Learning how to deal with pressure is reward for No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 16, 2016, 6:20 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – It could be the most unfulfilling title in all of professional golf.

Sure, ascending to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking can bring varying degrees of personal satisfaction, but there are no trophies, no checks, no exemptions – just a title and a target.

From a competitive standpoint, for the confusing math to fall your way, there has been copious amounts of success that put you there; but few, if any, stand on random putting greens around the globe rolling in 5 footers to “become world No. 1.”

With few exceptions – most notably Jason Day who admitted to dreaming about the top ranking – scaling to the top of the confusing world order ranks somewhere between earning a PGA Tour card and finding the winner’s circle in importance and prestige.

Phil Mickelson never climbed to the top of the OWGR summit, and it’s safe to say Lefty wouldn’t trade one of his major tilts for the honor. Nor did one ever get the impression that his status as the perennial No. 1 (683 weeks total) was particularly inspiring for Tiger Woods.

Although rewarding in as much as it’s a sign of how hard a player has worked to get there, the title also brings an exponentially higher level of scrutiny, which current No. 1 Jordan Spieth is learning one snarky social media post at a time.

Last week after an opening 76 at the Valspar Championship, Spieth fired back at an Instagram troll and also took exception to an out-of-context quote that was tweeted from the PGA Tour’s own account.

“You'll probably never see me do that again,” Spieth said a day later. “I should never respond to any of that, just let it go and by the time the next tournament rolls around no one even remembers it anyways.”


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But for those who have lived in the same cauldron, it’s certainly understandable that a player would get worn down by all of the attention that comes with being the world No. 1.

For Luke Donald, who ascended to No. 1 in the world in 2012, his stay at the top lasted 56 eventful weeks.

“There is a lot more demand on your time. A lot more attention on you, you’re in the spotlight,” Donald said. “I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge. I feel like I’ve always had to work for my success, so to get to world No. 1 was very gratifying.”

Donald said the challenges of being world No. 1 are exclusively off-course situations and time management. As the Englishman explained, saying no becomes an art form and keeping the social media noise to a minimum is a daily challenge.

He recalled, for example, getting into contention at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah and turning his phone off so he wouldn’t be tempted to peak at the ongoing conversation.

“We live in a world where we kind of want to know everything. It can be good and it can be bad,” said Donald, one of the more active Tour players on social media. “You have to be wary of the negative attention. It’s tough, you have that urge to hear what other people are saying but at the same time you’re not sure you want to hear everything.”

On this front Day was uniquely suited for his short time atop the World Golf Ranking. The Australian largely avoids social media because, well, “I'm terrible at it. I think I've done 23 posts or something on Instagram and I've had it for a long time and Twitter . . . my wife tweets for me,” he conceded.

Day, for better or worse, also didn’t have to endure the spotlight for too long, overtaking Spieth atop the rankings with his victory at last year’s BMW Championship but slipping back when the American won the Tour Championship the next week.

“I couldn't really go oh, yeah, man, this is really a high-pressure situation,” Day said.

Day could, however, embrace the central theme of being world No. 1 which essentially is the ability, and desire, to deal with pressure, whether that’s on or off the golf course.

“I played a few holes with Adam Hadwin yesterday,” Day said. “We were talking about how there's guys out here that are just comfortable from 50 to 100 on the FedEx [Cup] and enjoy that spot. I was just telling him you got to be OK with feeling uncomfortable because if you're uncomfortable it usually means you're doing something right.

“I just told him that I was looking forward to being uncomfortable for the rest of my life because I'm uncomfortable out here and I'm in that spotlight.”

Only pressure comes with being world No. 1, no FedEx Cup points or paydays, which makes it difficult to quantify what the title means. But for the likes of Spieth and Day and Donald, how you deal with that scrutiny is it’s own unique reward.

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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.


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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.


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“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.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


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“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”