Spieth playing better, thinking better on home turf

By Rex HoggardMay 20, 2016, 7:45 pm

IRVING, Texas – Which came first: the smile or the score?

Fun question, not that it really makes a difference to Jordan Spieth.

When Spieth bolted TPC Sawgrass a week ago, there were no smiles. He had just missed the cut at The Players and was less concerned with the physical aspects of his game than he was the psychological nuances.

“On the off days, I just need to do a little bit better job of being positive with myself and smiling a bit more, having a bit more fun,” he said at The Players.

Funny how rounds of 64-65 can turn a frown upside down.

Through two rounds, Spieth has penciled just two bogeys onto his card at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He walked off the course on Friday with a share of the lead at 11 under.

Whether it was his improved outlook on golf, if not life, that fueled his solid start at his hometown event or vice versa, the results were all Spieth cared about.

“I still got pretty frustrated at times because I would have a really good wedge number to a bowl pin where it can feed from anywhere around the hole. That should be within 10 feet all day. I've got 40 feet on the other side of the green,” Spieth said. “For those shots not to cost me and move on, that's been the difference from that extra frustration. My misses last week really cost me.”

That Spieth was able to embrace the brighter side this week also speaks to the value of a quiet mind.

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

The Byron Nelson is, after all, where he was thrust into the spotlight when tied for 16th place in 2010 as a 16-year-old. A year later, he tied for 32nd as an amateur, but he’s been unable to replicate that success as a professional.

“That's an event that, growing up, I've always wanted to win and haven't really had a chance to win since I was 16, 17. It's funny when I say that,” he said at TPC Sawgrass, referring to the Nelson.

But Spieth explained Friday that this week has felt different. There is a calm that’s been missing in recent years at TPC Four Seasons, which is about 17 minutes (depending on traffic) from Jesuit Dallas, where he attended high school.

Shawn Spieth, Jordan’s father, first brought the would-be major champion to the Nelson as a toddler. That kid is now 22 and a runaway crowd favorite, with officials doling out Jordan Spieth bobblehead dolls – even if they look more like Kevin Streelman – and fans with his likeness on them.

“This is an event that would be extremely, extremely special if we were to come out on top at any point in my life, to hold the Byron Nelson trophy, just given the memories here,” he said.

Still, perhaps the most encouraging sign for Spieth this week, beyond the improved outlook, is a game that despite his place on the leaderboard is still not perfectly aligned.

Although he hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday, with his lone miss coming at his final hole (No. 9), he ranks 70th in the field in proximity to the hole with a 33-foot average.

Despite what he dubbed a “two-way miss” with his irons, the new Mr. Sunshine closed his first nine with three consecutive birdies and has converted 28 of 31 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

Picking apart his ball-striking is easy for an armchair analyst, but Spieth will always measure success with his play on the greens. At TPC Sawgrass, where he said he overcooked a putting drill he and his coach Cameron McCormick were working on, the longest putt he made was 12 feet. This week on the friendly confines of TPC Four Seasons, he’s rolled in seven putts longer than that.

“I don't feel like I'm tied for the lead right now, it’s not the feeling I have when I stand over an iron shot,” Spieth said. “But, when I stand over my putter right now it's back to where we like to have it.”

Spieth justifiably balked at the notion his game was in need of a competitive B-12 shot, rightly pointing out it was just two tournaments ago that he led for three rounds at the Masters.

Maybe all he really needed was another start to find his groove, and that smile is nothing more than a happy bonus.

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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.”