Spieth has history on his side at Riviera

By Rex HoggardFebruary 16, 2016, 11:07 pm

LOS ANGELES – For a kid from Texas, it’s interesting how Riviera Country Club in the heart of Los Angeles can feel like a second home.

This is after all one of three layouts, along with the sixth hole at Carnoustie and Colonial C.C., dubbed Hogan’s Alley after Texas legend Ben Hogan, and the rolling layout was nearly enough to woo the Dallas-born Jordan Spieth to the West Coast to attend college.

“In all honesty, a huge thing for me was I heard that [USC] had four playing memberships at Riviera,” Spieth said on Tuesday at Riviera. “When I came on my visit, I was offered one of the memberships at Riviera for the time you're at USC, and that's a pretty awesome perk.”

It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that the would-be world No. 1 would decide to stay closer to home and attend the University of Texas, but his relationship with Riviera was far from over.

This is Spieth’s fourth time playing the Northern Trust Open, having missed the cut in 2012, tying for 12th in ’14 and finishing one shot out of a playoff last year.

And, of course, there was the 2012 NCAA Men’s Championship when Spieth beat Justin Thomas, 3 and 2, to help lead the Longhorns to the national title.

On Monday during a qualifying round with current Longhorn Beau Hossler, Spieth literally took a stroll down memory lane at Riviera.

“Me and [Texas golf coach John Fields] were recalling, kind of letting Beau in, hey, this is where this match was, and this is where I holed out to beat Justin Thomas, and oh, let's take a video and send it to Justin of the 15th hole,” Spieth laughed.

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While that triumph is how Spieth would like to remember Riviera – and those good vibes will be fueled by a pairing with Thomas for Rounds 1 and 2 this week at the Northern Trust Open – it’s last year’s near-miss that drew the most interesting answer on Tuesday from the 22-year-old.

Spieth bogeyed the 72nd hole last year after missing the green with his approach shot, a mental lapse that may have cost him a title but allowed him to learn that heroics come in all shapes and sizes.

“Last year, it was a crazy finish and it kind of taught me a little something about this golf course. You just never know exactly what's going to happen at Riviera coming down the stretch,” said Spieth, who finished at 5 under par.

“I was thinking I needed to birdie 18 for a playoff. I got a little aggressive with the chip, not wanting to leave it short, and I ended up missing about an 8-foot par putt that I thought, you know, obviously was important but I didn't think it would have been good enough to get into a playoff.”

Instead, both Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia bogeyed the 17th hole to drop into a tie with James Hahn, who would win the playoff, and Paul Casey at 6 under.

It was a rare mistake for Spieth in 2015, and he would go on to win back-to-back majors (Masters and U.S. Open) and the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award. It also gives the fourth-year Tour player additional confidence this week.

Riviera is an unusually known quantity for Spieth on the Tour landscape. Although he’s won seven times there are few places where he has as much experience as he does in Los Angeles.

“I've probably played this course close to 30 times now, which is a lot compared to other tournaments,” Spieth said. “It's one of my favorites in the entire world.”

For Spieth, who is something of an armchair golf course architect, Riviera also checks off all of the right boxes. At 7,349 yards it’s not among the Tour’s longest layouts, yet the course ranked the fifth most difficult last year with a 72.59 scoring average.

In other words, it’s an architecturally arranged marriage for a player who is statistically middle of the pack in driving distance (he’s 89th this season with a 292-yard average) and is at his best when par is a good score and clutch putting is at a premium.

“I think golf courses a lot of times are rated in my opinion based on their par 3s, and there are some phenomenal ones here,” he said.

It’s an L.A. love story that began when Spieth was 12 years old and won’t be fully requited until he etches his name into the Northern Trust Open trophy.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.