Next task for Spieth: Win at St. Andrews

By Nick MentaJuly 13, 2015, 12:21 am

SILVIS, Ill. – The golf world may have spent the last two weeks debating whether Jordan Spieth would be better served in Silvis or Scotland, but for all the second guessing and all the unsolicited advice, here’s what Spieth had to say Sunday with the John Deere Classic trophy sitting on a table in front of him:

“I really didn’t care anyways. I came here for a reason, and we accomplished that reason, and certainly I’ve got some momentum going into next week.

“[After] starting off so slow, to be able to shoot 20 under in three rounds is obviously nice momentum.”

As if he needed any more momentum coming off two major victories – or any more motivation. Spieth enters next week at the Open Championship with the opportunity to win his third consecutive major, the third leg of the Grand Slam and the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Of course, before he could get on the tournament charter to St. Andrews, Spieth had the small matter of closing out his 54-hole lead at TPC Deere Run. And through the first 12 holes of his final round, it looked as if that wasn’t going to happen.

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From the first tee, when a hooked a 3-wood led to an opening bogey, Spieth looked off. Off with his driver, off his irons, off with his wedges, off with his putter. He exited the par-3 12th green 1 over on his round and four shots back of the lead held by Tom Gillis.

“To be four back with six to go, all we were saying was, ‘We birdied five of the last six two years ago to get into a playoff [and win],” Spieth said, referencing his conversation with caddie Michael Greller. “’Why can’t we do it again?’”

And so suddenly, Spieth snapped out of his funk, birdied both 13 and 14, holed out from off the green at 16, and made his final birdie at 17 to play his last six holes in 4 under, post a final-round 68, and force a playoff with Gillis.

It took him two extra holes, but after Gillis found the water left of the green on 18, Spieth tapped in for the fifth win of his PGA Tour career and his sixth worldwide victory in the last eight months. After entering the interview room, Spieth was mistakenly introduced as a still-four-time champion.

“You better get those facts right,” he joked. “I don’t get credit for Australia or Tiger’s event but at least give me credit for my PGA Tour wins.”

Spieth picked up the first of those five wins at the Deere two years ago, and while everyone else wants to talk about the Grand Slam, Spieth believes that opportunity wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t hole out from the bunker on the 72nd hole here two years ago.

“This tournament means a lot to me,” he said. “I mean this jump started my career. … I’d probably be six months to a year further back in my career had that shot not gone in and had I not survived the playoff. I wouldn’t have been in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs, the Presidents Cup, my world ranking would have been down given that I played the playoffs extremely well.

“So I would have been set back a little bit starting the next year. I could have played a different schedule. Who knows what could have happened.”

Here’s what happens now. Spieth will hop on a plane with the rest of the Deere participants heading to St. Andrews and he’ll start preparing to take to over the golf world.

Included in those preparations will be some diligent work with his driver, which got him in plenty of trouble this week at TPC Deere Run and could get him in even more next week in St. Andrews' ever-present pot bunkers. Spieth said he’ll spend the bulk of his time the next three days trying to “fine-tune” the longest clubs in his bag.

Otherwise, he’ll be taking in the sights and sounds and generally being as in awe of St. Andrews as the rest of us.

“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said. “I love the town. I love the R&A clubhouse. I love the – what do you call it – Himalayas putting green. The entire experience of being there was really cool. The golf course, specifically, I think it’s just mind boggling that it can stand the test of time and hold a major championship centuries after it was built.”

And now, after all those centuries, Jordan Spieth is headed to the Old Course, halfway to joining Bobby Jones as the only two men to ever win all four major titles in the same year.

Spieth would be the first to ever do it in the Masters era.

He would stand alone in history.

Surely, by now, that prospect has at least crossed his mind.

“If I win next week,” he said, “then I’ll think about it.”

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.