Ain't life grand? Spieth feeling no slam pressure

By Will GrayAugust 9, 2017, 4:35 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Go ahead and give it your best shot.

Jordan Spieth will sit patiently as you try to assign extra pressure and increased meaning to this year’s PGA Championship. He’ll even nod slightly as the 18th rendition of the same question varies ever so slightly before returning to a common endpoint.

Then he’ll deftly deflect it away, displaying the same relaxed nature he might use to knock in a 3-foot putt.

The refrain from Team Spieth, both this week and last, has been consistent: this PGA Championship represents a free roll.

While the desire to snag the final leg of the career Grand Slam is certainly present, Spieth remains confident that he’ll eventually get his hands around the Wanamaker Trophy even if things don’t go his way at Quail Hollow. It’s the kind of confidence that a trio of major titles at age 24 can foster, and it’s a sentiment once shared by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, both of whom never sealed the deal.

But the belief and exuberance of youth is undeniable in listening to Spieth, who is again approaching the heights he reached during his magical 2015 season. And with any lingering doubts from his 2016 Masters collapse erased emphatically at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is poised to embark on a major test with as little baggage as possible.

PGA Championship: Tee times | Full coverage

“I think when we get into these high-pressure situations, when I get off-course a little bit, there’s no negativity that comes into play in my mind, and maybe that makes a difference,” Spieth said. “I mean, I’ve already had enough not go well that I’ve almost accepted, ‘OK, if this doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out; I’m going to have more chances.’ Just that kind of freedom allows me to take the fear away of any potential bad situation.”

Spieth rolling downhill without fear of consequence is a scary proposition for the other 155 players gathered this week, especially given his recent flair for the dramatic that included a playoff hole-out at the Travelers Championship and his memorable close to capture the claret jug.

“He has that intangible of when he doesn’t have his best stuff, like Hartford, the back nine, to still find a way to win,” said Phil Mickelson. “When you say put your finger on it, you can’t really identify and say it’s this or it’s that. It’s just that indescribable trait that he has, to find a way to get it done, find the will to win.”

Of course, that will was shaken to its core 16 months ago at Augusta National when Spieth watched a second green jacket slip through his fingers. The scars from that loss are well-worn and have been discussed at length, but now that Spieth has added to his major total he appears visibly looser when discussing their impact on his psyche.

Having returned to the top of the game, he speaks with a degree of self-assurance that would be otherwise absent had he not first had to stare into the abyss.

“I mean, I’ve gone through what will probably and hopefully be the worst loss of my career in the most public eye that golf has,” Spieth said. “So everything else that could happen is much lesser, and therefore has probably helped me since then to focus and only see the positive that could come out of a situation.”

There are plenty of positives to be had this week in North Carolina, where Spieth insists he won’t be pre-occupied with trying to become the youngest player to ever capture golf’s four biggest events.

The focus, instead, will be on “playing free.” After his news conference, Spieth told a handful of reporters that the toughest memory from The Open in 2015, when his T-4 finish derailed hopes of a single-season slam, had nothing to do with how he played the 72nd hole.

Instead he pointed to how he approached his tee shot on the 17th hole. After draining a lengthy putt to take the lead, Spieth considered taking a risky angle over the edge of the Old Course Hotel. It was a line would have brought double bogey into play, but a well-executed shot would have set up an easy par.

Instead he played safe down the left side and averted disaster, but still ended up making a bogey that ultimately cost him a spot in the playoff.

“It’s one of my bigger regrets in golf,” Spieth said.

Once again nearing the heights of that summer and again making the game look easy, it’s a mistake a liberated Spieth won’t make again this time around.

“I wasn’t thinking about it then, but if I was truly free I wouldn’t have cared,” Spieth said. “That’s kind of the way I feel now. Take the risk.”

Getty Images

Lauren Thompson and a giant 'gator eating a turtle

By Grill Room TeamApril 19, 2018, 4:53 pm

Really, the headline says it all.

"Morning Drive" co-host Lauren Thompson was playing the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., when her threesome turned into a foursome, with the appearance of a giant alligator. Techincally, it was a fivesome, as the 'gator had a turtle in its mouth.

Hey, it's a slow news week for Grill Room.

Getty Images

Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.

Getty Images

PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

Getty Images

Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.