Just Getting Weirder

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 24, 2010, 11:15 pm

Jim Thorpe

THE MIGHTY THOR-PE?:  Jim Thorpe was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to pay more than $2 million in income taxes. The 13-time Champions Tour winner, who turns 61 on Feb. 1, must turn himself in to authorities by April 1. He was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He must try to repay the taxes while he’s on supervised release.
BackspinIt used to be that a professional athlete could kidnap the Pope and only have to pay a minimal fine and do some community service. Now they're going to prison left and right. Two rules every professional athlete – and really everyone in general – should live by: 1) Keep your gun at home. 2) Give the government their money. Just adhering to those two things will cut your chances of going to jail by 70 percent.

Tiger Woods

ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: Tiger Woods was purportedly photographed at a sex rehab clinic in Mississippi. The photos surfaced courtesy the National Enquirer. Other reports had Woods in a six-week program, with speculation that he would return to the PGA Tour during the Florida Swing in preparation for the Masters.
BackspinPurportedly. Speculation. Words like these have been tossed around quite liberally over the last few months. Of course, the Woods camp could turn rumors into facts with a little disclosure. Geoff Ogilvy, for one, thinks Woods at least needs to meet the press prior to returning to competition to avoid an on-site media circus. I, on the other hand, hope he doesn't speak until he returns and that he returns at Bay Hill. Normally I'd avoid such a chaotic scene like it was a Jennifer Aniston movie. But that I would have to see first-hand. In a perverted way, it's golf history.

Bill Haas

: Bill Haas birdied the 90th and final hole Monday for a one-shot victory at the weather-delayed, five-round, six-day Bob Hope Classic. Haas edged three others to join father Jay as Bob Hope champions. Jay won the event in 1988. They became the eighth father-son duo to win on the PGA Tour.
BackspinBill took a little flak coming off a stellar amateur career when he grumbled over having to begin his professional career on the Nationwide Tour. It took five years, but the younger Haas not only proved he belongs on the big stage, but proved he's more than just a guy struggling to earn a card each year. Congratulations, Bill. And thank you for avoiding a playoff and extending this event any longer than it had to be. 
Martin Kaymer

MY FAVORITE MARTIN: Martin Kaymer birdied the final hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club for a one-shot victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship. It was the German's second triumph in this event in the last three years and his fifth tour title in less than three seasons.

BackspinWe could have put a photograph of Hennie Otto above, called him Martin Kaymer and barely a handful of people would have noticed. But despite a lack of facial recognition, his name is getting plenty of respect among his peers. He just beat a field which included eight of the top 14 players in the world. No European Tour regular has more wins than does he since the start of the 2006 season. And he's only 25. For all the hype surrounding Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler and the like, right now, Kaymer is the world's best player under 30.

Tom Watson

FEELING YOUNG AGAIN: Tom Watson won a shootout in the Champions Tour season-opener, making birdie on the final two holes for a one-shot victory over Fred Couples. Watson shot 7-under 65 Sunday, while Couples, who was making his senior debut, carded a 66.
BackspinThe Champions Tour could not have scripted a better start to their season. Maybe a Couples victory would have resonated a bit more, but a Watson win ain't bad. Congratulations to the 60-year-old for beating the 50-year-old head-to-head. And a special thanks to the late Dr. Robert Adler, who invented the remote control in 1956, thus allowing me to watch both the amazing finish to the Mitsubishi and a classic NFC Championship game at the same time.
Phil Mickelson

WELCOME BACK: Phil Mickelson was on the list when the field was announced Friday for the upcoming Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Mickelson was the only top-10 player on the field list and one of only three top-20 players scheduled to attend [Robert Allenby and Ernie Els]. Tiger Woods will be missing the tournament for the second consecutive year.


BackspinNormally, the best part about Mickelson's return to competition after a lengthy offseason is his first press conference, where he'll say something kooky like he's found a way to better treat botulism. But after ending 2009 barnstorming the globe, taking home trophies from Atlanta to Shanghai, and considering Woods' current state of flux, it's with great anticipation we wait to see what he's capable of in 2010. Keep an eye on June. Mickelson turns 40 on the 16th. The U.S. Open begins the 17th. On the 20th, he could be celebrating Father's Day, his first U.S. Open victory and his ascension to No. 1 in the world.

Jack Nicklaus

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Jack Nicklaus turned 70 Thursday. ... Doug Barron, banned from the PGA Tour, signed up to play a developmental tour in North Carolina. ... Sea Island, Ga., home to Davis Love III, will host a PGA Tour Fall Series event beginning this year. ... An Ohio high school golfer, who called a scorecard infraction on himself which cost him the state championship five years ago, was named to the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the decade list.
BackspinAnd in case you missed it, GolfChannel.com celebrated Jack's birthday with a Q&A and 70 facts about his life. ... Barron paid his membership fee of $2,250 for the eGolf Professional Tour. There's always a golf tour to play somewhere. ... The McGladrey Classic will be played Oct. 7-10 on the Seaside Course. ... It's easy to say you would do the same thing in his situation. But, as a teenager, would you?
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”