Spieth already looking to improve in 2016

By Rex HoggardDecember 2, 2015, 9:56 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – The time for reflection is at hand.

Well, actually, in four days Jordan Spieth will huddle with his team, review 2015 – a season that included five victories, two major triumphs, a PGA Tour Player of the Year title and an historic bid for the single-season Grand Slam – and plot the course for 2016.

He held a similar “Jordan Combine” last year following a season that featured very different results.

Although Spieth failed to win on Tour in 2014, he closed the year with a victory at the Australian Open and a 10-stroke romp at the Hero World Challenge, where he returns this week to defend his title.

Prior to his late fortnight surge to salvage his season in 2014, Spieth’s year was best considered progress for the then-21-year-old. He finished runner-up in the Masters and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but faded on the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open after opening rounds of 71-63 gave him a one-stroke lead through 36 holes.

Still, when he arrived at last year’s World Challenge he had one Tour title on his resume and, by his own admission, doubts about whether he could finish a tournament like he needed to in order to be a regular champion.



“I had four or five leads going into weekends in 2014 during the PGA Tour season and each time you don't come through, you wonder what's wrong, is it me, is it my game?” Spieth said Wednesday. “You hear the noise of, he's a good player but he can't close and this and that.”

The “noise” this year tells a vastly different narrative, but Speith conceded that there is still room for improvement. Compared to last year, when he said his victories in Australia and the World Challenge taught him how to “close mentally,” the end of another calendar will require a more nuanced assessment.

There aren’t many “how to” books on following up the type of year Spieth had in 2015 and even fewer people who can offer any insight into what might be the appropriate way forward.

Following his victory at the Masters in 2007 Zach Johnson faced a similar quandary. For players like Johnson and Spieth, who are focused on goals and creating well-defined game plans, success can be its own obstacle.

“I learned a lot in ’08,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to get content and get into that maintenance mode. For me, the moment I get content and lackadaisical or even just going through the motions, is the moment when golf is not where is should be.”

It doesn’t seem Spieth, who at 22 enjoys a maturity beyond his birthdate, would fall into bad habits or suffer from indifferent play or practice, but with dramatically increased expectations can also come understandable missteps.

Spieth will end the year ranked No. 1 in the world and the drumbeat to establish him as the man to beat at Augusta National will begin as soon as he arrives in Maui for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions next month. None of that, however, seems to be a concern for Spieth.

Although he said December is the time for assessment, the blueprint to back up 2015 has already began.

“In my mind I can certainly improve in spots of my game,” Spieth said. “It doesn't necessarily mean the results will happen the way they do where you get two majors and five wins. I believe I can get better certainly in different specific parts of my game and I can grow mentally as a player as well.”

Whether those nip/tucks lead to a sequel of his sensational 2015 season is not really the point, Spieth patiently explains, as much as it is arriving at next year’s Hero World Challenge thinking he improved as a player, both physically and mentally.

“If that's the case, wins will fall my way. I hope they come at the same time that they did this past year, but you just never know,” he said.

In that respect, Spieth’s outlook and general game plan is similar to that used by Tiger Woods, this week’s host and the most influential person in his golf career, Spieth said.

While victories are the ultimate goal, putting yourself in contention at the biggest events on a consistent basis is the only way to get there.

“The way that [Woods] was able to get into contention and be in contention and be at that highest mental part of the game week in and week out and major in and major out for 15 years straight ...” Spieth said. “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.”

As goals go, eyeing Woods’ record is certainly a lofty benchmark to set, but after the season Spieth just completed it’s a good place to start.

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DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.

While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.

Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.

McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.

Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth

16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Justin Rose

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day

30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson

80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner

100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman

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Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.

The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.

A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.

The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.

That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.

Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.