Spieth (74) resilient, maintains lead at halfway point

By Ryan LavnerApril 9, 2016, 12:35 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Marching toward the scoring building, flanked by a pair of security guards, Jordan Spieth’s face was bright red. It was from windburn, presumably, and not the five hours and 35 minutes of frustration.

The four-putt.

The botched chip that rolled down the slope.

The rushed shots around Amen Corner while on the clock.

“That was tough,” Spieth on Friday night, but even after his worst-ever score at Augusta National, a 2-over 74, even after the four-putt and the botched chip and the rushed shots, he still will take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the 80th Masters.

Through two days here, it’s painfully obvious that this is nothing like last year’s tournament. Spieth won’t blow away the field. He won’t pour in every 25-footer. And no, most importantly, the coronation won’t begin on the front nine Saturday.  

Spieth still holds the lead for the sixth consecutive round at the Masters, but never has he been more under duress at a place that, for the better part of three years, has looked like his personal playground.

Five shots clear at one point Friday, Spieth is now, at 4-under 140, only one stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy. Eleven players are within four shots.

With the wind gusting to 25 mph through the Georgia pines, Spieth, flawless through 22 holes, made four bogeys and a double. He needed a 14-footer for par on the final green just to preserve a one-shot cushion heading into Saturday’s third round, when conditions are expected to be even more difficult.

“That’s going to be the biggest advantage for us,” he said, “is to go out tomorrow, pretend it’s a new golf tournament and try and beat the field from here on in.”

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Midway through the second round, you wouldn’t have blamed the tournament committee for trying to relocate Spieth’s size-42 green jacket. After a “dream start,” with birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, he was five shots ahead of the field.

But Spieth wasn’t immune from the trouble, not on this day. The wind switched on his second shot into the par-4 fifth – it was supposed to be downwind, off the right – and his ball came up well short of the flag. He four-putted from 47 feet, missing three times inside 7 feet. Short of the ninth green, he made another mistake with his chip, walking off with bogey.

By then, the wind was howling, requiring his full attention on every 2-footer, and his patience was being tested, too, with good shots turning out poorly and bad shots getting severely punished.

“It was very tough to stay cool,” he said. “It’s a lot easier said than done. You could say, ‘Looked like you got emotional out there.’ But I mean, you guys try it. That was a hard golf course.”

Spieth’s frustration boiled over on the 11th hole, when he was told that his group was on the clock after falling out of position. After flaring his approach out to the right, leaving a 70-foot birdie putt across the green, Spieth complained to Greller: “I’m being freakin’ timed. I want to take my time, wait out the gust. But we can’t.”

Spieth said later that his annoyance stemmed from not receiving a warning earlier that his group was out of position.

“Have fun getting put on the clock at 11 of Augusta,” he said, “and then play 11 and 12 rushing with gusting winds. It’s not fun. It’s not fun at all.”

Spieth held it together through Amen Corner, and he even pushed his lead back to three shots with a two-putt birdie on 15. He immediately followed that with a three-putt on 16 and another dropped shot on 17.

When Spieth flailed his approach into the greenside bunker on the finishing hole, leaving a devilish shot with little green to work with, he appeared on the verge of dropping into a share of the halfway lead with McIlroy. Then Spieth, as he’s already done so many times here, canned the par putt to stay one shot ahead, tying Arnold Palmer as the only players to hold at least a share of the lead for six consecutive rounds at Augusta.

“It makes me smile walking off the green,” he said of the par save, “versus wondering how you just went bogey-bogey-bogey. That’s definitely a difference-maker there.”

And so now we’re left with a Masters Tournament that has morphed into a U.S. Open - unforgiving and unpredictable.

A year ago, Spieth won majors with both birdies (Augusta) and pars (Chambers Bay), and he says that his skill set lends itself better to brutish tests than birdie barrages. In the scoring building afterward, he compared the feeling of last year’s Masters, when he’d breezed to a four-shot lead at the halfway point, to this year’s edition.

“I like this better,” he said. “I didn’t like the fact that if I were to go out and play a decent round but shoot even par, because stuff doesn’t go in, guys could take the lead. Now, if I strike the ball the way I want to strike it and kind of map my way around the course the way we do so well here, you don’t need to force anything.”

Even if the storyline is Jordan vs. Rory, expect a weekend that is more slugfest than shootout.  

The second-round scoring average was a shade above 75. The best round was 71. Greens that received 4-iron shots early in the afternoon sent wedge shots bounding over the back by the end of the day.

“This has now gone very much to a U.S. Open style of play,” Spieth said, “but with more difficult greens.”

And so another brutal day awaits.

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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.

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“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.”