Price Right for Special Delivery

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 24, 2005, 4:00 pm
Nick Price says that he has one goal this season. Its not to win a major; its not to even win a PGA Tour event. It really has nothing at all to do with winning, but more with just being allowed to compete in something he holds dear.
Nick Price
Nick Price is in search of his third career FedEx St. Jude victory.
My motivating force this year is making the Presidents Cup team, Price said. Thats my No. 1 goal.
I hope to accrue enough points to make it into the top 10. If not, I hope to show (International captain) Gary Player that I warrant an invitation.
Price is currently 22nd on the International Presidents Cup team points standing, which is based on ones position on the Official World Golf Ranking. The top 10 on the list following the conclusion of the PGA Championship will automatically qualify for the biennial event, which will be contested Sept. 22-25 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Va.
In order to make it on his own accord and spare Player the dilemma of having to use one of his two captains picks on him, Price may have to do something dramatic over the next four months ' like win.
Price could certainly help his cause at this weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic.
As the tour heads out of Texas and into Tennessee, there are just three tournaments before the seasons second major championship.
Many of the favorites for the U.S. Open are not on hand this week. Theres no Vijay or Tiger or Phil or Ernie ' or even Retief, for that matter.
Of course, they were all in Irving for the EDS Byron Nelson and Ted Purdy walked away the victor.
That just goes to show the depth of field on tour. And it is because of that depth that it is so very difficult to pick a winner ' at least before the start of an event. But here are some of the favorites to win this weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Five for the Title:
Nick Price
Thanks to some minor technical adjustments, Price is seeing a major improvement in his iron play this season. One of the games all-time ball-strikers, Price was a ghastly 192nd on tour in greens hit in regulation last season. Hes 51st this year. Putting, however, is what plagues the 48-year-old Hall of Fame member. Price was 17th on tour in putting average last year, compared to 169th this year. Should he get the flat stick going this week, Price could contend for his first tour title since the 2002 Colonial. In 17 career starts at the FedEx, Price has two wins (1993, 98), two runner-up finishes (1988, 2003) and six top-5s. He is also fresh off his best finish of the season, a tie for sixth at the Byron Nelson.
Kenny Perry
Kenny Perry
Kenny Perry has his sights set on a second win in as many weeks.
As evidenced in 2003, when Perry gets hot, watch out. He collected three wins in a four-start stretch a couple of years ago, beginning with a record run at the Colonial. Perry, who won this years Bay Hill Invitational, put together another record run at Colonial this week, matching his 72-hole tournament scoring record.
David Toms
Toms is the two-time defending champion ' and he tied for fourth in 2002, which makes him a de facto favorite. However, he is mired in a legal battle against his former agent and has said the personal problems have affected him professionally. Since earning four straight top-5 finishes early in the season, including a dominating win at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, Toms hadn't cracked the top 30 ' until last week, when he tied for third at Colonial. He will be trying to become the first player to win this tournament three straight years, and the first to win any event on tour on three consecutive occasions since Tiger Woods concluded his four-year reign at Bay Hill in 2003. Lee Trevino (1971, 72 80) and Dave Hill (1967, 69, 70, 72) are the only players to win this tournament at least three times.
Bob Estes
Aside from Toms, Estes might have a better record at the TPC at Southwind than anyone else in the field. Over his last six FedEx starts, he has a first- (2001), a second- (2004), a third- (2003), and a fourth-place (1998) finish. He had seven straight birdies in his second-round 64 a year ago. Estes has missed only one cut in 15 appearances since the tournament moved to Southwind in 1989. He made his first nine cuts this season, but has failed to qualify for weekend play in two of his last three starts. This may prove to be the perfect place for Estes to not only reverse that trend, but also win on tour for the first time since 2002.
Tim Herron
The tour media guide generously lists Herron at 210 pounds. After a week in the balmy Memphis climate, Herron may actually sweat himself to that weight. But he may also exit the area with his first win in over six years ' or at least a hefty check (no pun intended). Herron has played here seven times and he has six top-20 finishes. He earned his best result last year, tying for third. Herron is having his typical Lumpy season thus far in 2005. He has made the cut in nine of 13 starts for a 69-percent success rate (he averages 70 percent over his career). He also has three top-10s (he averages about 4.5 per season). What he doesnt have is a win, which last came in 1999 at Bay Hill.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more players to keep an eye on
*Sean OHair, who is making his first start since his impressive runner-up performance at the Byron Nelson. The 22-year-old tour freshman has already locked up his card for a sophomore season. With security ' and momentum ' on his side, he may be poised to become the first rookie to win on tour this season.
*Shaun Micheel, who lives in Memphis and plays out of the TPC at Southwind. Micheel has done little on tour since winning the 2003 PGA Championship and hasnt fared well here either. He has six missed cuts in 10 starts and has never finished better than tied for 19th. He may not win this week, but hes a local favorite who has ties to both FedEx (his father was one of the companys first pilots) and St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital (he visits cancer patients there).
*Loren Roberts, who lives near the course and has missed the event only once since it moved to Southwind. Like Micheel, Roberts is a local favorite with plenty of course knowledge. But unlike Micheel, Roberts has had some success here. Roberts has four top-10s in 22 career starts, dating back to 1982. He tied for 18th last year and has only one round over par on this course since 1999.
*Kip Henley, who is making the move to the PGA Tour this week. Henley, of Big Break II fame, used his first Nationwide Tour exemption last week in Virginia, where he barely missed the cut. He earned his way into this event by making it through a local qualifier. He has four times before competed in this event, missing the cut on each occasion. But in his last two attempts, he did manage to shoot sub-70 scores in the second round.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - FedEx St. Jude Classic
  • Getty Images

    Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

    Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

    “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

    “The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

    The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

    Getty Images

    Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

    There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

    Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

    Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

    “We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

    But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

    The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

    That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

    Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

    “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

    While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

    For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

    “I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

    But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

    Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

    They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

    “I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

     Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

    “Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

    Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

    It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

    Getty Images

    Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

    We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

    But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

    One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

    It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

    And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

    Hey, whatever works.

    Getty Images

    Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

    Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

    The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

    “I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

    “I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”