Spieth doesn't help fatigue with Singapore jaunt

By Will GrayFebruary 1, 2016, 1:04 am

After waiting an extra day, Jordan Spieth returned to the 18th green at the Singapore Open and calmly rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt.

He offered a halfhearted fist pump. He waved politely to the crowd. He even shared a fist bump with agent-turned-caddie Jay Danzi.

But in the end, it still wasn't enough to beat the world's 204th-ranked player, Younghan Song.

The Asian leg of the Spieth Worldwide Tour has come to a close, as the 22-year-old wunderkind will now head home for a brief respite. He gave the crowds plenty of reason to cheer over the prior fortnight, and his game has shown no signs of slipping since he lapped the field in Hawaii.

The show, indeed, goes on. But at what cost?

Spieth clearly feels a sense of duty to the global game as the world's top-ranked player, and he built his early-season schedule accordingly. Of course, with that honorable obligation reportedly came a couple of seven-figure appearance fees.

Regardless of motivation, Spieth has taken an aggressive approach to the beginning of what will be a busy year. He logged January starts in Maui, Abu Dhabi and Singapore - all while peers like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose barely got their campaigns off the ground.

"He's 22," you might think. "He'll be fine." That may be the case, and Spieth appears no worse for wear. But he has already begun to talk about the toll these pay-for-play jaunts have taken.

"We are kind of beat up mentally. Physically, we're not 100 percent right now," Spieth said a week ago in Abu Dhabi. "It shows in certain places."

We've seen this level of commitment from Spieth before. He surprised many when he returned last summer to the John Deere Classic, eschewing Open Championship prep in advance of his quest for a third straight major. Earlier this month, he told media members to expect him at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions every year he is eligible.

He was lauded for the latter statement, and he quieted any criticism of the former decision with his performance at St. Andrews. But this time, with so much important golf still ahead, Spieth has opened himself up to second-guessing.

After all, his next break will be measured in days, not weeks. He'll be back in action at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, with the Northern Trust Open looming the following week. Given his relative fatigue, he alluded last week to possibly tweaking his fall schedule, but there will be no reprieve in the coming months.

Spieth has already said he will return to the Shell Houston Open, where he lost last year in a playoff, and he'll be back at Innisbrook in March to defend his Valspar title. That means that the Masters will cap a run of nine worldwide events in 12 weeks, at which point no one will be asking him how his trip to Singapore helped prepare him for his green jacket defense.

"I was unlucky in the spacing of tournaments," he said. "That's what kind of led to this crazy four-month adventure that we've had."

It's a busy run, but it's also before he even reaches the summer blitz of two majors in three weeks - or a quick August detour to the Olympics before returning to chase the FedEx and Ryder Cups.

After an all-everything season, Spieth is entitled to craft whatever schedule he wants. And, as he did in Scotland last summer, he could halt any criticism if he remains in contention.

But these tournament dates did not just materialize out of thin air. Spieth and his team have known for weeks the gauntlet for which their man had signed up and now must complete.

While there are alterations that could be made, it's difficult to pass up free OWGR points at WGC events. Spieth also feels a strong tie to the Tour's events in Texas, which now number five with the shift of the Match Play to Austin.

Spieth has seemingly done no wrong over the past three-plus years, and he has more than enough talent to continue that trend. But should he begin to falter as the summer months heat up, the source of his frustrations might be traced back to this hectic stretch of global golf - when he tapped into his finite energy reserves before the season's first meaningful shot was struck.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.