Spieth returns to Innisbrook where it all began

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2014, 10:57 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Being back at Innisbrook is enough to make Jordan Spieth wonder if his entire season boiled down to three holes.

One was a two-putt par. The other was a tough flop shot from 50 feet that he knocked in for birdie on the 17th hole. The last one – perhaps the most important – was a bunker shot to 7 feet and a par putt on the final hole for a 1-under 70 to tie for seventh.

That was worth $148,893.

That was enough money to give him special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, key for earning a full Tour card. Before holing out that chip, Spieth was projected to be $195 short of temporary membership, and who knows what would have happened if he didn't nail it down that day at Innisbrook.

''The last three holes on Sunday here were three of the biggest holes I played all last year,'' the 20-year-old Spieth said Wednesday. ''I mean, none of the rest of it possibly would have happened if I wasn't able to hole a flop shot on 17 and go up-and-down out of the front bunker on 18.''

The ''rest of it'' turned out to be far more memorable than his tie for seventh in what is now called the Valspar Championship.

A playoff win at the John Deere Classic (after holing a bunker shot on the 72nd hole). A 62 in the final round at TPC Boston while playing with Phil Mickelson to secure a spot in the Tour Championship. A captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, making him the youngest American ever in the matches. Seventh place in the FedEx Cup.

Spieth was reminded of the significance when he was flipping through channels Tuesday night and saw highlights of his finish from Innisbrook.

''I gave more fist pumps than I did at the Deere,'' he said about his par putt on the 18th hole. ''It was pretty cool to watch, and it was one of the biggest stretches that I've ever played.''

Spieth has different issues this year. He received plenty of sponsor exemptions before becoming an instant PGA Tour member with his win at the John Deere Classic in July, and he is eager to return the favor to tournaments who helped him out. That could lead to a busy year now that he's in all four majors – he'll make his debut in the Masters next month – and already has played three World Golf Championships this season.

He's among those drawn to the Valspar Championship because of the quality of the Copperhead course, regarded by some as the best tournament course in Florida. It doesn't feel like Florida with its subtle changes in elevation and tree-lined fairways.

''Very old school,'' Harris English said.

The tournament has some new life to it after going without a sponsor last year. Minneapolis-based Valspar took over as the title sponsor through 2017 and is trying to inject some life into a tournament that has to work harder than other events on the Florida swing.

The Honda Classic is helped by so many top players having moved to West Palm Beach, such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. Doral is now a World Golf Championship. Next week is Bay Hill, run by Arnold Palmer.

Innisbrook is missing some of the top-ranked players – Justin Rose at No. 7 is tops from the world ranking – it has plenty of quality through the ranks in English, Spieth, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen.

''It's been one of my favorite venues on Tour for a while,'' Rose said.

Most of the players already have one eye on the Masters, which is a month away. This is the time of the year when players start sneaking up to Augusta National to see the course, knowing it won't play anything like it will on April 10 the first day of the tournament.

Furyk feels like Innisbrook is good preparation – not because of the conditions, but because of the thinking involved.

''Thinking your way around the golf course is still good preparation,'' he said. ''I'd say the one thing here, you do get a lot of greens that have quite a bit of pitch and slope to them, especially back-to-front, and so you have to hit some putts here that feed to the hole. ... That helps a little bit in getting ready for Augusta.''

Spieth already has been to Augusta twice – once last fall on a trip that can best be described as the ultimate doubleheader (Pine Valley one day, Augusta National the next) and then a few weeks ago. He also recalls going to a Monday practice round at the Masters after a college event while he was at Texas.

''Definitely the only practice round tournament I've ever been to watch,'' he said.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”