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Spieth not overthinking playoff loss to DJ

By Rex HoggardAugust 31, 2017, 7:24 pm

NORTON, Mass. – In the hours following Sunday’s showdown between Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at The Northern Trust, the runner-up sent the champion a text message.

Jordan: Man, congrats, that was a good battle, let's do it again next week.

Dustin: Absolutely. I had a good time. That was my turn. ;-)

To be completely accurate, Johnson didn’t add an emoji to the end of his text, but it would have been awesome if he did. Not that DJ comes across as a “smiley face” guy and he may have considered any light-hearted attempt at humor poor form.

Simply put, it may be too soon.

After all, Spieth had just lost a five-stroke lead with 13 holes to play on Sunday at Glen Oaks. Those types of scars normally need some time to callus over, but then Spieth didn’t exactly sound like a man who needed to be talked off a ledge on Thursday at the Dell Technologies Championship.

“People keep using the word disappointment. It wasn't a disappointment. It was a great week,” he said.

While “great,” might be a bit of a stretch, Spieth certainly appeared to have left his Long Island loss in the rearview mirror as he made his way up Interstate 95 for the season’s second playoff stop.

Part of that is simply the competitive reality of playing professional golf. Even players like Spieth end up on the wrong side of the trophy presentation more times than not, so a bit of Teflon is often the best club in the bag.


Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, video and photos

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We’ve seen this resilience before from Spieth, like in 2016 at the Masters when he lost a lead by depositing two pellets into Rae's Creek en route to a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole. He bounced back and won at Colonial a few weeks later.

Nothing to see here.

We saw it at the Travelers Championship earlier this summer when he lost a similar Sunday lead only to finish off Daniel Berger with a dramatic hole-out on the first extra hole; and at last month’s Open Championship when he began Sunday with a three-shot lead only to fall behind before a scrambling bogey from the practice range on the 13th hole ignited a late charge that led to his third major victory.

It’s become Spieth’s modus operandi for better or worse. Although he has shown he can dominate a field like any of the game’s best, in his last three Sundays in contention he’s appeared inclined to costly late miscues. At TPC River Highlands and Royal Birkdale, he overcame, which itself carries a weighty significance.

“You didn't see Tiger [Woods] hitting it off the practice ground at an Open Championship and making errors, and then amazing come backs,” said Paul Casey last Saturday at Glen Oaks. “Jordan's got something very special. What he did at the Open Championship was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, after the start. He has something.”

But last week that special something failed to materialize. Although he shot a 1-under 69 to finish 72 holes tied with Johnson, a double bogey-5 at the sixth hole opened the door for the would-be champion.

“What I learned from it? I won the tournament, besides the shot I hit in the water on 6,” reasoned Spieth, now four days removed from his Sunday loss. “The shot I hit in the water on 6, my ball speed was the fastest ball speed clocked in the last 10 groups on that hole. Yet, it went the shortest, which just tells me it was a wind gust. So I didn't do anything wrong.”

Perhaps. Golf is, after all, a game where luck can play a significant role; but he also bogeyed the ninth and failed to birdie any of his last five holes, including the overtime frame.

There’s always a key distinction in these types of situations, and Spieth was clear at Glen Oaks that he felt like Johnson won the event, as opposed to the 24-year-old losing it.

Johnson did close with a bogey-free 66, the second-lowest score of the day, and destroyed the playoff hole (No. 18) with a drive that sailed 341 yards for a flip wedge/birdie walk-off.

“I went up against another guy I consider the best in the world, and we had a good battle. And it went his way,” Spieth said. “I think there's a couple times he's battled against me he wished it went his way and this is one I wish went my way.”

Hindsight can be a patiently unfair benchmark in these situations. Maybe Spieth should have attempted to cut the corner on the first extra hole, like Johnson, but if he doesn’t pull off that shot the second-guessing would be deafening.

Always one of the Tour’s most retrospective types, Spieth seems content to not dig too deeply into what may or may not have been done differently.

“You can learn from wins and losses, and it being a loss, there really isn't much I can take out of that,” he said. “I was correcting mistakes that I had made in other losses. I was correcting tendencies and did a great job of it.”

Like everything else in Spieth’s career, the important thing now is what he does the next time he’s in the hunt.

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."