Spieth arrives at Open amid whirlwind after Deere win

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2013, 2:11 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – The past few weeks have been such a whirlwind for Jordan Spieth, he arrived at Muirfield on Tuesday wearing a pair of unwashed pants. Oh, these weren’t just any gray slacks. They were the ones he wore Sunday at the John Deere Classic, the site of his life-changing victory.

“These were the furthest away from the really dirty clothes,” he said, smiling.

The victory was significant in many ways for Spieth, who doesn’t turn 20 until later this month. The two-year exemption. The $828,000 paycheck. A Masters berth. The boatload of FedEx Cup points. More immediately, however, it meant a spot in this week’s British Open, where he will make his third career major start.

Tuesday was Spieth’s first day on-site at Muirfield, and his legs were still so weary that he could manage only nine holes of practice. After taking the private charter from Illinois to Edinburgh – arriving at 10:30 a.m. local time Monday, Spieth scarfed down lunch, crashed for a few hours, ate dinner, walked around town for a bit and went to sleep.

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His clothes were another issue.

During this most recent stretch, Spieth packed only for the AT&T National. That was three weeks ago. His sixth-place finish at Congressional got him into The Greenbrier, where he tied for 23rd, and he already had a sponsor exemption into the John Deere Classic. All warm-weather climes.

So, yes, his wardrobe was a bit limited, and that’s usually problematic in these parts, where the weather can change in an instant. (Remember the third round here in ’02?) An official from Under Armour is arriving soon to bring some new threads, and, fortunately, the rental house Spieth is moving into Tuesday night is equipped with a washing machine.

That he was still wearing his winning pants Tuesday proved fitting, however, since all anyone wanted to do was talk about the teen phenom’s finish at TPC Deere Run, where he became the youngest PGA Tour winner since 1931.

Spieth was six shots back to begin the final round, needing a win (and only a win) to earn an Open berth and receive all of the perks of full membership. Late on the back nine, though, he was simply thinking about making two more birdies to post another top-10 finish. Instead, he reeled off five birdies in the last six holes, including a hole-out from the bunker on the 72nd hole in regulation, and watched in amazement as the leading score remained at 19 under – the same as it was at the start of the day. An hour later, Spieth made a few 7-footers to extend the playoff, and he prevailed on the fifth extra hole.

In the dizzying aftermath, Spieth called his parents, had his picture taken in the bunker short of the 18th green, fulfilled his media obligations, showered and then raced to the airport, where the charter flight was delayed 45 minutes because of the playoff.

And then, when he finally had a moment to reflect, all he could think about was how 19 under won that tournament. “I caught the right breaks and other guys got unlucky,” he said.

If he wasn’t in this week’s Open, Spieth would have been back home in his Austin, Texas, condo, getting away from golf for a few weeks, resuming his workout routine, catching up with his swing coach, Cameron McCormick.

Instead, he’s preparing for the 142nd British Open, at a site he has never seen before. He couldn’t even do any last-minute research – the Internet on his cellphone doesn’t work.

No matter. Spieth has obviously proved a quick learner, authoring one of the stories of the season and generating more buzz than any young American golfer in recent memory. This season he has six top 10s, a win and more than $2 million in earnings, which is even more impressive when you consider that he didn’t have any status anywhere after turning pro last December.

“I think he’s one of our really good young stars that we have coming up,” Phil Mickelson said. “Obviously he’s played like that. But he is more than that. He’s enjoyable to be around. He’s got charisma; people are drawn to him. He’s going to be a real asset to the Tour.”

Fatigue may be the only thing that keeps Spieth out of contention here. 

With his low ball flight and imaginative short game, Spieth said he enjoys the challenge of links golf, which is not always the case for young players. (See McIlroy, Rory.) His most notable experience came at the 2011 Walker Cup, where he went 2-0-1 in a U.S. loss, and he’s also played at St. Andrews and Kingsbarns.

“This is the tournament that I watch every year,” he said. “You see it’s miserable, and you’re sitting on the couch. It’s like life is good, look at these guys.”

Spieth is one of those guys now, a fact reinforced by his presence here on one of the game’s biggest stages. When he walked onto the range Tuesday, he was greeted by Rory McIlroy, Rickie FowlerIan Poulter and Mickelson. They all offered kind words for his performance at the Deere.

Heck, even Tiger Woods took notice.

“I think it’s fantastic for him,” he said. “Being 19 years old and having an opportunity to not only have a chance to win his first tournament, but the way he did it and went out there in the playoff and got it done. It’s a pretty fantastic accomplishment.”

Spieth’s game may be all grown up – he is now the 59th-ranked player in the world – but he still shows a likeable naiveté. Basking in another unseasonably warm day at Muirfield, he said, “It’s a cool life, traveling out here, getting to play the best golf courses. You don’t have to pay to play the golf courses. You get paid to play. It’s not work.”

Apparently, the same can’t be said for finding clean clothes.

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Asia offers chance for players to get early jump on season

By Rex HoggardOctober 17, 2018, 6:00 pm

When the field at this week’s CJ Cup tees off for Round 1 just past dinner time on the East Coast Wednesday most golf fans will still be digesting the dramatic finish to the 2017-18 season, which wrapped up exactly 24 days ago, or reliving a Ryder Cup that didn’t go well for the visiting team.

Put another way, the third event of the new season will slip by largely unnoticed, the victim of a crowded sports calendar and probably a dollop of burnout.

What’ll be lost in this three-event swing through Asia that began last week in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB Classic is how important these events have become to Tour players, whether they count themselves among the star class or those just trying to keep their jobs.

The Asian swing began in 2009 with the addition of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although it would be a few years before the event earned full status on Tour, and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the CIMB Classic. This week’s stop in South Korea was added last season and as the circuit transitions to a condensed schedule and earlier finish next year there are persistent rumors that the Tour plans to expand even more in the Far East with sources saying an event in Japan would be a likely landing spot.

Although these events resonate little in the United States because of the time zone hurdles, for players, the Asian swing has become a key part of the schedule.

Consider that seven of the top 10 performers last year in Asia advanced to the Tour Championship and that success wasn’t mutually exclusive to how these players started their season in Asia.

For players looking to get a jump on the new season, the three Asian stops are low-hanging fruit, with all three featuring limited fields and no cut where players are guaranteed four rounds and FedExCup points.

For a player like Pat Perez, his performances last October virtually made his season, with the veteran winning the CIMB Classic and finishing tied for fifth place at the CJ Cup. All total, Perez, who played all three Asian events last year, earned 627 FedExCup points - more than half (53 percent) of his regular-season total.

Keegan Bradley and Cameron Smith also made the most of the tournaments in Asia, earning 34 and 36 percent, respectively, of their regular-season points in the Far East. On average, the top 10 performers in Asia last year earned 26 percent of their regular-season points in what was essentially a fraction of their total starts.

“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” Justin Thomas, a three-time winner in Asia, said last week in Kuala Lumpur. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here.”

Perhaps the biggest winner in Asia last season was Justin Rose, who began a torrid run with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and earned 28 percent of his regular-season points (550) in the Far East on his way to winning the FedExCup by just 41 points.

But it’s not just the stars who have made the most of the potential pot of Asian gold.

Lucas Glover finished tied for seventh at the CIMB Classic, 15th at the CJ Cup and 50th in China in 2017 to earn 145 of his 324 regular-season points (45 percent). Although that total was well off the pace to earn Glover a spot in the postseason and a full Tour card, it was enough to secure him conditional status in 2018-19.

Similarly, Camilo Villegas tied for 17th in Kuala Lumpur and 36th in South Korea to earn 67 of his 90 points, the difference between finishing 193rd on the regular-season point list and 227th. While it may seem like a trivial amount to the average fan, it allowed Villegas to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals and a chance to re-earn his Tour card.

With this increasingly nuanced importance have come better fields in Asia (which were largely overlooked the first few years), with six of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking making the trip last week to Malaysia and this week’s tee sheet in South Korea featuring two of the top 5 in world - No. 3 Brooks Koepka and No. 4 Thomas.

“I finished 11th here last year and 11th in China the next week. If I can try and improve on that, get myself in contention and possibly win, it sets up the whole year. That's why I've come back to play,” Jason Day said this week of his decision to play the Asian swing.

For many golf fans in the United States, the next few weeks will be a far-flung distraction until the Tour arrives on the West Coast early next year, but for the players who are increasingly starting to make the trip east, it’s a crucial opportunity to get a jump on the season.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes: