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Spieth gets knocked down, fights back for a chance

By Randall MellApril 6, 2018, 10:18 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth’s caddie delivered just the right words with his player stinging from a rough start Friday at the Masters.

Michael Greller has been on the bag for all of Spieth’s wild highs and lows here.

He was at Spieth’s side in that breakthrough victory in 2015, and in a crushing defeat a year later.

So when Spieth double-bogeyed the first hole Friday to immediately give away the two-shot lead he built in the first round, and then bogeyed the second, Greller knew what to say.

“He was really good at saying, ‘Man, you always take punches out here and come back stronger,’” Spieth said. “That's kind of what he was saying.”

Spieth took a flurry of punches Friday before punching back, but he did fight to keep his championship hopes alive.

On a day when so many were struggling, Spieth scrapped and clawed to stay on the leaderboard. After failing to get up and down at the seventh hole, falling to 4 over on the day, there was a dose of encouragement going to the eighth tee. The leaderboard there showed Spieth was just one shot off the lead.

Nobody was running away, with the course so firm and fast, and with swirling, gusting winds challenging everyone.

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“I'm still in this golf tournament,” Spieth said at day’s end.

Spieth didn’t make his first birdie Friday until the 13th hole. He two-putted from 50 feet. He added one more birdie at the 15th, two-putting from 70 feet.

When Spieth signed for a 2-over-par 74, he was just one shot off the lead.

“With the way the back nine was playing today, the wheels could have come off,” Spieth said.

There were a lot of important pars strung around his two birdies on the back nine. Just as importantly, there no more bogeys added to his card.

“I made some nice par saves and was able to grind out some phenomenal second‑shot iron shots and good two‑putt birdies,” Spieth said.

At just 24, Spieth has a lot of memories to draw upon at Augusta National. Even the bad ones seem to matter to him. He brought up his collapse in ’16, when he hit two balls in the water at the 12th and made quadruple-bogey 7 to blow a chance to win back-to-back Masters. He said rebounding from that to tie for second mattered.

Spieth was asked if skill or mental fiber was more responsible for his rebound on Thursday.

“I'm not going to downgrade my skill level, but I'm also not going to downgrade my ability to take punches and fight back on this course,” he said.

Spieth made double at the first after blowing his drive right and into the trees. He barely punched his way back into the clear and then hit a heavy wedge that spun back to the front of the green. He three-putted from there.

At the second, Spieth hooked his tee shot left along the tree line, then from an awkward stance aside a tree, he hooked a 4-iron back along the tree line, leaving him a less than ideal approach. He three-putted that green, too.

“So, what's the first couple holes on a Friday start mean?” Spieth said. “It doesn't really mean much to me. It means, 'Let's figure out what was wrong and fix it,’ but it's not going to affect the outcome of this tournament, off of those two holes. I'm still in a great position.”

Spieth knew tough conditions made it difficult for anybody to pull away.

“I felt like I hit some really good shots on a lot of holes, and just got kind of gusted by an opposite wind, or were one or two yards away from being phenomenal,” Spieth said. “Therefore, I didn't have very many really good birdie looks, less than a half dozen.”

Spieth may need a fighter’s mentality again Saturday with rain and winds forecast to make for a tough day.

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

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Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: