Spieth hopes to gain ground on McIlroy at Players

By Randall MellMay 6, 2015, 8:47 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – This looks like perfect terrain for Jordan Spieth to up the ante against Rory McIlroy.

TPC Sawgrass levels the ground for Spieth at The Players Championship.

Spieth wants to be McIlroy’s rival. He wants to be No. 1 in the world. He wants to tower over the game, but he knows he has to prove he’s McIlroy’s equal before he can be anything more.

With his Masters victory last month, Spieth moved to No. 2 in the world behind McIlroy, but he still feels far removed from the top, especially with McIlroy winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship last weekend.

“As far as a rivalry goes, he moved even further away from it really being what I would consider a budding rivalry,” Spieth said Wednesday. “I could certainly appreciate if I could get to where he's at, but, right now, I don't see myself there. There's a lot of hard work that needs to be had to get there.”

McIlroy and Spieth will be grouped together along with Jason Day in the first two rounds this week. McIlroy dismissed Spieth when asked if he paid much attention to media hyping Spieth as his next rival.

“Not really,” McIlroy said. “Last year it was Rickie, this year it's Jordan, might be someone else, too, could have been Tiger. There have been four or five rivalries over the past year. So, it doesn't really do anything for me.”

Spieth knows he has to win more big events to distinguish himself from McIlroy’s wannabe rivals.

“It's certainly a huge goal of mine to make it interesting with him and possibly take over No. 1, but I know that he is as far ahead of me as I am with the next nine guys,” Spieth said. “So with that being said, it's kind of anybody's game to get up there and make it interesting. I just happen to be the one that occupies No. 2 right now.”

That’s why the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course feels like the perfect terrain for Spieth to make it interesting.

Architect Pete Dye’s design levels the ground for two completely different kinds of players.

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“I heard something that it tests everyone and favors no one," McIlroy said.

Just listening to McIlroy and Spieth Wednesday, you couldn’t help concluding the Stadium Course favors Spieth.

McIlroy missed the cut the first three years he teed it up in The Players Championship. He didn’t even break par, but he’s figuring out how to play the Stadium Course. He tied for eighth in 2014 and tied for sixth last year.

Still, when asked to pick one word to describe Dye’s design, McIlroy didn’t need much time to come up with it.

“Frustrating,” he said.

McIlroy, though, did call it his favorite Dye course. What that means is hard to know. His favorite form of torture?

“This golf course, it magnifies your weaknesses,” McIlroy said. “If your game is off just a little bit in any department, it really magnifies that during this week. You don't have to hit it that long off the tee, but you have to be really precise.”

Spieth tied for fourth in his first Players Championship last year. He was tied for the lead with Martin Kaymer going into the final round with Kaymer ultimately winning. Even with that, Spieth fell in love with the place.

“Incredible golf course,” Spieth said. “One of the best in the world, one of my favorites in the world.”

At 21, Spieth isn’t a power player. He plays tactically, maneuvering his way to the best angles. His short game and putting stroke are the envy of most players, including McIlroy.

Asked what part of Spieth’s game he would most like to have, McIlroy chose Spieth’s putting.

“He's obviously been putting phenomenally well over the past few months,” McIlroy said. “I think that's been a big thing for him. You look at the putts holed and the putts that he's holed when he needed to. That's been a big reason why he's done so well.”

At 26, McIlroy’s a power player. He’s one of the longest drivers on tour and still hits a lot of fairways. He’s 11th in driving distance and still impressively 58th in driving accuracy.

Asked what part of McIlroy’s game he would most like to have, Spieth’s answer surprised nobody.

“I would like to hit it as far as he does,” Spieth said.

At the Stadium Course, Spieth doesn’t have to hit it as far as McIlroy, who learned missing those cuts here that he can’t hit a lot of drivers.

“It's always hard for me when I can't get driver in my hand, because I feel like when I get driver in my hand I can give myself an advantage over the rest of the field,” McIlroy said. “It's just about being very patient and approaching it a different way, winning a different way.”

That McIlroy has to play differently here makes this perfect terrain for Spieth to make this rivalry talk more interesting to McIlroy.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”