Spieth wrestles with 'hardest decision I’ve ever had to make'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 12, 2016, 2:11 pm

TROON, Scotland – It was Sunday night, the clock was ticking, and Jordan Spieth was no closer to deciding whether he would don the red, white and blue when golf made its much-maligned return to the Olympics.

It was a decision that proved more difficult than when he chose Texas over a slew of other powerhouse college programs.

More difficult than when he opted to turn pro at the halfway point of his sophomore year.

More difficult than when he picked an equipment company or mapped out a schedule or turned down some charity outing because he didn’t have the time.

Nicknamed the “Golden Child,” because everything seems to have gone right during his gilded career, Spieth recently found himself in an unenviable position: Would he single-handedly save the Olympics by going all-in, or simply fall in line with the rest of the dropouts during what has been an uneasy run-up to golf’s return after an 114-year absence?

“This was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life at 22 years old,” he said Tuesday at The Open.

Ultimately, we now know, Spieth decided to withdraw from the Olympics, from Team USA, because of health concerns. That he waited until Monday morning, a few hours before the teams were to be announced, was revealing; he’d been waffling for weeks, so much so that he said he went to bed Sunday night still undecided about his status.

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Spieth sensed the impending doom as he headed into a packed media center at noon local time Tuesday. After handling a softball question by the R&A moderator about how much it would mean to capture The Open, Spieth woofed, “I can already tell that’s going to be the easiest question I receive.”

And indeed, it was.

Spieth was pressed, repeatedly, about his choice, about whether he faced any external pressure, about what kind of medical advice he’d received and whether he could understand why the public would be skeptical of players’ rationales.

As always, Spieth was honest, intelligent and charming, though the timing of his decision could have been better, with The Open just 48 hours away. Of the 19 questions he was asked, 15 were about the Olympics. As he rose to leave, Spieth wondered aloud whether there was actually a golf tournament this week.

So, yes, this could have been resolved weeks, maybe even months ago. And he felt bad about that. Slow-playing his Olympic decision left the International Golf Federation, USA Golf and his eventual replacement, Matt Kuchar, all in a bind. But Spieth had doubts and questions, and they didn’t subside no matter how many professional athletes he consulted or medical experts he queried.

“I certainly wasn’t trying to wait until the last minute,” he said. “I just couldn’t make a decision, and then I had to by the last deadline. I was very indecisive about it.”

According to the timeline offered by the IGF, July 18 is the deadline for players to confirm their participation in the Games. But if Spieth had waited until then, until after the teams were announced, he’d have been skewered.

Spieth had spoken at length with both Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler before they made their Olympic announcements last week. On Friday, Johnson withdrew. Sunday night, with Spieth seated next to him in their rental house, Fowler confirmed he was in with a patriotic tweet.

There have been more than a dozen withdrawals in all, everyone from major champions to afterthoughts on the FedEx Cup bubble. But Spieth was the final, and arguably the biggest, domino to fall.

“Do I think it looks bad on golf?” he said. “Maybe. But I’m making the decision of what I think is best for me. I don’t feel like I have to carry the torch for the sport or anyone else. This is bigger than that for me personally.”

And so he decided that these Games, at this site, were not worth the risk.

A shame, too, he said, because he had hoped to be an Olympian ever since golf rejoined the program back in 2009. But no one could have foreseen the trouble that Rio now presents: the Zika virus; the security issues; the general instability. Though he might regret missing the opening ceremony, the competition and the medal presentation, Spieth is already looking forward to Tokyo in 2020.

“This is just a really unique circumstance,” he said.

Despite reports that he faced mounting pressure from Cola-Cola, a longtime Olympic sponsor, Spieth said the decision was “90 percent me, 9 percent the team, and 1 percent anything else that came our way.”

“Whenever I talked to our team,” he added, “the responses I got were, ‘We are 100 percent behind you either way, but you need to make this decision 100 percent yourself.’”

And so he did, just as Adam Scott, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Johnson had before him. That didn’t make Tuesday any easier.

“I will continue to carry (the decision) with me throughout these Games and for a while,” he said. “It’s that tough. It’s the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.”

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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.

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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.”