Am Tour: San Diego's Jason Meijers working overtime to perfect his game

By Mike BaileySeptember 11, 2014, 6:08 am

So you've thought about playing golf for a living? How much do you think you'll need to practice?

Every day after work?

Twenty hours a week?

Not even close.

Try quitting your job and making golf practice your fulltime occupation. And that'll only work if you have talent.

That's what 24-year-old Jason Meijers has going on right now. Meijers, who lives in San Diego and recently earned a business degree from the University of Southern California, is taking his shot, and he's in full pursuit. What's amazing, though, is that Meijers, who is playing in the Championship flight this week at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, didn't play college golf and 18 months ago was a 10-handicap. Now he plays to a plus 2. He'll be the first to tell you that making that kind of improvement doesn't come easy.

"My head pro told me that I can't take days off," Meijers said. "He told me, 'You need to be playing every day, every tournament you can get into. Even if you're sick, you need to be putting."

So for the past year, Meijers has done exactly that. He practices and plays pretty much seven days a week, seven to nine hours a day and works with a Titleist Performance Institute trainer.

This year, he's played in around 20 events on the Golf Channel Am Tour. Over the summer, he fired several rounds around or better than par to finish near the top of the leaderboard.

"Because I didn't play college golf, I'm looking to gain that tournament experience that I didn't get in college," said Meijers, who also plays in every USGA and Southern California Golf Association event he can get into.

This journey really began a little over a year ago when his father, Neville Meijers, a senior VP at Qualcomm, made a generous offer. Seeing the potential in his son's game (he had already started to improve from the 10-handicap and played high school golf), the elder Meijers asked his son how good could he get. If he heard the right answer, he would offer to sponsor his quest to become a professional player.

"I thought he was joking at the time," said Meijers, who was born in South Africa, but has lived all over the world because of his father's career. "I just kind of laughed it off."

But a couple of months later, the father repeated the question. Jason thought about it for a minute and told him, "If I did this (practice) every day, I could probably get pretty far with it."

And so here we are.

For the past year, Meijers has worked with teaching pro Derek Uyeda at Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego. They work on everything, of course, but if you were thinking the short game is what separates handicap players from elite players, think again.

Truth is it really is about ball-striking. Once you become a plus handicap, great putting or pitching separates the elite, but to get there, forget about the "drive for show, putt for dough" adage. If you can't drive the ball well, you won't make it to scratch, much less a plus handicap.

"I went from a 10 to a 3 in one or two months, just straightening out that driver," Meijers said. "Because once you start avoiding O.B. or the hazards, you start shaving off those strokes."

And you'll also avoid the big numbers, which is critical. Players just can't make enough birdies to negate two or three double bogeys.

Meijers knows that firsthand. After a 71 on Tuesday on the North Course at Talking Stick, he followed with a 76 on the South Course, a round that included two doubles. He's now tied for 15th. 

"Those are the big numbers you have to avoid," said Meijers, who averages about three or four birdies a round. "It's just getting rid of those mistakes."


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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.”