Player of the Year? Spieth has support of peers

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2015, 8:54 pm

ATLANTA – The people have spoken.

The message was delivered loudly, in fact, and with virtually no ambiguity in what is essentially a mandate between tradition and change, more of the same or something new, to keep with the election-season theme.

“Two majors. It trumps all else,” Rory McIlroy said when asked his thoughts on the ongoing Player of the Year debate between Jordan Spieth and Jason Day.

“Majors. Majors are big,” echoed Rickie Fowler.

Even Day, whose torrid run through the twilight of the 2014-15 season with four victories in his last six starts turned what had been a foregone conclusion into a curious debate, conceded a point that comes down to simple math.

“I still think it's Jordan. Everyone knows that here,” the Australian said when asked who should be the Player of the Year if he’s able to win the FedEx Cup.

For the players who represent the electorate in the Player of the Year race Spieth’s two major victories, and to a lesser extent his runner-up showing at the PGA Championship and tie for fourth at the Open Championship, are the ultimate arbiter.

“I feel like you got to go on majors and Jordan has been the best player in those tournaments this year,” McIlroy said.

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There are outliers, those who view the current golf landscape in more macro terms and look beyond golf’s four biggest events and drill down into a system that attempts to quantify season-long success.

“If Jason Day wins the FedEx Cup he is the Player of the Year. To win the FedEx Cup you’ve had to win one of the [playoff] events,” Jason Bohn said at last month’s Barclays, which Day won by six strokes. “I think the FedEx Cup is a big determiner in our Player of the Year. It’s phenomenal the way Jordan Spieth has played in the majors, but you have to finish it off.”

Henrik Stenson was not as sure but still squarely on the fence, “Someone with the first letter of ‘J’ will win it,” he joked. “I would still wait until this week is over before I would put my final vote on that. It comes down to what happens this week.”

But as the Tour inches toward election day - voting will begin as soon as officials can electronically distribute the ballots after Sunday’s final round and ends on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. ET - those types of esoteric opinions seem to be in short supply.

In a wildly unscientific poll of a dozen players this week at East Lake, Spieth is a heavy favorite to claim the Jack Nicklaus Award. Exit polling on Sunday may provide a different view if Day were to roll to his third postseason victory and the ultimate walk-off, but on the eve of the year’s final event the voting public has made up its mind.

This is neither an indictment of Day’s inspired play the last few weeks nor of Spieth’s performance outside of the Grand Slam bubble as much as it is an indication of where the Tour currently finds itself.

As hard as the Tour has tried to make the playoffs something more than the sum of its parts, the current Player of the Year conversation is as clear an indication as any that time is still marked one major at a time.

In the nine years since the Tour began its playoff experiment the importance of the postseason has steadily grown as evidenced by, if nothing else, participation.

With few exceptions, most notably Sergio Garcia’s decision to skip this year’s first two playoff events, players have supported the postseason with their feet, as the great communicator Ronald Reagan once opined.

Look no further than Tiger Woods’ decision last month to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time in his career in a last-minute effort to qualify for the playoffs as your paradigm of importance.

Its relative importance, however, remains well behind that of a major. Despite the lure of $10 million and a five-year Tour exemption, players didn’t grow up practicing 5-footers dreaming of one day hoisting the FedEx Cup.

“It takes a long time,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem conceded. “The Players, in my view, took 25 years to get to where you can say it’s established.”

If Day wins the season-long lottery ticket and Spieth does go on to collect the Nicklaus hardware it won’t be the first time the rank and file has made the distinction between a good season highlighted by a timely run and a truly great year.

Last season McIlroy won the Player of the Year Award for the second time after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship but not the FedEx Cup, or even a playoff event for that matter.

In 2008, Padraig Harrington didn’t even qualify to advance to the Tour Championship but collected the POY trophy after winning that season’s Open Championship and PGA.

Just three times in the playoff era, and not since 2010, has the FedEx Cup champion also won the Player of the Year Award.

There’s nothing wrong with the FedEx Cup that a few decades of history can’t fix. Nor is there anything wrong with acknowledging that while Day is having a memorable season Spieth has already had an unforgettable year

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.