Days later, still difficult to sum up Spieth's win

By John FeinsteinJuly 25, 2017, 10:00 pm

Finding words to describe Jordan Spieth’s Sunday performance at The Open is difficult. So, let’s begin by agreeing on one thing: The Open always delivers.

Since Louis Oosthuizen’s stunning runaway at St. Andrews in 2010, every Open Sunday has produced something remarkable.

It began with Darren Clarke’s emotional victory at Royal St. George’s in 2011. In his 20th Open – at age 42 – Clarke held off Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson for an emotional triumph and choked up during the victory ceremony talking about his wife, Heather, who had died of cancer five years earlier.

A year later, Ernie Els, also 42, played a brilliant back nine at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s – the same course where he thought he was going to win in 1996 – and walked away with the claret jug when Adam Scott imploded over the last four holes.

Then came 43-year-old Phil Mickelson’s closing 66 at Muirfield, giving him a victory he honestly didn’t think he’d ever achieve. Rory McIlroy ended the 40-something’s dynasty a year after that at Royal Liverpool with a bravura performance that ended with an emotional hug with his mom on the 18th green.



At St. Andrews in 2015, weather pushed the finish to Monday and, after a wild scramble down the stretch, Zach Johnson, Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman played off – with Spieth, eyeing the single-season Grand Slam, one shot and about three inches from joining them. Johnson putted like a demon to walk away with the victory.

And the last two years have given us breathtaking mano-a-mano duels on Sunday: Henrik Stenson and Mickelson last year; Spieth and Matt Kuchar this year. Mickelson shot 65 on Sunday at Troon and went from a one-shot deficit at the start of the day to a three-shot defeat, after Stenson threw a 63 at him to win his first major.

Kuchar couldn’t help but note Sunday that, after taking a one-shot lead walking to the 14th tee, he played the next four holes in 2 under par. Which meant he only dropped THREE shots to Spieth during that stretch.

Which brings us to trying to find words to describe what Spieth did in the last 90 minutes of The Open – 30 of which were spent on the 13th hole.

Let’s start with two phrases that will be repeated for years-to-come:

Birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. And: Driving-range shot.

There’s the ‘car-park shot,’ dating to Seve Ballesteros’ recovery at the 16th hole at Lytham on Sunday in 1979, leading to his first major title. And now, there’s the driving-range shot.

Everyone knows what happened: Spieth, fighting his swing and his emotions, hit about as bad a shot as a professional can hit on the 13th tee, described by NBC’s Roger Maltbie as being, “100 yards right.”

It took more than 20 minutes for Spieth to hit another shot – his third after taking an unplayable lie from the dune where the ball ended up. Because golf’s rules and those who enforce them have been under fire for a couple of years now and because Spieth has a (deserved) reputation as a slow player, there was a good deal of grumbling about how long it took him to play his third shot.

It would be a shame if people focused on that rather than Spieth’s final 19 shots of the championship, beginning with the one he finally struck from the driving range.

But, let’s review the circumstances for a moment. Spieth first had to choose from his three options after declaring the ball unplayable: go back to the tee; try to drop within two club lengths of the spot where his ball had finished; go back as far as he wished as long as he kept the dune where his ball had been, between him and the hole.

The first option – especially having to stand up on that tee again – almost certainly would have led to a 6, at least – and probably would have finished Spieth. The second was impossible, no place to drop.

So, it had to be option No. 3. The question was where could Spieth and his wandering golf ball go? The answer, as it turned out, was the nearby driving range – which (like the car-park) probably wasn’t out-of-bounds because nobody thought anyone would hit a shot anywhere close to there.

Spieth then took a lot of time checking yardage – there was nothing in his yardage book about playing a shot from there – talking to caddie Michael Greller and figuring out where he needed to aim his shot. Meanwhile, Kuchar sat and waited.

What made the situation impossible was there’s nothing in the rules – believe it or not – that covers this. It was unique. All the officials and all the king’s men couldn’t force Jordan to hit again.

Hale Irwin, who was playing with Ballesteros at Lytham in ’79 suggested Monday that it’s time for golf to have some kind of shot-clock. “Once the ball is in play, regardless of how tough the shot may be, there should be a limit on how long you can take. You’re a professional, YOU put yourself in that situation. There should be a limit on how long you can take to get yourself out of it.”

On Sunday though, no such rule was in play. So, everyone waited.

The good news was that you can’t say that Kuchar was affected by the delay. Imagine if Rory Sabbatini had been playing with Spieth. Come to think of it, don’t imagine it. The visual’s too gruesome.

Spieth, as everyone knows, made bogey when all the dust and clouds and dunes cleared. The 8-foot putt that he made might have been the most important of the 268 shots he played at Royal Birkdale last week.

Clearly, it gave him a jolt. He went from looking baffled and bewildered by the round he was playing to steely-eyed, the way the true greats get when something clicks. Bruce Edwards always said he got a chill when Tom Watson turned to him on the driving range and said, “I’ve got it,” when he figured out a swing-thought he knew would work.

Spieth had it by the time he walked to the 14th tee. He almost holed his tee shot, settling for a 6-foot birdie putt. Then came the ludicrous eagle putt that travelled through several English counties (or 38 feet) at 15. That’s when his victim, Kuchar, no doubt began to get that sinking feeling.

Then came the birdies at 16 and 17. By then, Kuchar, who had played well all day and all week – no one in the field ended up within two shots of him – had to feel like Joe Frazier at the end of the Thrilla in Manila: He’d thrown everything he had at Muhammad Ali, as played by Spieth, and it hadn’t been enough.

So, back to the words that describe those last 90 minutes? You pick one: extraordinary, amazing, stunning, fantastic, supernatural, ridiculous, remarkable, indescribable.

They all fit. But one other stands out: historic. Those two phrases will remain part of the golf pantheon forever: the driving-range shot and birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie.

Enough said.


John Feinstein's new book 'The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup' will be released October 24. It is available now for pre-sale online.
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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off Thursday at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round in front of a large contingent of South Korean fans.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.

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Maggert and Parnevik lead at Bass Pro Shops

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 10:49 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shot an 8-under 63 in better-ball play Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' chilly Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

''It was very relaxing for me because I felt like terrible,'' Parnevik said. ''I was so stiff this morning. It was freezing cold. I thought if I can just try to make some pars in case he ever makes a bogey, but I didn't even have to do that.''

Playing together for the first time in the team event, Maggert and Parnevik eagled the par-5 eighth and had six birdies in the cool and breezy conditions on Big Cedar Lodge's Buffalo Ridge course.

''We play well together,'' Maggert said. ''We both contributed a lot. Jesper had a lot of birdies and an eagle on our final nine. It was so cold this morning, I just was going to come out and just try to hit fairways and greens. Really I wasn't thinking about making birdies, I was just trying to play steady and give myself an opportunity to have some birdie putts.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


The next three rounds will be played on par-3 courses. Maggert and Parnevik will play the 18-hole Top of the Rock on Friday and Sunday, and the 13-hole Mountain Top on Saturday.

Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin were a stroke back. They also eagled No. 8. Austin won the 2016 title with Michael Allen. Calcavecchia won the Boca Raton Championship this year.

''I lucked in a few birdies on the back, but it was tough, tough conditions,'' Calcavecchia said. ''Even when it warmed up a little bit, it was still tough to make birdies out there. All in all, 7 under's a pretty good start.''

Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman were at 65 along with Davis Love III-Scott Verplank, 2015 winners Billy Andrade-Joe Durant, Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett and Steve Flesch-David Toms.

''We kind of brother-in-lawed or ham-and-egged it or partnered it,'' Love said. ''Neither one of us were playing great, but we had one guy in every hole and that's kind of what you have to do. We're going to have to go to the par 3 courses and get two birdie putts on a hole is what you really want to do and we didn't do that enough today.''

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week for his first senior title.

Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were tied for 22nd at 68.