Spieth sporting green, but he's not the Golden Child

By Doug FergusonApril 15, 2015, 2:46 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The green jacket is all Jordan Spieth needs for an identity. He is the Masters champion.

It's just not going to help him get rid of a nickname he picked up late last year from a few PGA Tour players that goes against the way he was raised and irritates him more than a three-putt bogey.

Golden Child.

''It was either Colt Knost or Robert Garrigus ... I'm not sure who started with the nickname,'' Spieth said Tuesday during a break in his New York media tour. ''But it's not nice what I say to them when they say it to me. I've been working on trying to keep it quiet. And this week isn't going to help.''

It surfaced again even before he teed off in his record-setting win at Augusta National.

Brooks Koepka was talking about a Tuesday practice round in which Spieth could do no wrong. They were walking off the 13th tee when they looked over at James Hahn hitting his tee shot to the par-3 12th. As the ball was in the air, Spieth told his group, ''This is going to be a hole-in-one.'' And it was.

On the 17th, Spieth hit a shot that was an inch from rolling down to the bottom of the green. It stayed up, and he rolled in a 30-footer to close their match. If that wasn't enough, he has a game with caddie Michael Greller in which they toss a ball on the green toward the cup. Spieth made it on the first try.

Koepka finished the story, smiled and said, ''He's the golden child.''

No doubt, Spieth has done some extraordinary things for a 21-year-old.

The stories have been told countless times, yet they are no less amazing.

Spieth started his first year as a pro with no status on any tour and ended it playing alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the Presidents Cup. The first time he played with Mickelson, he closed birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle for a 62. Playing with Woods for the first time in a practice round at the Presidents Cup, he made a hole-in-one. In his Masters debut, he played in the final group at age 20.

And now a green jacket for the golden child.

''He'll be fabulous for the game,'' Graeme McDowell said.

Most appealing about Spieth is the simplicity of his life and the toughness in his game. He is 21 and old school.

Spieth has had the same swing coach since he was 12 and his father took him to see Cameron McCormick at Brook Hollow in Dallas. He uses social media instead of being consumed by it. Spieth has the same girlfriend he met in high school, Annie Verret, who graduated from Texas Tech in December and now works on fundraising projects for a youth golf program in Dallas.

He spent last week with three of his best friends from Dallas – seniors at Texas, TCU and LSU. They became what Spieth described as ''white noise'' during the evening when he wanted to take his mind off golf.

''It felt like we were back home on a random weekend,'' Spieth said. ''I couldn't partake in what they were doing. But it was fun to watch.''

His father played baseball at Lehigh. His mother played basketball at Moravian College in Pennsylvania. His younger brother, Steven, is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard at Brown. And then there's Ellie, his 14-year-old sister with neurological issues that place her on the autism spectrum. Ellie reminds Spieth and the rest of the family what matters in life.

She was at the TPC Boston last year with the whole clan, bragging about her big brothers, having a ball. Players have to take a shuttle through the woods to the eighth tee. When Spieth spotted Ellie in the gallery, he called to her. She ran to the cart and sat on his lap for the ride, and it was hard to tell who was having more fun.

Golden child? Maybe. More than a Midas touch, however, Spieth has Texas grit.

Look back at the events leading to the Masters.

  • He made three straight par saves, all that had the look of bogeys, to get into a playoff that he won at the Valspar Championship.
  • He made four straight birdies that made Jimmy Walker sweat out a victory at the Texas Open. ''I'm going to have nightmares about that guy,'' Walker said.
  • He holed a 12-foot par putt on the final hole of the Houston Open to make a playoff.

Augusta National members will talk for years about his shot from a tight lie on a knob above the 18th green on Saturday. Spieth had a seven-shot lead on the 17th tee and it was down to four shots and about to get even closer – three shots probably, two shots possibly. ''Two shots can be made up in one hole,'' Spieth said.

His caddie lobbied for a safe chip. Spieth took a full swing for a flop shot, pulled it off and made par. Spieth called it the most important shot he hit all week.

More than a golden moment, this was about guts.

It's worth remembering what Ben Crenshaw said about Spieth before teeing off in his 44th and final Masters.

''When I first met him, I tell you, I'll never forget it,'' Crenshaw said. ''I looked right at him and he looked at me, and I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp. He just had that look about him. Just wonderful.''

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”