Anticipate Spieth's future, and enjoy the present

By John FeinsteinApril 14, 2015, 4:25 pm

In today's jock world, the question that is asked of athletes is never, “What have you done for me in the past?” It isn't even, “What have you done for me today?” It is almost always, “what can you do for me tomorrow?” 

That might explain why, within minutes of Jordan Spieth tapping in his final putt to win the Masters by four shots over Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, almost everyone was becoming breathless about what Spieth might do next. 

Oh sure, there were a million or so words spent on Spieth's remarkable week, during which he deconstructed Augusta National as if it was the TPC River Highlands by shooting a mind-blowing 64-66 the first two days and then cruising to a record-tying 18-under 270 for the week. 

Spieth is 21 – the same age Tiger Woods was when he shot an identical 270 (on a much shorter, but not as soft golf course) 18 years ago. His victory puts him in an elite group of pre-23-year-old major winners that, in addition to Woods, includes names like Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros. That's remarkable company to be keeping. 

Which is why the focus on Sunday evening wasn't on what everyone had just witnessed, but on what we might witness in the future. Spieth is now firmly established as The Next One, maybe The Current One, among American players and as the player who should be Rory McIlroy's great rival for the next 15 or so years. There's plenty of evidence that this is the case, but golf is often not as predictable as it appears to be. Sixteen years ago, when a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia finished second to a 23-year-old Woods at the PGA, we all knew that they would be the great rivalry of the early 21st-century. It never came to pass. 

Like Woods and Garcia, McIlroy and Spieth are four years apart in age. There are several differences. When Garcia was 19, he had a boyish charm that everyone latched on to – thus, the El Nino nickname. Woods was the golf savant, driven by history and his father and, as we later learned, demons that churned inside him. Woods left us gasping; Garcia left us grinning. 

McIlroy couldn't be more different than Woods and Spieth couldn't be more different than Garcia. Maybe that's why the rivalry will come to fruition this time. 

McIlroy has a temper (see Honda Classic 2013 and WGC-Cadillac 2015) but he also clearly enjoys the spotlight, doesn't see a loss as the end of the world (see, Augusta 2011) and has no issues with the pressures that come with being the No. 1 player in the world. There's still a lot of kid in him, a few weeks shy of 26. 

Spieth is like McIlroy in that he too has a temper and that he doesn't shy away from the crucible. He feels the pressure – his comment about his hairline Sunday evening was telling – but he deals with it with a poker face and remarkable composure – except when his golf ball is in the air. His conversations with his airborne ball are about the most entertaining thing going in golf right now. 

But there's nothing boyish about Spieth. When he opens his mouth you think you're listening to a 35-year-old. Some guys say the right thing because they're coached to or because they're thinking about keeping their sponsors happy. Spieth does it naturally, as if he was born to be in the public eye. 

Often, when an athlete faces adversity, the media makes it into much more than it is. In the case of Spieth, there's little doubt that his 14-year-old sister Ellie, who is autistic, has played a major role in shaping him. Spieth isn't just a loving big brother, he's spent time volunteering at Ellie's school, which is for special-needs kids. Clearly, being exposed to kids who have issues that go well beyond a missed par putt or a duck hook, has given Spieth a perspective a lot of coddled young athletes don't have. It may also account, at least in part, for his remarkable maturity. 

McIlroy-Spieth has everything a great rivalry needs: Two gifted young players with different but engaging personalities. It doesn't hurt that they should be on opposing Ryder Cup teams for years to come. Imagine the possibility of McIlroy-Spieth playing a singles match someday with the Ryder Cup at stake. THAT would be dramatic. 

Before all of that happens – or even if it doesn't happen – it's worth savoring the past week. Spieth was brilliant, putting on arguably the most memorable performance seen at Augusta since Woods first took the golf world by storm with his matchless play back when Spieth was 3 years old. 

There was more, though, than Spieth. Ben Crenshaw's farewell could have turned embarrassing but the devotion of everyone in golf to him and to his gentle (thus the nickname) spirit made 91-85 almost disappear. Crenshaw's Friday round was reminiscent of Arnold Palmer's last U.S. Open round at Oakmont in 1994. Palmer shot 81 that day but no one cared. Afterwards, he sat on a bench in front of his locker and said, "Any other sport I'd have been booed for the way I performed today. How lucky am I to play golf?" 

Crenshaw no doubt felt the same way when he said, "I feel like I won the tournament," after his emotional walk up 18 and the long, tearful hug with Carl Jackson, his caddie at Augusta for almost 40 years. Jackson is battling cancer and couldn't be on the bag, but he was there, in his white jumpsuit to greet Crenshaw at the finish. That was the chill moment of the week. 

There was also good news for the game's two elder statesmen. Mickelson played, by far, his best golf since last year's PGA and Woods was able to shed the chipping yips to finish a respectable 17th. Any notion drummed up pre-tournament that there was somehow a “new” Tiger went away as soon as he launched his first tee shot on Thursday and went into full game-face mode: the angry glares at missed putts; the profanity directed at an awful tee shot on Saturday; the pabulum answers to questions post-round – all vintage Woods. Which, if you want to believe he's got another major victory in him, was a good sign. 

In the end, though, the week was about a prodigy blossoming into a genuine star. If Spieth decides to retire from golf next week to join the Peace Corps, he will have left his mark on the sport forever. 

Of course he'll be at Hilton Head this week and, presumably, on major leaderboards for years to come. That though is for the future. For now, it's worth taking a step back and marveling at what he accomplished during four extraordinary days in April 2015 in Augusta, Ga. The future can wait. 

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”