Golf's future brimming with talent - and class

By John FeinsteinAugust 19, 2015, 12:00 pm

There are many different ways to explain why Jordan Spieth is so popular among his fellow players, even though he has an annoying habit of out-playing them all a lot of the time.

Go back to July at the Open Championship, when Spieth's final birdie putt swerved just left of the 18th hole at St. Andrews, leaving him one shot out of the playoff. Those three inches separated him from a chance to win a third straight major, a chance to keep alive the possibility of making unimaginable history.

Most players would have bolted the premises as quickly as possible and gone off to play the what-if game. Spieth went through his paces with the media and then walked back out to the 18th green to watch the end of the playoff. When Zach Johnson walked off the green triumphant, Spieth was there to give him a congratulatory hug.

Flash forward to last Friday at Whistling Straits. Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, was standing outside the media tent when he saw Spieth sprinting in his direction. Spieth had just shot a second-round 67 to move close to the leaders at the PGA Championship.

"They probably won't start without you," someone joked with Spieth, referring to the reporters waiting inside for him.

Spieth laughed. "I had to run to get past all the people so I could get here," he said, looking behind him. He had left his panting security coterie in the dust. He looked at Davis and smiled.

"Mr. Davis, really good to see you," he said.

They discussed his round for a moment before Spieth was pulled away by a PGA official who knew that the various notebooks and cameras were in need of their daily Jordan-fix.

He shook Davis's hand a second time and headed off.

"I gotta find a way to get that kid to stop calling me Mr. Davis," Davis said with a laugh.

Good luck with that, Mr. Davis.

Flash forward one more time to Sunday evening on the 18th green. Spieth had thrown everything he had at Jason Day, shooting a 4-under-par 68 to finish at 17-under-par 271. If you had told Spieth before the week began that he would shoot 271, or on Sunday morning that he'd shoot 68, he would have signed for both, because those are winning numbers.

But Day was both brilliant and resolute all day and all week, bouncing back from every mishap with a huge drive or a huge putt or both. The fact that his 67 on Sunday allowed him to become the first player in history to finish a major at 20 under par wasn't that important. Pete Dye's golf course was still dangerous, but it was soft and attackable all week. Day just attacked it better than anyone.

And so, after Day tearfully tapped in his final putt, Spieth gave him a classy and heartfelt hug. No one watching was rooting for Spieth to lose but everyone in golf felt genuine joy for Day, not just because of all the near-misses in majors, but because of who he is and what he has been through to become a major champion.

That's why it wasn't at all surprising that – even as Colin Swatton, Day's swing coach and caddie and, more importantly, the man who rescued Day years ago in Australia after the death of his father, closed in for a celebratory hug that had been 15 years in the making - Day turned first to Spieth, took off his cap and accepted the hug. Then he wept on Swatton's shoulder.

There was nothing but class on that green.

A Spieth victory at Whistling Straits would have been historic. It would have made him only the third golfer to win three professional majors in one year, joining Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods, and do it at 22, younger than Woods and considerably younger than Hogan.

But there is no doubting that, as well-liked as Spieth is, there were smiles throughout the golf world when Day walked up 18 on Sunday with victory in hand and a broad smile on his face. There is also no doubt that there were some wet eyes in the locker room and even in the media tent when he broke down after lagging his final birdie putt to within a foot.

Just as tears of frustration had welled in Day's eyes at St. Andrews, when he left his final birdie putt a few inches short, tears of joy began gushing the moment when he realized the job was truly done. It was okay to leave this putt a tad short.

If you are reading this column, you no doubt know Day's backstory. His father's death when Day was 12. His being sent to Kooralbyn, a sports-specific school where he and Swatton found one another and, after a rocky start, became mentor and pupil, swing coach and player, and finally second-father and son.

There's no doubting the fact that Day's difficult upbringing gives him a different perspective on life than most professional athletes, just as Spieth's experiences with his sister Ellie have shaped his view of the world. Day is instensely competitive, as all great players are, but also unfailingly polite to everyone he comes in contact with and patient both on and off the golf course.

Early in his career, Day spent a good deal of time while on the Tour with Erik Compton, who makes a living playing golf even though he has had two heart transplants. That, too, helped him understand that there are many things more difficult to deal with in life than a bad bounce or a missed putt - even in a major.

"I watched what he went through every day just to play, just to live," Day said a couple of years back, referring to Compton. "We've all got issues we've dealt with and deal with. But watching Erik deal with his issues without ever complaining made me realize that my life hadn't been so tough."

That doesn't mean he doesn't miss his dad. It doesn't mean he doesn't wish he didn't have to deal with bouts of vertigo, like the one that may have stolen his chance to win the U.S. Open in June. That doesn't mean the thumb injury that he thought might end his career a year ago didn't scare him.

But it does mean he has the resilience to deal with disappointments on the golf course and bounce back from them. Six days after that birdie putt came up short at St. Andrews, he had another birdie putt, this one to win in Canada. It slammed into the back of the cup. He could have missed it, but he wasn't leaving it short.

He came to the PGA with both confidence and a desire to make sure he didn't find himself ever again in a threesome labelled, 'best players to have never won a major,' which is what people called the grouping of Day, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler last Thursday and Friday. Now, he will find himself paired at majors with other major champions.

The top three players in the world right now, Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Day are all not yet 28 years old. All have won major titles. Throw Fowler into the mix and you have four superb young players - three of them major champions, one of them a Players champion - who are impossible not to like. All sorts of potential for rivalries and Sundays like the one at Whistling Straits are right in front of us.

Golf is in a very good place right now.

No doubt, Mr. Davis would agree.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.”