Rodgers could make Spieth-like splash in pro ranks

By Ryan LavnerMarch 4, 2014, 7:28 pm

Stanford coach Conrad Ray first saw Patrick Rodgers at a Future Collegians World Tour event in Monterey, Calif.

Rodgers was a ninth-grader from Avon, Ind., as thin as a 3-iron, and the only junior player in the field wearing slacks. Unlike most of the Midwestern kids, he didn’t show up to escape the cold and snow and knock off the rust. He was there, quite simply, to win.

“He was so put together,” Ray recalled this week, “that he looked like he’d been in college and on Tour already.”

After the event, Rodgers headed north to Stanford to tour the campus and facilities. Six years later, he is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world; he is on the verge of becoming the second-best player in school history (behind only Tiger Woods); and he is just three months away from beginning his pro career, having announced this week that he will forgo his final year of eligibility.

Of the many immensely talented players currently in the college and amateur game, Rodgers, 21, is the most polished and Tour-ready. He’s an old soul and a meticulous grinder with a game that can quickly translate to the play-for-pay ranks, much like Jordan Spieth, his former amateur-golf rival and Walker Cup teammate who has enjoyed a meteoric rise on the PGA Tour.

Rodgers, of course, could already be working toward his card. He tied for 15th at the John Deere Classic last summer and has two tours of duty with the U.S. Walker Cup team. Had he turned pro last fall, his window to secure playing privileges would have been wider.

But he opted to return to Palo Alto because he wanted to address his weaknesses, or at least the few that he discovered while playing with Zach Johnson at the Deere. Rodgers realized it wasn’t about how high or how hard or how far he was hitting the ball. For the game’s elite, the goal is proximity and repeatability. Every time Johnson hit a shot it was struck in the center of the clubface and the ball traveled through the same small window.

“He had to take a real critical look,” Ray said, “and he told me, ‘I’m not even scratching the surface about how good I can and need to be.’”

With a solid, 6-foot-2 frame, Rodgers also knew that he needed to get leaner and stronger if he wanted to survive a 30-week schedule. Guided by Stanford sports performance coach Jason Quan, Rodgers and Ray now engage in friendly competitions to compare caloric and nutrient intake using an iPhone app.

Rodgers is always looking to fine-tune his mental edge, too. Carol Dweck, Stanford’s renowned psychology professor, occasionally will meet with the team to discuss the mental aspects of the sport. One message in particular has resonated with Rodgers – about how it’s important to be in a place mentally where you can reward yourself for the process and improvement and not necessarily be grounded in prizes and results.

It was sage advice, particularly for a player set to embark on a pro career filled with peaks and valleys.

A two-time first-team All-American, Rodgers has obviously endured few setbacks during his two-plus years with the Cardinal. He has seven college wins, just four shy of Woods’ all-time record, and he currently holds the career scoring average mark (70.55).

Still, he has needed to deal with a couple of disappointments, especially in the postseason. Last May, Rodgers played poorly on the back nine at NCAA regionals and Stanford finished a few shots off the cut line for nationals. In team play, the failures can sting even more.

“You can’t just experience roses all the time to know what you’re going after,” Ray said. “I talk about that at length with him, about how golf is really cyclical and that you’d rather have down days and ugly golf at a time where you can manage that. In the pro ranks, you have endorsement deals and people watching you closely and you’re going to struggle, eventually. He’s so well-equipped mentally and physically to deal with those downturns.”

With this foundation, Rodgers has effectively dismissed the ridiculous notion that a modern-day athlete can’t receive a high-level education and also adequately prepare himself for a pro sports career. When former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was taken No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, pundits and team officials repeatedly cited not only his talent and intangibles but also his smarts and maturity.

Rodgers is no different, and it’s why those in amateur golf circles have been salivating at his pro potential. He even consulted with the signal-caller, now with his hometown Indianapolis Colts, before making his decision to leave school early.

“When you combine physical ability with preparation and a sound approach, that’s pretty powerful,” Ray said. “Patrick has that physical presence and the ability to hit shots, but he also doesn’t shy away from the pressure. He likes the brighter lights. He has all the tools that match up well with what they’re doing at the highest levels – he just has to get there.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”