Being Jordan Spieth: Want to get inside his head?

By Mercer BaggsJuly 25, 2017, 7:03 pm

Being Jordan Spieth. What is that like? To the point, what was it like being him Sunday at Royal Birkdale?

Pay $20, sign a waiver and crawl inside that head of his, connected to his thoughts and emotions. Those nauseating nerves waiting to be announced on the first tee. The thrill of that first tee shot, the feeling of perfection punctuated with a club twirl. Then the disgust of discovery.

Four hours – a little more since things went sideways – of adrenaline and fear and panic and exhilaration and anxiety and, oh Lord, the anxiety.

And that was just four holes in.

It was easy to see Spieth was waging war with himself. Verbal fits (This is crap!). Animated gesticulations (hands on his head). Finicky movements (backing off 3-footers). But that was only on the surface; this was an iceberg of tumult, the greater portion hidden from view.

Afterwards, after he won, Spieth laid bare his battle, as winning allows one to be more revealing. He was worried about his reputation among his peers if he blew another major, those murmurs in the locker room and on the range. He was cognizant of the pain that would ensue. He knew the media’s questions would cut open old wounds.

All these worries racing through his head as he walked from green to tee, from tee to wherever his ball finished, from wherever that was to, eventually, the green, and back again, all this while trying to win a major championship and complete the third leg of the career Grand Slam, and become the first player to get to this point since the greatest player of all-time did so.

And while trying to figure out what’s wrong with his swing and how to make a putt.

That would be well worth a Jackson, to experience the chaotic confines of that mind. All number of thoughts, emotions and memories colliding in a finite space.

Had to be a wild trip. But could you hang on for the full ride? Push eject because 13 made you too queasy and you would have missed the most thrill part.

One time. Just one time, what would it be like to feel as Spieth did when he made that eagle putt at 15? When the adrenaline comes rushing through like an unbound river. To feel it as he did. To be immersed in it, but not overwhelmed.

The flood doesn’t sweep Spieth away, rather it clears a once claustrophobic mind, washing away all the doubt and insecurities.

Spieth has the capacity to make this journey.

Place it on a mental-strength scale. Spieth can stare over the edge of Fragility and then, without notice, race in dizzying fashion to the other extreme and stand steadfast along Superiority.

If only it was this easy outside the ropes.

Spieth absorbs that around him, like watching Matt Kuchar console a crying son whose father has just lost The Open. He internalizes it and recalls his father comforting him after he lost the Masters.

That awareness can be detrimental, as evidenced by that which caused him so much angst in Birkdale’s final round. The worry of perception, the need to constantly prove oneself. The concern over what Jeff thinks. Who is Jeff? Who knows? But when Jeff gets on social media and cracks on Spieth, he’s been known to take it personally.

Sometimes Spieth forgets that critiques and barbs are Lilliputian weaponry. He’s a giant.

The slings and arrows will be plentiful over the next two decades. So, too, will be the praise. Both will come and go and come again.

And just as he did on Open Sunday, Spieth will have to navigate the hills and valleys.

It’d be nice to be inside his head the next time he’s in contention to win a major championship, perhaps in a few weeks at Quail Hollow.

Of course, such a thing is not for the faint of heart. That’s why you sign the waiver.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”