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Once again, Spieth preaching patience with putting

By Will GrayMay 18, 2018, 12:14 am

DALLAS – After exiting the scoring area following a frustrating performance, Jordan Spieth quickly turned back to his bag, ripped the headcover off his putter and grabbed a sleeve of Titleists.

If there were any lingering questions about the root cause of Spieth’s simmering emotions during the opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson, they were answered by his decision to conduct a post-round interview with his Scotty Cameron tucked firmly under his right arm before heading to the practice green a few feet away.

“I didn’t putt well,” Spieth said. “I didn’t make anything. All the birdies I made were inside of 5 feet. Felt like I was hitting some decent shots, just weren’t going in.”

Continuing what seems to be a common theme in 2018, Spieth’s 2-under 69 at Trinity Forest would have been far lower had his putter remotely cooperated. A steamy afternoon in the Texas heat went south on the short par-4 fifth hole, when Spieth drove the green only to putt his ball off the green from more than 80 feet. Afforded an eagle opportunity, he instead left with a four-putt bogey.

He also opened his round with a three-putt par on the first hole, and his 10-foot par save on No. 3 proved to be his longest make by a wide margin. After entering the week ranked 183rd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, Spieth lost more than 1.5 strokes to the field on the greens during the opening round.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“I was left with some mid-rangers that, you know, normally feel pretty good to me,” he said. “I didn’t get any to go today.”

Spieth’s opener was a microcosm for his season to date: not bad, or even remotely close to it – but still somehow below the lofty standards set by his previous play.

All but a handful of Tour players would love to trade places with the 24-year-old this season and inherit credentials that include eight top-20s in 12 starts. Spieth almost won the Houston Open, and his play peaked with a third-place showing at the Masters when he nearly re-wrote the record books during the final round. This isn’t exactly a red alert, all-hands-on-deck situation.

Likewise, his 2-under opener still leaves him within striking distance, but on a day when Marc Leishman set the pace with a 10-under 61 in the group ahead of him, Spieth felt left in the dust.

“Looking back, the last year and a half I’ve had maybe four, five opportunities where I’ve actually been in a tournament after the first round, which is really frustrating,” Spieth said. “Just the Thursdays, for whatever reason, just haven’t been good days for me.”

This is hardly the first time that Spieth’s notoriously streaky putter has gone south. In fact, it was at this event one year ago that he temporarily shelved his longtime putter in an unsuccessful attempt to turn things around.

But it wasn’t too long before the putts were falling once more, first at the Travelers Championship and then at The Open. Spieth spoke earlier in the week about pointing to his resurgence last summer as a reason to stay the course through his current putting woes, and he has no plans to overhaul that approach after a middling effort at Trinity Forest.

When the name is Spieth and the topic is putting, the general consensus is that it’s simply a matter of time.

“Just waiting for them to drop,” he said. “Got to be patient.”

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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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“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.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”