Spieth's 64 gives him a reprieve from a MC

By Nick MentaJuly 10, 2015, 7:40 pm

SILVIS, Ill. - Through 22 holes at TPC Deere Run, Jordan Spieth looked aggravated and played uninspired. An early exit was a very real possibility and an earlier-than-planned trip across the pond would have been worth consideration.

Then he flagged his approach and tapped in for birdie at the par-4 14th.

“I had like a 2-footer to get going,” he said.

And off he went.

Spieth went on a tear, playing a seven-hole stretch from No. 14 to No. 2 in 6 under on Friday. It was part of a 7-under 64 that got him off the cut line and into contention at the John Deere Classic.

Quote Spieth: “Solid round when I needed to play well just to avoid going home.”

The latter option looked like a real possibility after an opening 71 left him eight shots out of the lead. Spieth admitted after Thursday’s round that he was shaking off a decent amount rust that had built up during his post-U.S. Open break. He took a full week off from golf of any kind to head to the Bahamas and then spent the next week exclusively in the practice area.               

Asked what changed from Thursday to Friday: “Just another round of golf,” he answered. “This is the third round of golf I’ve played since the U.S. Open, with the pro-am Wednesday being the first full round and then yesterday. It’s just repetitions. I’m getting on-course reps, and it’s making a difference.”

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The real difference was his putter, which refused to cooperate in Round 1 and then wouldn’t stop pouring the ball in the hole in Round 2.

Spieth needed to use it only 25 times Friday, compared to the 31 he needed Thursday, when he missed seven birdie chances from inside 15 feet. He went from 125th in the strokes gained-putting in Round 1 to first in Round 2.

Yes, the 2-footer at No. 14 got him going, but it was his birdie make from 24 feet on the par-3 16th that set him up for a run.

“That putt on 16 was really big,” he said. “I knew I had a lot of birdie holes left, but I knew I needed to steal one that I maybe didn’t think I could get. And then, obviously, from there, that stretch of 18-1-2 went perfect.”

Perfect as in birdie-birdie-eagle.

He made three straight 3s, capped off by an eagle at the par-5 second. After finding the fairway, Spieth ripped a second shot from 241 yards that landed short of the hole and rolled to 4 feet. It was his first red number of any kind on a par 5 this week, after turning in two-putt pars on each of his first five attempts.

He seemed poised to add yet another birdie at the uphill par-3 third but – at that point surprisingly – missed a putt from 8 feet. It was a miss that nearly stalled his momentum.

Spieth, for the second time in as many days, smacked his drive at the par-4 fourth off the tree that splits the middle of the fairway. The ball bounded into the right rough and could barely be seen from just a few feet away. Unable to get any spin on the ball, he couldn’t hold the green.

After how poorly he chipped Thursday – it was his short game he spent the most time bemoaning after that round – Spieth seemed poised to give a shot back. Instead, he hit a high flop 4 feet from the cup, sank the putt, and got out of there.

Two holes later, following a birdie at 5, he made his worst swing of the day with an iron, pulling his approach from the middle of the fairway well left of the green and nearly into an unplayable area. This time the flop didn’t get nearly as close. Staring at a 12-footer, he made it again.

Those two par saves and Nos. 4 and 6 kept what could have been a leaky ship afloat and immediately led to birdies on both 5 and 7.

With the putter and the wedge game looking typically sharp, Spieth will need to clean up his play off the tee if he wants to win his second Deere title this weekend. In addition to the mishap at No. 4, he clipped a tree at 17, and wound up lucky to make par after a 180-yard drive. His only dropped shot of the day, at the par-4 eighth, was set up by a wayward drive that required a pitch-out.

“I’m still searching for answers with the driver,” he admitted. “My driver is not treating me well this week.”

Neither did the putter and wedges on Thursday. And look what happened Friday.

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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.