they are why these four men won majors in their early 20s.

Nobody is supposed to be that good that young, but Spieth is.

It has been said that athletes are like blocks of ice and all of them are melting, which is a commentary on their physical skills and the race that an athlete faces against time. But when a golfer wins a major championship in his early 20s, he likely has something far less perishable than talent. That quality has served golf's early achievers well throughout their careers. In all likelihood, it will prove to do the same for Spieth.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.