Fan's Masters comment lights Spieth's fire

By Will GrayMay 29, 2016, 11:52 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – As he made the short walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee Sunday at Colonial Country Club, Jordan Spieth walked past a throng of fans eager to get a glimpse of the day’s final group.

Many applauded. Some yelled cheers of support for any of the Dallas-Fort Worth area schools that Spieth attended as a youth.

But one fan offered a piercing statement, one that caught Spieth’s ear and stood out above the din.

“Remember the Masters, Jordan,” he said.

When the lights have been on and the crowds have been gathered, Spieth has said all the right things about his collapse at Augusta National. The bitter disappointment, he said, is a thing of the past; his future bad shots won’t be a product of the two he deposited into Rae’s Creek last month in stunning fashion.

But weeks later, the wounds are not that far beneath the surface. They can be accessed and aggravated with comments like the one Spieth heard, and they can elicit a number of possible responses.

The response Spieth chose left the rest of the field at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational in his dust.

“There was a little red-ass in me,” Spieth said, “and it came out on the next few holes.”

Dean & Deluca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth birdied each of the three holes after hearing the comment, sparking a thrilling back nine that led him to a convincing three-shot victory. It marked Spieth’s first professional win in his home state, and it’s a victory that will help keep the ghosts of Augusta National a little more at bay.

“I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get over the hurdle of having to come in to every single interview room, having to listen to crowds only talk about what happened a month ago,” Spieth said. “It’s very difficult to stay present, stay positive when that’s happening, when those are the only questions. In our third tournament back, to come back and close this one out the way we did is really, really special.”

Spieth started the day with a one-shot lead, but the opening nine at Colonial turned into more of a struggle than he expected. It took all he could muster to maintain a clean card, including a 32-foot save on No. 8, as Spieth began his round with nine straight pars to fall behind the pace set by Harris English.

But once Spieth made the turn, his all-world short game reached a new level. Spieth needed only nine putts to complete the inward half, carding six birdies including each of the last three holes: a 20-foot make on No. 16, a chip-in from behind the green at No. 17 and a 34-foot make on No. 18 to polish off a three-shot win in style.

It’s the type of finish that marks the difference between good and great, and it’s one that left those chasing him to simply shake their heads.

“He’s tough to beat. It’s kind of like what we used to see with Tiger,” said Webb Simpson, who tied for third after playing the final round alongside Spieth. “It was fun to watch.”

“You can almost laugh at it,” added playing partner Ryan Palmer. “He’s young, he’s fearless, but that confidence he’s got is high. You can tell with his putter, it just takes one putt to go in and that hole has got to feel like a bucket to him.”

Spieth’s victory means each of the top three players in the world have won tournaments over the last 15 days, following Jason Day’s victory at TPC Sawgrass and Rory McIlroy’s triumph in Ireland. It bodes well for the game, both next week when all three clash at the Memorial and this summer when a flurry of important trophies will be handed out.

But this win wasn’t about the future. It was about erasing the pain of the green jacket he left hanging on the rack.

It wasn’t just winning a tournament – it was stomping on the throat of the field and leaving no lingering doubt about his ability to close.

“I heard it a few times in the crowd today, you know, ‘Go Palmer, he’s going to do the Masters’ or whatever like that. I mean, that’s not fun to hear,” Spieth said. “Trying to throw all that out and just focus on what me and (caddie) Michael (Greller) are talking about on the next shot is the toughest thing, and we got through that at the end of the round today.”

Spieth added that perhaps the man behind the 10th tee was well-meaning. Perhaps he was offering an inspirational note that Spieth, after all, does still have a green jacket from his 2015 triumph.

But more than likely, it was the product of a fan trying to get under his skin, trying to evoke memories of a collapse that still remained in the minds of his fellow players and peers.

“Watching him kind of do what he did at the Masters, I felt really bad for him,” said English. “But I knew he would come back from it and kind of do what he did here. He’s one of the best putters in the world, and best players in the world, and I knew he was going to come back.”

Spieth will still face a different series of questions at the upcoming majors, and his scars will be picked at again every spring until he adds to his jacket collection at Augusta National.

But Sunday’s win elicited a sigh of relief from Spieth, who with trophy in hand felt liberated to speak more candidly about the true toll the Masters took on his psyche.

It also means that, next time, the voices in the crowd will have a little less ammunition at their disposal.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.