Spieth an experienced Ryder Cup rookie

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2014, 3:24 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It was another seminal moment in the growing legend that is Jordan Spieth.

On Tuesday Matt Kuchar, who seems to be the 21-year-old’s likely partner this week at Gleneagles, was asked if he planned to give any advice to Spieth? After a few moments the American’s face twisted and he asked, “Is this his first Ryder Cup? I didn't know that. Yeah, I thought he played.”

It was an honest mistake that Kuchar compounded, “Was last year his first Presidents Cup?”

Last year was Spieth’s first everything, at least as far as professional golf is concerned. He won his first PGA Tour title, earned his first trip to the Tour Championship and made his first international team as a pro. He even won the Tour’s Rookie of the Year award, which should have been a hint for Kuchar.

Even Spieth’s captain, Tom Watson, who in two turns as a Ryder Cup skipper has demonstrated a reluctance to lean on rookies, doesn’t see him as a first-timer.

“Jordan has a great attitude about this game,” Watson said. “He has a very strong, mature attitude about how he plays the game, and I couldn't be happier to have him on the team.”

If Spieth doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a Ryder Cup rookie it likely has something to do with his fascination with the event from a young age.

It was four years ago while he was playing in the Junior Ryder Cup at Gleneagles when the thought first occurred to Spieth that he could one day join the varsity team at the biennial grudge match.

Stat Man: Numbers on Spieth's side

“I remember thinking, is there a chance that I could be here four years from now for the Ryder Cup?” he said. “I’m supposed to be a senior in college, so I would have to leave school early and have things go pretty well to be here.”

Things went swimmingly, as they say in this corner of the United Kingdom.

Spieth secured his Tour status at the 2013 John Deere Classic and finished seventh on the final FedEx Cup point list. Although he failed to add to that victory total in 2014, he finished runner-up twice and inside the top 25 in 18 of his 27 starts to solidify his spot on Watson’s team.

As a 17-year-old he figured his odds of returning to Gleneagles to be the proverbial “million-to-one shot.” Now, he’s staying in the same hotel and using the same team room, although he points out there was no “open bar” back in 2010.

That ’10 Junior Ryder Cup has also served as a form of motivation for Spieth in recent months. When he is at home in Texas he uses the same carry bag they gave him four years ago and a few months ago he switched to a commemorative head cover for his putter from those matches.

 “I’ve been using that for a month or so,” he said. “I used it through the playoffs just getting ready. I thought it was a cool thing to do.”

Spieth is the rarest of 20-somethings, a millennial with a sense of history and perspective.

While this may be his first Ryder Cup, Spieth has an impressive team resume, including an undefeated record at that 2010 Junior Ryder Cup and the 2011 Walker Cup which was also played in Scotland.

He was also an instrumental part of the U.S. Presidents Cup victory last year when captain Fred Couples made him one of his wildcard picks.

Paired with Steve Stricker, he went 2-1-0 in team play including a Day 1 fourball victory over Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge. That opening match may have been the last time Spieth had the look of a rookie.

“About halfway down the first fairway I kind of pulled him to the side and tried to calm him down,” Stricker said of the opening match last year at Muirfield Village. “After that he was fine.”

Some would say he’s been more than fine. Some, like Kuchar, may even mistake the youngster for a cagey veteran poised, along with fellow millennials Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, to lead the United States out of its Ryder Cup victory abyss.

“He seems like he's played good golf for a long time now. So no advice,” Kuchar said. “He seems to be very aware of what's going on and how to handle things. I mean, he's quite mature. At 21, he seems nearly a veteran. He seems like he could nearly be a guy to just speak like he's been here for years.”

For the record, Spieth is a rookie. But it’s a title he wears in name only.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”