Traditional U.S. Open venues unkind to Spieth

By Rex HoggardJune 13, 2016, 10:23 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – The last time Jordan Spieth settled in front of microphone in a USGA media tent he was the undisputed heavyweight champion.

He’d just survived four surreal days navigating the brown and bouncy moonscape of Chambers Bay to claim his second consecutive major championship and would win his very next start at the John Deere Classic.

He’d flirt with history at St. Andrews, coming within a few blades of fine fescue of claiming the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam, and would cruise to PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

There was no putt he couldn’t make and no tournament he couldn’t win.

Fast-forward a year, to Monday’s media meet-and-greet at Oakmont and the 22-year-old wunderkind still flashes the same boyish smile and subtle confidence, but there are now questions that didn’t linger 12 months ago.

In his last Grand Slam start, Spieth blew a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play at the Masters. He’s moved on, he said, and his victory late last month at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational is evidence of that.

“Honestly, I think it's out of our heads now just from that one experience at Colonial,” Spieth said when asked if his Masters meltdown still lingers.

There’s no reason to doubt Spieth and he’s shown an amazing amount of resilience in his young career, yet as he spoke on Monday there wasn’t the same air of invincibility that loomed when he outdueled Dustin Johnson last year in the Pacific Northwest.

After opening his year with a convincing victory at the Tournament of Champions, Spieth looked tired through the rest of the West Coast swing and into the Masters, posting just a single top-10 finish in five Tour starts.

He missed the cut at The Players and began the final round in second place, just two shots behind Brooks Koepka, at the AT&T Byron Nelson only to close with a 74 to tie for 18th place.

He’s also been overtaken by Jason Day atop the Official World Golf Ranking and in the eyes of some golf fans following the Australian’s victories at the Masters, Bay Hill and The Players.

But beyond the crowded field of potential favorites each week in golf and the recent ebbs and flows of Spieth’s career, it may have been the setting, brutish Oakmont, site of this week’s U.S. Open, that makes the defending champion seem somehow less imposing.

Although he’s proven to have a game that travels, with victories at a variety of golf courses from East Lake to Innisbrook, an examination of his record shows a less-than-stellar record at traditional U.S. Open venues.

With the exception of the last two U.S. Open sites – last year at Chambers Bay and in 2014 at Pinehurst, both of which featured no rough and bouncy conditions, he’s missed the cut (Merion) and finished tied for 21st (Olympic Club) in 2013 and ’12, respectively, at his national championship.

At Congressional, a two-time Open venue and the site of the Quicken Loans National, he’s missed the cut and posted one top-10 finish in three starts; and in three starts at Torrey Pines, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open, he’s missed the cut twice and finished tied for 19th place at the Farmers Insurance Open.

It’s a curious - and perhaps far too nuanced - distinction for a player who has proven himself adept on some of the most challenging layouts; but given the severity of this week’s test it’s not entirely unfounded.

Intellectually, Spieth’s relatively pedestrian record on traditional Open-style courses doesn’t add up. Among the game’s best players he i largely consistent off the tee and his brand of low-technique, ultra-feel putting is perfect for greens like those at Oakmont.

Spieth seemed to suggest as much when asked the keys to victory this week.

“I think the most interesting thing I found here was looking back into '07 [the last time the Open was played at Oakmont], and I think out of the top 10 finishers in the tournament, maybe one or two of them were actually in the top 10 of the guys that hit fairways, and that really shocked me,” Spieth said. “That goes against everything I've been saying, which is you've got to put the ball in the fairway off the tee here, or else it's so hard to just hit it around the green, let alone on the green. . . . I can't seem to fathom why.”

He conceded that Oakmont will be a vastly different test from Chambers Bay and certainly Augusta National, where there is room for mistakes off the tee, and stressed that he’s up to this week’s challenge.

Spieth has preached all along that 2015 was a magical year not easily duplicated, but the heightened expectations born from his historic run through the majors leaves precious little room for a benefit of the doubt.

Spieth is still among the favorites this week at Oakmont – dominant on occasion, human at other times in 2016 – just not the favorite like many believed him to be at this point last year.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”