Newsmaker of the Year, No. 1: Jordan Spieth

By Rex HoggardDecember 20, 2015, 1:00 pm

Even when Jordan Spieth weaved right as the arm-chair analyst and 19th-hole historians argued that he should have hooked left in 2015, he emerged as a singular voice of reason.

With his best Opie Taylor shrug, Spieth dismissed the notion that he should have skipped July’s John Deere Classic to better prepare for the Open Championship, where he was poised to become just the second player to win the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam.

“When I get over there, whether I play well or don't play well has nothing to do with what I did the week before,” Spieth said at TPC Deere Run. “I will certainly have enough energy. I will certainly have enough rest, and I will be as prepared as can be, as I am for any other event, by the time I tee it up at St. Andrews.”

Spieth would win his second John Deere Classic title in a playoff against Tom Gillis, but not the coveted claret jug and yet his pre-Open detour through middle America was never revisited.

After the history and headlines he made this year, why would it be?

In 2015, the man dubbed the “Golden Child,” a nickname he abhors, by the way, proved to have the golden touch both on and off the golf course on his way to the best major championship season since Tiger Woods nearly ran the Grand Slam tables in 2000.

But even that comparison, one of many between Spieth in ’15 and Woods’ litany of accomplishments, is not exactly an apples-to-apples examination.

In 2000, Woods began his major championship season with a fifth-place showing at the Masters and closed with three consecutive victories at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship.


Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list


On paper, Spieth’s 2015 season – which included maiden victories at Augusta National and the U.S. Open and a tie for fourth at St. Andrews and second at the PGA – runs a respectable second to Tiger’s year in 2000, but there is something to be said for the degree of difficulty the third-year Tour player faced in his major quest.

Spieth bolted Chambers Bay, where he beat Dustin Johnson by a stroke, with history looming at St. Andrews.

Only Ben Hogan had won the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season, in 1953, but the Hawk never had a chance to complete the sweep because the PGA Championship and British overlapped that season, and Woods was not competing against the calendar in 2000 after finishing fifth in the year’s first major.

“I like to study the history of golf, and I think it's extremely special what this year has brought to our team and to have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn't come around very often,” Spieth said at St. Andrews. “I'm embracing that opportunity, but by the time I start on Thursday, it won't be in my head.”

Spieth endured the pressure, and multiple weather delays, at St. Andrews and began the final round a stroke out of the lead, but he bogeyed the 17th hole, which ranked as the toughest par 4 on Tour in ’15, and failed to convert a birdie putt at the final hole that would have lifted him into a playoff that was eventually won by Zach Johnson.

For all the news Spieth made on the course this year, however, it was his maturity that stretched well beyond his 22 years that helped make him much more than another celebrated champion.

It was a testament to Spieth’s unique sense of perspective that he bolted the scoring area after finishing his round in Scotland to watch the playoff and was one of the first people to congratulate Johnson.

“To have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes speaks volumes as to what he is,” Johnson said. “He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now, a lot of you guys know him, he's a better person than he is golfer.”

After finishing second to Jason Day at the PGA Championship he settled for a historic consolation prize, becoming just the fourth player – along with the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods – to win the year’s first two majors.

“For him to play St. Andrews for the very first time and to see it under different winds like he did and be able to play it that well was very impressive,” Woods said.

By the time Spieth finished his year with a victory at the Tour Championship to shatter the single-season earnings record ($12 million) and become the youngest FedEx Cup champion the comparisons to Woods’ past dominance were not just accurate but also inevitable.

Spieth joined Woods as the only players since 1940 with four Tour victories before age 22, he played 16 major championship rounds in 54-under par; and with his runner-up finish at Whistling Straits became the second-youngest player to ascend to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking, behind only Tiger.

Spieth is normally reluctant to spend much time digesting the accolades that his play produces. But even he acknowledged the similarities between his play this year and some of Woods’ accomplishments. Spieth also pointed out – as only he could – that while 2015 was Tiger-like, it was just one year.

“What we were able to do this season [Woods] did for 15 years straight. It took a lot out of us this year, and to imagine doing that, which is what obviously is the goal, it's really special,” Spieth said earlier this month at the Hero World Challenge.

It’s that kind of humility that made Spieth the top newsmaker in 2015 as well as the best story.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.