Careful with applying too much pressure on Spieth

By Will GrayApril 16, 2014, 3:00 pm

“It’s only a matter of time.”

That’s the general sentiment pertaining to Jordan Spieth and major championship victories, now that Spieth has begun his Masters career with a T-2 finish at the ripe age of 20. A player that has exceeded all realistic expectations for more than a year did so again last week at Augusta National, and the question of him landing a maiden major title appears to be not if, but when.

It’s an understandable stance after Spieth held a two-shot lead at one point Sunday, and only nine months after winning on the PGA Tour as a teenager. He’s now the ninth-ranked player in the world.

His jaw-dropping debut on a major stage, though, seems somewhat familiar.

The year was 1999. A rising star with boyish charm took galleries by storm during the final round, only to fall short to a player who went on to claim his second career major title.

Sergio Garcia was 19 when he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the ’99 PGA Championship, but like Spieth he had a decorated amateur career (Garcia won the British Amateur and European Amateur, while Spieth took home two U.S. Junior Amateur titles and an NCAA championship at Texas). Like Spieth, he already had a victory among the professional ranks, having won the Irish Open earlier that summer.

Photos: Spieth through the years

Photos: Garcia through the years

Spieth’s rise up the OWGR since early 2013 has been impressive, but Garcia’s was as well. Turning pro after earning low amateur honors at the 1999 Masters, Garcia was ranked No. 354 in the world for his professional debut. He cracked the top 100 with his win in Ireland, and after a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship was inside the top 30 in the world – just four months into his pro career.

When Garcia and Woods left Medinah that week, it appeared a burgeoning rivalry had been gifted to the game. Woods’ rise had been foreseen for years, but here was a precocious teenager ready and willing to give him a run for his money, all while wearing his heart on his sleeve. The majors – plural – would soon follow.

Fifteen years later, Garcia’s next major title will be his first. He has not lacked for chances – another defeat to Woods at the 2002 U.S. Open; then a pair of runner-ups to Padraig Harrington, first in a playoff at the 2007 British Open and again at the PGA the following year. He’s had a distinguished career, one that saw him reach No. 2 in the world after a win at the 2008 Players Championship, but many will suggest that the promise that began at Medinah has, to this point, gone largely unfulfilled.

As is often the case in sports, a series of close calls do not equate to victory, and golf is the ultimate “prove it” game. There’s a reason why Greg Norman wasn’t at the Champions Dinner last week in Augusta, why Arnold Palmer has never lifted the Wanamaker Trophy and why the spot on Phil Mickelson’s shelf marked “U.S. Open” remains vacant.

Does Spieth possess the talent to win majors? Certainly. The game that took him to the top of the standings Sunday is one that few can match. But before trademarking “Heir Jordan” and projecting whose major haul he’ll most likely match, let’s allow Spieth to find his footing on his own terms. After all, sometimes the earliest estimations are the ones that go the most awry.

Just ask Sergio.

Getty Images

Watch: Guy does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”