Spieth ready to prove rookie year wasn't a fluke

By Doug FergusonOctober 30, 2013, 3:22 pm

SHANGHAI – Jordan Spieth followed the flight of his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole at Sheshan International, and his amateur partners took great interest just watching his body language. Finally, he offered the slightest slump of his shoulders when he saw the outcome.

''Over the green?'' one of the amateurs asked him.

''I thought it was in,'' Spieth replied. The ball turned just below the cup and settled about 4 feet away.

It's been that kind of year for the 20-year-old Texan.

A year ago, he was in his sophomore year at the University of Texas. A few weeks ago, he was a guest on the sidelines of the OU-Texas game. In one amazing year, he went from failing the second stage of Q-school on the PGA Tour to playing a World Golf Championship in Shanghai. He went from not having a tour card to playing in the Presidents Cup. He showed up for the HSBC Champions at No. 20 in the world.

And even though the calendar still shows 2013, this week marks the start of his encore.

Spieth just last month wrapped up a rookie season that featured $4.5 million, including his FedEx Cup bonus for finishing at No. 7. He starts at zero on Thursday.

''I think there's a lot to prove this year to follow it up,'' Spieth said. ''Obviously, last season was more than I could have dreamt. But I met with my coach and we've set new goals. I'm changing my schedule, and most of the events I'll play will be against a lot harder fields for most of the year. I'm just looking ahead. I never really did look back.''

That would be a lot to digest.

Spieth had no status on any tour when he took a right turn in March by skipping a chance to get a Web.com Tour card in South America so he could honor a commitment to play in the Puerto Rico Open. He tied for second and was on his way. Spieth had temporary PGA Tour membership locked up by May, he contended on the weekend at Colonial and Congressional, broke through with a win at the John Deere Classic, and the hits kept coming.

A playoff loss in the Wyndham Championship. Playing with Phil Mickelson for the first time and closing with a 62 at the TPC Boston. The phone call – it still gives him chills thinking about that – from Fred Couples making him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup. Nearly winning the FedEx Cup with a 64 in the final round of the Tour Championship. And then going 2-2 in his Presidents Cup debut. He had to reset his goals about five times during the course of nine months.

There are times when he remembers his youth. As he finished up his pro-am Wednesday, the conversation turned to the Asia-Pacific Amateur, which was won last week by 19-year-old Lee Chang-woo of South Korea.

''He's about the same age I am,'' Spieth said.

But when he sets up on the practice range next to Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and PGA champion Jason Dufner, he realizes he's in another league. And he knows the only way to stay there is to keep moving forward.

''The Presidents Cup was real exciting to reflect on,'' he said. ''As far as the year goes, the only thing I looked back on was gaining confidence in pressure situations, and being able to make some putts. I had goals and I had to set new goals. I never had to do that before. It was cool to see each goal get surpassed so quickly. We were riding a lot of confidence.''

There was something different about this kid last year. He had a confidence about him that only increased with every opportunity and every big moment. To see Spieth reminded Phil Blackmar of his early days on the PGA Tour, especially his first major at Cherry Hills for the PGA Championship.

''I'm playing with Hale Irwin,'' Blackmar said in a recent interview. ''I had never played with him. The eighth hole is a par 3, and we had to wait on the group ahead of us. I was minding my business, and he comes over, looks up at me and turns to the crowd and says, 'He doesn't have it. You can tell by the look in his eyes.'

''So I said, 'How in the hell can he tell? He can't see this high.' And Hale turned bright red,'' Blackmar said. ''But what he said was true. You can tell something about guys that are on the right side of the edge. There's something about their body language, their facial expression. Jordan has that. He would have had a similar response. To me, he has that same sort of makeup.''

Spieth didn't do anything after the Presidents Cup when he returned home to Dallas. He is moving into a new house he bought, which took up his time. He is starting a workout program to get stronger as he prepares for the big events. And even though he couldn't stop talking about meeting with Texas coach Mack Brown the night before a 36-20 win over the Sooners, perhaps the most important day of his break was with coach Cameron McCormick.

They looked over his statistics and tried to identify strengths and weakness. They set new goals – again.

''Overall short game, wedge work, long irons,'' Spieth said. ''What we said is if I take the same routine and spent a little extra time – maybe an hour a day, 30 minutes, whatever it is – and work around the greens, it will be a better year.''

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated” while taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor, he made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

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Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

“We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”