Spieth (64) off to brilliant beginning in 79th Masters

By Randall MellApril 10, 2015, 1:11 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth’s golf bag looked a lot like a quiver full of lightning bolts.

The kid made his way around Augusta National Thursday like some baby-faced Zeus.

Spieth took charge of the Masters hurling nine birdies at the field. If not for a lone bogey, the 21-year-old Texan would have equaled the record low score in a major championship. While more than content with his 64, Spieth was kicking himself for not knowing he could have made history shooting 63.

“That’s a little frustrating ... but I’m certainly OK with the day,” Spieth said.

That remark sent a jolt of laughter through the Masters interview room.

The innocence of youth.

Greg Norman and Nick Price are the only men to have shot 63s at the Masters. They’re both Hall of Famers, multiple major championship winners, former world No. 1s and PGA Tour Player of the Year winners. Price shot his 63 in the third round in 1986, with Norman doing it in the first round in ’96. Though, neither man went on to win.

Overall, a 63 has been posted 26 times in majors.

This week opened with excitement over Tiger Woods’ return and with Rory McIlroy trying to win the career Grand Slam, but Spieth stole the show in the opening round. He ignited the grounds with a buzz over whether he’s poised to finish what he started last year.

Playing his first Masters a year ago, Spieth built a two-shot lead early in the final round, only to watch Bubba Watson outplay him down the stretch to win his second green jacket.

Of course, after Thursday’s brilliant start, Spieth refused to think ahead to what drama this fast start might set up for him on another Masters weekend.

“It's Round 1,” Spieth said. “It's just a lot of good breaks and good putting, chipping and short game. I don't think that way right now. There are 54 holes left and anything happens in a major.”

Spieth isn’t just capturing the imagination of the patrons here at Augusta National. He’s winning over fellow Tour players who see something special in him.

Two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw might be the leader of the Spieth fan club.

“When I first met him, I’ll never forget it,” Crenshaw said. “I looked at him, and I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp. He just had that look about him, just wonderful.”

Ernie Els, who’s in the hunt after shooting 67, wasn’t surprised to see Spieth off to such a fast start.

“What a player,” Els said. “You just cannot see this kid not win many, many majors. I think he is by far the most balanced kid I've seen ... Jordan, he's got that little tenacity to him, and he's really got a fighting spirit, and he's the nicest kid in the world. So I just love playing with him.”

Billy Horschel played alongside Spieth Thursday and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show.

“It was impressive to see the kid play,” Horschel said. “I mean everyone was showing their appreciation for the great round of golf that he was playing.”

It wasn’t just the shot making Horschel appreciated. It was the way Spieth commanded the stage, the animated way he plays and talks to his golf ball.

“If anyone ever wants to call him out and criticize him for the way he is emotionally, I'll stick up for that kid,” Horschel said. “I'll be the first guy in the line.”

Spieth hit some great shots. He hit a fantastic recovery at the 14th. From behind a tree right of the fairway, he opened the face of his 7-iron and hit a big bending fade around the tree. The gallery around the green erupted when Spieth nearly holed it. He hit the flagstick, leaving himself a couple feet for his birdie there.

Over a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round, Spieth made six birdies. He sent a couple jolts through Amen Corner with birdies at the 12th and 13th holes.

“It’s Jordan’s Corner now,” Horschel said. “It’s Amen Corner no more.”

A year ago here, there were questions about Spieth’s ability to close out leads. He brings confidence and momentum this year having done it since. He won the Australian Open last November and the Valspar Championship last month.

“I'm sure it has struck all of you that he's way mature beyond his years,” Crenshaw said. “He has an innate ability to score. I think one of the really wonderful things, that I really do like about him, he's got competitive fire. You can see it. I think he carries that off in a great fashion.”

He did that and more Thursday at the Masters.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.