Notes: Spieth, not McIlroy, the story at halfway point

By Doug FergusonJune 30, 2015, 11:49 pm

The No. 1 player in golf already has three wins in 2015, including a World Golf Championship, and he has finished in the top 10 at both majors.

Halfway through the year, however, Rory McIlroy is playing second fiddle.

Remember the hype over McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam at the Masters? That was three months ago, and it seems like a lot longer. The attention has shifted to Jordan Spieth and his bid for an unprecedented sweep of the four majors in the same year. The real Grand Slam.

Arnold Palmer created it. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods pursued it.

And now it falls to a 21-year-old Texan who just three years ago wasn't even a full PGA Tour member.

''We watch the elite athlete. We watch the mental focus and the preparation and the drive to become the best,'' Bubba Watson said. ''That's where he's heading. Who knows if he'll ever become No. 1 in the world, but he's trending in that direction pretty quickly.''

For a sport that gets criticized for its pace of play, the turnover is at warp speed.

Tiger Woods ended last year at No. 32 in the world, and he was excited about the direction he was going. He had a new swing consultant and a clean bill of health. He was 15 months removed from a five-win season in which he was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time.

And now it's a wonder anyone recognizes him.

Woods reached the halfway point of the year at No. 220 in the world. He has more rounds in the 80s (three) than the 60s (two). He has fallen so low in the world ranking that for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1996, his appearance at The Greenbrier Classic contributes no points toward the strength of field.


Here are some of the highs and lows heading into the second half of the year:

BEST PLAYER: It's hard to argue against the Masters and U.S. Open champion. Spieth went wire-to-wire at Augusta National and tied the 72-hole scoring record set by Woods in 1997. He went birdie-double bogey-birdie at Chambers Bay and won only after Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet. Only five other players dating to 1934 have won the first two majors of the year.

Overlooked is his victory in the Valspar Championship. Spieth got up-and-down for par from a nasty lie on the side of the hill at the 17th, and he got up-and-down from 35 yards on the 18th hole just to get into a playoff. He won on the third extra hole with a 30-foot birdie putt.

Does he have a chance at the Grand Slam? History says no. That short game says maybe.


ON THE RISE: Dustin Johnson has won every season since he joined the PGA Tour, so he never really fell very far. Even so, coming off that mysterious six-month break, golf's most athletic figure seems determined to reach his full potential. He won at Doral on perhaps the toughest course this year that had grass on the greens. He lost in a playoff at Riviera and was a 4-foot birdie putt away from a playoff against Spieth at Chambers Bay.

If he can put the U.S. Open behind him – Johnson has a short memory – he could be a major threat the rest of the year.


SLIDING: At the peak of his game, there were two tours – the Tiger Tour and the PGA Tour. The same applies now.

In the non-Tiger division, this might be a toss-up between Ryder Cup partners Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson. McDowell spoke of his lack of motivation as he adjusts to life with a new daughter. He hasn't finished in the top 25 since January. In his last 10 starts, Dubuisson has missed half his cuts and has not finished better than 20th.

For the second half of the season, keep an eye on Martin Kaymer. He is winless since his U.S. Open title last year and has missed the cut six times in his last nine events.


CLASS OF '11: That would be the high school graduating class of Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Patrick Rodgers and Ollie Schniederjans. Thomas played in the final group on the week three times during the West Coast swing. Berger lost in a playoff at the Honda Classic. Rodgers won on the Web.com Tour, challenged McIlroy at Quail Hollow and now has partial PGA Tour membership. Schniederjans, No. 1 in the amateur world ranking last year, will turn pro after the British Open.

Four of them - Rodgers was not there - played a practice round at Innisbrook in March. They began asking who was the youngest. It was Spieth.


BEST FINISH: Rickie Fowler went eagle-birdie-birdie to get into a three-man playoff at The Players Championship. He played the island-green three times on Sunday and took a total of six strokes.


BEST SHOT: Spieth's flop shot off a tight lie above the 18th green in the third round at the Masters. It turned bogey at best into a par and gave him a four-shot lead going into the final round.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.