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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).


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Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”

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Watch: Dechambeau simulates dew on East Lake range

By Grill Room TeamSeptember 18, 2018, 11:02 pm

Bryson DeChambeau has certainly lived up to his nickname of "Mad Scientist" since joining the PGA Tour, using his eccentric style to win four events, including the first two tournaments of this year's FedExCup Playoffs.

And he's staying on brand at the season-ending Tour Championship, where he enters as the favorite to capture the FedExCup title.

The 24-year-old was spotted on the East Lake range Tuesday, preparing for potential morning dew on the golf ball this week - by having a member of his team spray each golf ball between practice shots:

While this type of preparation might come off as a little excessive to the average golfer, it's rather mild for DeChambeau, considering that in the last two weeks alone he has discussed undergoing muscle activation tests and measuring his brain waves.

DeChambeau goes off with Justin Rose on Thursday at 2 p.m. He could finish as low as T-29 and still have a mathematical chance of winning the season-long FedExCup.

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Fewer goals but more consistency for Thomas in 2018

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

ATLANTA – After winning last year’s FedExCup, Justin Thomas was asked about his goals for the season and he quickly went to his phone.

A list of 13 “goals” had been typed in, a rundown that ranged from qualifying for the Tour Championship to finishing in the top 10 in half of the circuit’s statistical categories. Nearly every goal had a “Y” next to it to denote he’d accomplished what he wanted.

Thomas was asked on Tuesday at East Lake how his goals are shaping up this season.

“I haven't looked in a while. I really haven't. I'm sure if I had to guess, I'm probably around 50 to 60, 70 percent [have been completed],” he said. “I definitely haven't achieved near as many as I did the previous year. But we still have one week left to knock a big goal off.”


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Thomas pointed out that although he didn’t add to his major total this season or win as many times as he did last year, he still feels like he’s been more consistent this year.

He has more top-25 finishes (19) than he did last year (14), missed fewer cuts (two compared to six last season) and has improved in nearly every major statistical category.

“It's been a really consistent year, and I take a lot of pride in that,” Thomas said. “That's a big goal of mine is to improve every year and get better every year, so if I can continue in this direction, I feel like I can do some pretty great things the rest of my career.”

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Woods' probation for reckless driving ends one month early

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 9:00 pm

Tiger Woods' year-long probation stemming from last year's DUI arrest has been terminated a month early.

According to Sam Smink of WPTV, Woods, 42, was let off probation early for successfully completing all regular and special conditions of his probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and entering a diversion program last October.

Under the conditions of the program, Woods was required to pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. He was also subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the program.

The 14-time major champ was arrested on charges of DUI in May of 2017 after he was found unconscious behind the wheel of his parked Mercedes-Benz in Jupiter, Fla.

Although tests showed Woods was not under the influence of alcohol at the time, he admitted to taking several pain and sleep medications to cope with his fourth back surgery which was performed in April.

Since his arrest, Woods has returned to competition, rising to 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking after a pain-free campaign in 2018.

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Players wrapping their heads around FedEx changes

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 8:01 pm

ATLANTA – Even players who have known the details of the PGA Tour’s plan to dramatically change the way it crowns a FedExCup champion were still digesting the details on Tuesday at the Tour Championship.

“I think it’s maybe easier to follow for people at home. Kind of definitely strange and very different to be on 10 under par starting on the first tee,” said Justin Rose, who begins this week’s finale second on the points list.

Next year when a new strokes-based system will decide the season-long race, Rose would begin his week at East Lake 8 under, two strokes behind front-runner Bryson DeChambeau and eight shots ahead of Nos. 26-30 on the points list.

Most players said the new format will be an improvement over the current model, which is based on a complicated points structure. That’s not to say the new plan has been given universal support.


Current FedExCup standings

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Under the current format, the 30th-ranked player has a .4 percent chance of winning the cup, while the first player on the points list has a 27 percent chance. Those odds remain virtually identical under next year’s strokes-based format.

“I’m not saying the 30th guy should have the same shot as the fifth guy, but just make the odds a little bit better. Give them a 5 percent chance,” Billy Horschel said. “The strokes could be distributed differently. Maybe put the leader at 6 under [instead of 10 under] and then you go down to even par. Five or six shots back, over four days, you still have a chance.”

There will no doubt be a period of adjustment, but after more than three years of planning, most players were pleased with the general elements of the new plan if not all of the details.

“It's never going to be perfect,” said Justin Thomas, last year’s FedExCup champion and a member of the player advisory council. “No system in any sport is ever going to be perfect, and the Tour has done such a great job of talking to us and trying to get it as good as possible. But it's just hard to understand the fact that you could be starting behind somebody else and still somehow win a golf tournament or an official win.”