Spieth not letting Masters loss haunt him

By Rex HoggardApril 16, 2014, 7:11 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – That empty feeling that has been gnawing at Jordan Spieth since Sunday’s final round at the Masters was still there as he made his way around Harbour Town Golf Links for Wednesday’s pro-am.

It will be there when he tees off for Round 1 of the RBC Heritage on Thursday. It will be there for the rest of this season. Truth is, it will be there forever.

“You don’t ever get over it. It will always be disappointing,” Davis Love III said.

Love came by his pain honestly. At the 1996 U.S. Open he bogeyed his last two holes to finish a stroke behind Steve Jones. Love turned 50 on Sunday, celebrating with friends and family right about the time Spieth’s magical Masters run was being washed down Rae’s Creek, and the ghosts of that ’96 Open loss still haunt him.

So imagine how Spieth, a 20-year-old going on 35 who was playing his first Masters, has spent the last three days – reflection, regret, resentment?


“It left me stinging,” he acknowledged Wednesday.

Yet as the golf world is learning, this is not your off-the-shelf 20-year-old. Along with the pain came plenty of appreciation for the opportunity to play for and ultimately lose the green jacket.

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“There’s nothing haunting me from last week,” he said.

Spieth, who moved to ninth in the world golf ranking this week to become the youngest American to crack the top 10, spent Sunday night relaxing with friends and family. They played ping-pong and ate beef shish kabobs with rice and sub sandwiches, because that’s how 20-year-olds roll.

Late Sunday, Spieth texted his Dallas-based swing coach Cameron McCormick and on Monday the two had a lengthy conversation about what had happened during the final round at Augusta National: the less-than-perfect layup at No. 8 compounded by a follow-up bogey at the ninth that resulted in a four-stroke swing with eventual champion Bubba Watson, the indecision at No. 12. Oh, the indecision at the 12th.

“I let the 20-year-old inside me just barely slip out,” Spieth said.

And it cost him. A 9-iron from 150 yards, 143 yards to carry Rae’s Creek, that he’d hit a thousand times in his mind. A 9-iron that would drop short into the bank and eventually trundle into the creek.

“I hate having 9-iron and not being able to go to the pin,” he said. “We picked a spot and I got over the ball and felt like there was no wind or, if anything, a touch of help, which is what that hole does to you.”

McCormick calls it “objective self-reflection.” In practical terms, it is what separates Spieth from many, if not all, of his up-and-coming contemporaries.

“It goes back to when he was 16 years old and we would have conversations and I’d make suggestions. He’s always been receptive and at the same time inquisitive,” McCormick said. “He questions you, challenges you. Part of that is he’s developed this trait of objective self-reflection to understand very quickly what he needs to improve on.”

This goes back to a moment earlier this year during a match against Ernie Els at the WGC-Match Play Championship when Spieth admittedly lost his cool.

“I’m embarrassed about the way I acted on the course today. Played like the 13-year-old version of myself mentally. A lot of positives,” Spieth tweeted following the loss.

McCormick said that Spieth’s social-media mea culpa was “from the heart,” and completely unprovoked. By comparison, his Sunday swoon at the Masters was more an opportunity to learn than an opportunity lost.

For 61 holes Spieth controlled his emotions and his golf ball with equal savvy, not a first-timer learning the nuances of arguably the most demanding test on the fly.

“I’ve looked back to all the positives,” Spieth said. “I feel like I played really well to not shoot an over-par round on that course and not make more than a bogey for four days the way that course was playing.”

It’s why Spieth’s mental toughness, more than his flawless swing or short game, appears to be his best attribute. Consider that at this point last year he didn’t have status on the PGA Tour and watched the year’s first major from his couch like the rest of us.

Where some see failure and the baggage that comes with it, Spieth appears determined to take a more scientific approach to an opportunity that can’t be reproduced in a lab.

“He will learn from how Bubba carried himself or how Ernie carried himself at the Match Play,” McCormick said. “There are always learning experiences and he is good at understanding that.”

Still, missed opportunities have a tendency of festering into painful reminders (see Mickelson, Phil, U.S. Open). If Spieth sounded resolute in his ability to move on from his Masters miss, there were telltale signs that he still may need some time.

Asked on Wednesday if he’d watch the replay of Sunday’s final round Spieth offered a quick, “No.”

Will you ever watch it?

“Probably not. I don’t think so,” he said before pausing, “maybe if I win.”

Some wounds are better left unopened.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

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Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

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For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

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He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

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McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.