Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Jordan Spieth clashes with ‘scums’ seeking autographs at Pebble

Jordan Spieth didn’t appreciate the language some adults used in front of kids at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Jordan Spieth ripped professional autograph seekers after clashing with a few at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Spieth was coming off the 18th green and while he was signing a few autographs for kids he heard complaints from a few adults when he didn’t sign for them as well. Spieth later said he thought they were professional autograph seekers who would sell their the memorabilia online.

“So I turned around and one of them dropped an F-bomb in front of three kids, so I felt the need to turn around and tell them that that wasn’t right,” Spieth said at his press conference Wednesday. “And a couple of them were saying, ‘You’re not Tiger Woods, don’t act like you’re Tiger.’ I mean, it’s just like, Whatever, guys. You’re still trying to benefit off me and I’m not even Tiger Woods. So, you know, what’s that say about you?”

Spieth, who will tee it up alongside Jake Owen, Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky to kick off the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Thursday, doesn’t think much of those would seek to capitalize off his signature.

“I’m not appreciative of people who travel to benefit off other people’s success. And just, we’re out here to — I enjoy signing and sign for kids whenever we get the chance,” he said. “And when these guys have these items that you’ve already seen online and people, we have — our team keeps track of that kind of stuff. And these guys that just have bags of stuff to benefit from other people’s success when they didn’t do anything themselves. Go get a job instead of trying to make money off of the stuff that we have been able to do. We like to sign stuff for charity stuff or for kids or — and if you ask anybody universally it’s the same way, it’s just, they frustrate us.”

Spieth said normally he would let caddie Michael Greller handle situations like this but his frustrations got the better of him.

“I was just a little frustrated at the end and I didn’t appreciate the language that was used and just some scums that just, it just bothered me,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Spieth expressed his frustration with professional autograph seekers. During last year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont, he called out “eBayers” he saw crushing kids in the crowd while hunting for autographs.

courtesy of Josh Berhow (Golf.com)

 

Steven Spieth Nets Career High With Jordan In Attendance

Steven Spieth (left) scored a career-high 27 points in front of his brother Jordan.

Thursday was a special night for the Spieth family.

Jordan, fifth-ranked golfer in the world, showed up to watch his kid brother Steven play for the Brown University basketball team. Almost as if it was scripted, Steven led an incredible comeback for a five-point victory over Maine.

Steven scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the second half for the Bears. Shortly after the game, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman posted a photo of the two brothers.

Before the game, Brown posted a few fun photos of the two facing off at each of their best sports. We’ll leave it up to you to guess who won.

 courtesy of golfwire

 

Jordan Spieth Tabs Texas Barbecue for Masters Champions Dinner

SpiethmastersbubbaWhen Jordan Spieth parred the 71st hole of the 2015 Masters to maintain a four-shot lead, CBS commentator Ian Baker-Finch said, “I think they’ll be serving Texas barbecue at the champions dinner next year.”

As it turns out, Finch was right.

According to a GolfNewsNet article which cites Reuters, Spieth spoke Tuesday from the Bahamas ahead of the Hero World Challenge about his desire to serve Texas barbecue at the 2016 champions dinner.

“I’ve still got a bit of time before I have to advise the officials at Augusta National but I am leaning towards a Texas-like barbecue,” said Spieth, who is defending his title this week at the Hero World Challenge. “So it will be a choice of Texan meats as my meal choice.”

This would be a major step up from this year’s champions dinner, where Bubba Watson served mac and cheese, but it’s not the first time the state’s famous brisket delighted golfers in green; Ben Crenshaw, a fellow Texan and former Longhorn, served Texas barbecue at the 1996 Masters champions dinner.

How does Spieth’s choice stack up against other first-time winners’ menus? Well, Tiger Woods served cheeseburgers in 1998 but upgraded to steak and sushi after victories in 2001 and 2002. Phil Mickelson served lobster ravioli and caesar salad in 2005, then chose seafood paella and machango-topped filet mignon in 2011.

Will Spieth win another Masters? More importantly, what will he serve if he does?

courtesy of  Brendan Mohler (golf.com)

Jordan Spieth Says Rio Olympics Is Next Year’s ‘Fifth Major’

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott, the two headliners at this week’s Australian Open, have distinctly different excitement levels over next year’s Rio Olympics golf tournament.

While both agree a team competition would have been nice, Scott says he’ll go if he can fit it into his schedule, and isn’t very enthused. On Tuesday, however, Spieth said count him in unless he’s injured or, by some miracle, the world’s top-ranked golfer fails to qualify.

Spieth says he considers golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 like a major and plans to be among the four-man American team in the 60-man field.

Last week at the Australian Masters, Scott, who is in line for Olympic selection alongside Jason Day in the Australian men’s team, showed little interest in packing his bags for Brazil.

“I’ve been pretty open and outspoken that it’s not really a priority of my scheduling next year, which is based around the majors. And if the Olympics fits in then it does,” Scott said Wednesday. “There is a gap in the schedule there … some time off looks quite good actually.”

He also said he felt Olympic organizers should have been “a little more creative than a little 72-hole stroke-play event.”

On Tuesday at The Australian Golf Club, where Spieth shot a final-round, course-record 63 last year to win the Australian Open, he said he’s enthused over being part of an American team.

“Just competing in the Olympics, just walking the opening ceremony, staying in the village and doing whatever it is, meeting these incredible athletes from around the world, hopefully that’s something I’ll be able to experience next August,” said Spieth, who moved on from his Australian victory last year to win consecutive majors at the Masters and U.S. Open.

Spieth likes to compare those majors with a potential victory at Rio.

“Winning a gold medal has got to be up there now in my mind with winning a major championship,” he said. “I’ve been asked the question: a green jacket or a gold medal, or a Wanamaker (Trophy, for winning the PGA Championship) or an Open Championship or a gold medal?

“That’s not fair. I think this year we’re going to approach it as a fifth major and we’re going to prepare like it is and I’m going to go down there and try and take care of business.”

He does share Scott’s disappointment with the fact that no team event will be contested, although it’s possible it could be added for Tokyo in 2020.

“It’s not a team event in golf, I think unfortunately,” Spieth said. “But it’s going to be very difficult. You’ve got some great Aussies that will be down there, you’ve got Englishmen, you’ve got your own countrymen that you’re trying to beat.”

AP News

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth Headline Field in Shanghai

PGA Championship - Round OneThe final WGC event of 2015 is also the second tournament of four in the European Tour’s Final Series. Rory McIlroy carries the Race to Dubai lead into the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai.

This event started out as a regular European Tour event back in 2005 but in 2009 its status was elevated to become one of the four World Golf Championship tournaments held through the course of each season. Since that time, the event has carried a huge purse plus significant World Ranking points. It has consistently attracted a strong field as a result with winners including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

World No. 2 Jordan Spieth will tee it up, as will Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and defending champion Bubba Watson. It’s one of the most significant tournaments of the year, but what are the key talking points from a European Tour perspective?

read more by Fergus Bisset / Golf Monthly

 

Hank Haney on Spieth, Rory’s Drive and Rickie’s ‘Need to Improve’

hankPerhaps more than any golf instructor, Hank Haney knows exactly what is required to become the best, having coached Tiger Woods for six of his 14 major championships. And perhaps more than any golf instructor, Haney isn’t afraid to speak frankly about which players have it, and which don’t.

In an interview with John Huggan of the Scotsman, Haney is asked which member of golf’s big three will have the best career. Haney, who worked with Woods for six years, talked about what it takes to be the best through the prism of his experience with the 14-time major champion — and spoke most highly of Jordan Spieth.

“[Spieth] has that internal motivation that is second to none right now,” said Haney. “He has had no issues with his body. And he is best in putting, the part of the game that is hardest to improve. When you get to your 30s, you don’t normally become a great putter. So I have to go with him.

“His only downside is that he isn’t all of a sudden going to get long off the tee. He is running as fast as he can run in that department.”

We all know that Rory McIlroy has the kind of length that Spieth lacks, but what’s holding the 26-year-old Northern Irishman back?

“I do wonder about Rory’s motivation,” Haney said. “He’s made a lot of money. It’s human nature to ease off, but I don’t see the same dedication in him that I see in Jordan. There was the playing soccer thing. And the comments he made at the end of the season worried me. He said that the years Jordan and Jason just had motivated him, which is fine. But when did Tiger ever need that sort of motivation?”

Haney didn’t mince words when asked about Jason Day, either.

“With Jason you have to keep in mind that it has taken him a long time to figure out how to win at the highest level,” Haney said of the 27-year-old. “That time has been wasted. If he had figured it out quicker, I would have said he would turn out to be the best historically. If you look at his game compared to the other two, he should be the one.

“He is third in driving distance, sixth in greens in regulation, 14th in sand saves, fifth in strokes gained putting, fifth in three-putt avoidance and second in scrambling. He is by far the best player. Rory, in comparison, is 56th in scrambling. That’s a big difference.”

Haney would further point to putting as what sets Spieth apart from McIlroy and Day, saying that Woods and Jack Nicklaus were the “best pressure putters” in their primes.

But all this talk about the Big 3 comes at the expense of Rickie Fowler, who despite wins at the Players Championship, Scottish Open and Deutsche Bank Championship in 2015, is on the outside looking in.

“Rickie isn’t anywhere near the class of the other three,” Haney said. “He has to win a major to be up there with them. Actually, he just has to improve. Statistically, the top three are on a whole different level from anyone else.

“But Rickie is on a trajectory to get close to the top. He has shown that he can handle the moment. That’s a great trait. His problem is getting to the moment. If he gets there though, he can handle it. But so can the big three. So even that doesn’t give him an edge. It just puts him on their level.”

courtesy of Brendan Mohler (golf.com)

 

 

After Historic Season, Jordan Spieth Has Officially Changed Golf

jordan6You say you want a revolution?

Golf has been there, done that.

Just as Tiger Woods changed the game with his power and fitness more than a decade ago, Jordan Spieth changed golf this year with less glamorous but no less effective concepts–putting, wedge play and preparation.

The secret of golf is not making bogeys. Woods exemplified that during his peak when his short game and putting was near best-ever levels but it was his long drives and precise iron play that got most of the attention.

Sure, Spieth won the Tour Championship here at East Lake by four strokes over Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Lee, but his great contribution this year was in using all facets of his game and in placing the game’s emphasis back where it belongs, on scoring instead of monster drives and bomb-and-gouge golf.

Spieth ranks No. 1 in one-putts per round and No. 2 in percentage of putts made from 15-25 feet and it was no coincidence that he racked up his fifth victory of the season.

The look on challenger Henrik Stenson’s face was priceless at the par-3 11th green. Spieth’s tee shot came up short, caught a mound mid-green, and rolled back down the slope. Stenson had hit it to three feet. Spieth poured in the up-and-over-and-barreling-right putt from 45 feet like it was a simple.

“That was a dagger,” Spieth admitted.

Stenson keeps a good poker face normally but his that-figures smirk was unmistakable and, gamesman that he is, he gave Spieth a modest fist-bump and a nod, then rolled in his own short birdie putt.

“It’s been a phenomenal year for Jordan,” Stenson said later. “I watched it first-hand in the first two rounds in Augusta and he played phenomenal and putted phenomenal and it was the same putting display today. It was just an exhibition on the greens.”

Struggling to bring home a three-shot lead on the closing stretch, Spieth rolled in par-saving eight-footers at 14 and 15, showing his emotion with a clenched-hand fist pump at the 15th. There was also an 18-footer for birdie at the ninth, which brought a roar from a big gallery jammed around the green.

“His putting and his mental focus is the best in the world,” Stenson said. “He’s a very tidy player and every time he’s in trouble, he saves himself. When he gets the chance, he rolls it in for birdie so he’s hard to beat.”

His chipping and pitching are as good as anyone on tour. The same may be true of his work ethic. Think about the little things. Even though Jason Day outran him at the PGA Championship—and had to shoot the lowest score in major championship history to do it—Spieth holed out an important bunker shot at Whistling Straits’ 18th hole in the second round because he’d talked to local caddies who’d told him about that bunker (and another one) were firmer and played differently than all the rest.

For the British Open, Spieth played simulator golf so he could learn some of the nuances of the Old Course at St. Andrews since he didn’t go over early because he wanted to defend his title at the John Deere Classic.

At Chambers Bay, of course, his caddie Michael Greller used to work there so Spieth already had an edge over the rest of the field.

His edge at the Tour Championship, an event that Woods and Phil Mickelson were known to skip, was that he valued it and prepared accordingly. It’s safe to say that few players have treated this event as a must-win in the past when most saw it as a cash reward for a good season. Spieth recognized the Tour Championship for what it is—the most important part of the FedEx Cup series, if not the only important part. The FedEx Cup champion and the man who gets the $10 million bonus is usually the Tour Championship winner. So those three FedEx Cup events leading up to it, they’re sort of just the warmup act.

“We approached Atlanta like a major championship,” Spieth said earlier. “The whole year has been about majors and I consider this to be a fifth one at the end. I said in New York (before The Barclays), Everything now is to prepare to peak in Atlanta.”

Spieth wasn’t implying that the Tour Championship really is the fifth major, a silly thought for a 30-man field, just that he decided to treat it like one in his mind and perform his usual due diligence.

Peak for Atlanta? Those are words that have seldom, if ever, been heard in regard to the Tour Championship over the years.

Spieth and Greller—they’re the “we” Spieth usually refers to—will be beaten on occasion but not because they’ve been outworked.

I think we were the first ones out here on that Monday morning,” Spieth said. “At Chambers Bay, I went in Saturday and had been there the Saturday before. When you change grass types, it’s a bit of an adjustment. I love this bermuda here but we don’t normally see it on the tour this time of year. We mainly did short game work and then getting my body right. My trainer was here. “I can’t speak about us compared to other players but I will say that I noticed it very, very lonely out here on that Monday, which was kind of nice.”

Who preps for regular tour events? Nobody. There isn’t time. The Tour Championship, however, isn’t a regular tour event. There are only 29 other players to beat—27 this week after two withdrawals—and the big prize is $11.8 million in prize money, including the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus money. That, plus capping off a great season with a feel-good win, is what made it worth the extra effort that Spieth and Greller spent.

Whether Day and Rory McIlroy and the rest of golf realizes it yet, Spieth and Greller have raised the bar on being ready and being motivated, just the way Tiger’s strength sent almost every PGA Tour player scurrying to the fitness van for weight work to get stronger.

You don’t believe this is a revolution? Spieth’s accomplishments say otherwise.

He’s the first player to win more than $12 million in one season. Tack on the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and he’s over $22 million.

At 22, he’s the youngest player to win five times in a season since Horton Smith in 1929.

This win reclaims the No. 1 world ranking, clinches the Vardon Trophy for best scoring average and obviously the money title. Player of the Year? That was never truly in doubt. Even before this week, would Jason Day have traded his PGA Championship and four other wins for Spieth’s two majors and two other victories. Damn right he would. Would Spieth have traded with Day? Not a chance.

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller expressed the appropriate amount of awe at the end of Sunday’s telecast. “You’ve got to keep reminding yourself that this guy is 22 years old,” Miller said of Spieth. “That’s what is amazing. This is a great year for a guy in his prime at 26 or 28 or 30. At 22, where does his progression end? Are we seeing the best he’s going to play and putt or is he going to get better?”

Knowing how hard Spieth and Greller work, you’ve got to believe he—sorry, they!–will get better.

This revolution has only just begun.

courtesy of Gary Van Sickle (golf.com)

Michael Greller Made Almost as Much Cash as Phil Mickelson in 2015

caddieWe know it’s excellent to be Jordan Spieth, but it’s pretty good to be his caddie, too.

The 22-year-old Spieth earned his age in money (just over $22 million) on the PGA Tour this season, shattering Vijay Singh’s previous yearly record of $10.91 million by taking home the Tour Championship and an $11.4 million prize Sunday. Spieth’s right-hand man, caddie Michael Greller, cashed in as well.

Back in July, we explored just how much Greller made for his much-appreciated expertise, advice and counseling up to the John Deere Classic. That figure, approximately $867,000, was more than 159 other PGA Tour members made up to that point.

Then came the British Open, the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which put Greller into a whole new stratosphere of high-earning caddies.

Typically, caddies receive 5 percent of a player’s earnings for making the cut, 7 percent for finishing top-10 and 10 percent for a win. So let’s break down the last few events that Spieth has done, well, very well at.

  • The Open Championship: T4, earned $460,377
  • WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: T10, earned $149,500
  • PGA Championship: 2nd, earned $1,080,000
  • The Barclays: CUT
  • Deutsche Bank Championship: CUT
  • BMW Championship: T13, earned $173,250
  • Tour Championship: 1st, earned $1,485,000 + $10 million FedEx Cup bonus

Assuming Greller earned the typical tip, he brought home $1,275,453 in just those last five events where he would be receiving a payout. Add that to his previous earnings up to the Open Championship, and he’s brought in a cool $2.14 million this year. Not bad for a caddie!

That squeezes Greller into a tight spot between Russell Henley ($2.11 million) and Phil Mickelson ($2.15 million), 39th on the 2015 PGA Tour money list — more than 220 other PGA Tour players. When you’re making almost as much as Lefty, you’re in a good spot.

We don’t know what kind of arrangement Spieth and Greller have, as most players and caddies have specific agreements and some could receive random bonuses (see Billy Horschel from last year). But judging by their close relationship, their contract is probably far from typical. And by the way they celebrate, it’s clear to everyone that Greller’s earned every penny.

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)

Spieth Takes the Lead at East Lake, 1 Round Away From $10 million

Henrik Stenson gets a free drop on the first fairway due to course conditions in the rain during the third round of the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Henrik Stenson gets a free drop on the first fairway due to course conditions in the rain during the third round of the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Already with the best year in golf, Jordan Spieth is one round away from having the richest year in golf history.

Spieth battled his way through a tough, rainy Saturday at the Tour Championship and finally overtook Henrik Stenson with a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 2-under 68 and a one-shot lead. Spieth also had an 8-foot birdie and a 20-foot par over the closing four holes.

Stenson had a three-shot lead going to the back nine until back-to-back bogeys. He dropped one more shot on the 17th and had a 72, his first time over par at East Lake in seven rounds. It also was the first time he was not in the lead at the Tour Championship in his two appearances.

Spieth was at 8-under 202.

A victory Sunday would push Spieth over a record $12 million for the year, along with the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup.

As tough it was in the third round, the FedEx Cup finale might be even more difficult – if not because of the course, then the competition and what’s at stake.

Rickie Fowler shot a 31 on the back nine for a 67, the low score of the third round, and was four shots behind. Spieth, Stenson and Fowler are among the top five seeds in the FedEx Cup and only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.

Zach Johnson had a 71 and was five shots back. A victory would give him the FedEx Cup, provided Jason Day isn’t the runner-up. Day had a 70 and was tied for 10th.

Relatively quiet during the postseason, Spieth looks to be in mid-summer form.

He has made only two bogeys all week, and he has delivered four amazing par saves. He was four shots behind and in the front bunker on No. 8, a flat lie facing a steep hill, and he had resigned to make bogey. Stenson was about 10 feet away for birdie. Spieth picked it clean and got up-and-down from 5 feet, while Stenson missed.

Spieth also saved par with a long bunker shot on the par-3 second and on No. 5 with an up-and-down from 70 yards.

”I could have easily been 3 over through eight,” Spieth said.

The other big save was on the 16th, when Spieth blocked it so badly off the tee he called out, ”Holy, right!” It missed by a foot going into the bushes, he drilled a line drive through the pine trees to the first cut, hit wedge to 20 feet and holed it for par.

”A miracle save on 16,” Stenson called it.

Stenson had another day of ordinary ball-striking, normally his strength, but he managed it fine. The difficult part was a wet East Lake, which made the course feel like a beast. No hole was more difficult than the 520-yard fifth hole, a par 4 that only three players reached in two. Stenson it a pair of 3-woods and couldn’t get there. Spieth hammered a driver and a 3-wood and was still some 70 yards short of the flag.

Stenson hit a fairway metal on the 10th hole out of the rough, just through the green and down a slope, leading to bogey. He also three-putted the 11th when the final group was warned to pick up the pace.

”Kept it together fairly nicely and we’re still at the races,” Stenson said. ”I would have liked to have gone a few better, but we’re still up there and yeah, it’s all going to be decided tomorrow.”

Paul Casey had a 71 and was tied with Fowler at 4-under 206, while Rory McIlroy lost momentum with a double bogey on the 18th from a terrible lie around a bunker. That capped off a wild finish for McIlroy – four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey over the last seven holes. It added to a 70, and he was five shots behind at 207.

Only nine players remained under par, a big contrast from the opening three FedEx Cup playoff events where the winners were a combined 56-under par.

And now it comes down to one last day in the season.

Spieth effectively put an end to any debate about PGA Tour player of the year, especially with Day struggling this week in his debut at No. 1. Spieth also is all but assured the Vardon Trophy. But there’s a bigger prize that’s worth more than $10 million.

Spieth said even before the postseason began that his goal was to peak at East Lake, much like he tried to get his game just right for the majors. Here he is, leading by one shot going into the final round on a course that he believes is easier to play in front because of the premium on par.

But he spent all day in the rain with Stenson, one of the power players in golf who won the last time he was at East Lake.

”I’m very pleased with where we stand going into tomorrow, and Henrik’s going to come back very strong,” Spieth said. ”This was his off day, and so I’m going to have to play even better.”

courtesy of AP NEWS

Jordan Spieth, Jason Day Highlight Tour Championship Tee Times

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

The 2014-15 PGA Tour season finale is here, and the tee times have been set based on current rank in the FedEx Cup standings. That means that arguably the two hottest players in golf–Jason Day and Jordan Spieth–are paired together for at least the first two rounds at East Lake.

The first group, off at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, consists of Louis Oosthuizen and Harris English. Among the other highlighted pairings are Rory McIlroy with Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler alongside Henrik Stenson. Hideki Matsuyama was slated to play with Jim Furyk, but he will now go solo after Furyk withdrew due to a wrist injury.

11:40 a.m.—Louis Oosthuizen, Harris English

11:50 a.m.—Kevin Na, Sangmoon Bae

12:00 p.m.—Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas

12:10 p.m.—Brandt Snedeker, Steven Bowditch

12:20 p.m.—Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey

12:30 p.m.—Danny Lee, Scott Piercy

12:40 p.m.—J.B. Holmes, Kevin Kisner

12:50 p.m.—Hideki Matsuyama, Jim Furyk (WD)

1:00 p.m.—Jimmy Walker, Robert Streb

1:10 p.m.—Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose

1:20 p.m.—Daniel Berger, Patrick Reed

1:30 p.m.—Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman

1:40 p.m.—Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson

1:50 p.m.—Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson

2:00 p.m.—Jason Day, Jordan Spieth

Rory McIlroy Has Already Lost His Grip on Golf’s Next Era

Rory2PGAThey don’t make eras like they used to.

This time last year the golf world was busy feting Rory McIlroy, who had established himself as the game’s undisputed boy king. McIlroy, now 26, was such a dominant force that the big question was whether any other young players would step up to challenge him, or if he’d run roughshod over the sport. We now know the answer.

What’s stunning about golf’s current state of affairs is how much McIlroy’s standing has been diminished. Even though he made a brief cameo atop the World Ranking a few weeks ago, he is plainly only the third-best player in the game right now. (Fowler loyalists might say Rory is only the fourth best, but we’re not gonna go there just yet.)

Jordan Spieth began altering the landscape by doing what McIlroy has famously been unable to — solve Augusta National. His win there, and at the dust bowl that was Chambers Bay, highlighted the primary difference between these two awesome talents: Spieth’s superiority around the greens, which allows him to conquer firm, fast setups. Such speedy conditions have never quite agreed with McIlroy, which is inconvenient given that the lords of Augusta, Far Hills and St. Andrews all strive to achieve them for their championships. (The dons of Palm Beach Gardens have reluctantly accepted that August is not ideal for pushing a golf course to the limit, especially given their predilection for hot-weather venues.)

There was a pleasing contrast in the budding Jordan-Rory rivalry: an intense scoring machine versus an insouciant ball-basher. But Jason Day has of late added a new wrinkle by putting like Spieth while driving it like McIlroy. Just when Jordanmania had taken hold, and it looked like this could be his era and not Rory’s, Day has arrived as a man in full. In his Sunday showdown with Spieth at the PGA Championship, the 27-year-old Aussie simply had more firepower. He’s been too injury-prone for anyone to declare this the beginning of the Day Era, but he’s certainly a tantalizing addition in the rarified air at the top of the World Ranking. Day also has the advantage of being more settled off the course. Marriage and kids, and all the associated complications, are likely in the future for both Spieth and McIlroy. Day, an old soul thanks to a hard-knock upbringing, has already mastered the juggling act of being a touring pro and doting dad and devoted hubby.

If we can assume that the relentless Spieth is going to keep doing more of what he’s been doing, the really interesting question is where McIlroy goes from here. While he is physically recovered from the worst-timed kickabout in golf history, mentally it looks like he’s just not that into it. The front-nine 40 on Friday at Augusta was dispiriting, but he rallied with a strong spring, taking the Match Play and then, lest we have all forgotten, waltzing to a seven-shot victory in Charlotte, thanks to a Saturday 61.

But McIlroy played indifferently at the U.S. Open and seemed just the tiniest bit offended at how quickly the golf world forgot about him, as Spieth chased the Grand Slam. Missing the British Open was the worst luck imaginable. A golfer gets only two or three chances to tackle the Old Course in his prime, and to spend this Open on his couch was surely wrenching for McIlroy. Since he’s returned to action, he’s been scratching around for his old confidence and a little bit of form. Both have been slow in coming. At the Deutsche Bank — where a Friday 74 ruined his chances at victory — McIlroy said he was taking the long view and that the ascension of Spieth and Day will only help him by forcing him to raise his game. “When [I’m] playing [my] best and everything sort of clicks together,” he said, “I don’t feel like there’s anyone that can beat me.”

That was surely true a year ago. Now? We shall see. McIlroy remains a preeminent talent, and there’s no doubting his drive to become one of the all-time greats. Yet this rough season has made it clear that, going forward, it won’t be quite so easy for him to own the game.

courtesy of Alan Shipnuck (golf.com)

Rapping Miss Texas Asks Jordan Spieth on a Date

miss txLately, it’s good to be Jordan Spieth.

The 22-year-old just secured the world number one ranking, had two major wins this season and twelve other top-10 finishes. His sister and some fans have endorsed his presidential nomination. He threw a mean first pitch at a Texas Rangers game that saw Zach Johnson donate five thousand dollars to Spieth’s foundation as a result of a friendly wager.

And now, Miss Texas wants to take him out on a date.

During a live television interview at the same Rangers game Spieth pitched at, Shannon Sanderford told sideline reporter Jim Knox that her talent for the upcoming Miss America pageant was singing. When he asked her for a sample, he encouraged her to do a little rapping saying: “You know, rap is kind of big right now. This could put you over the top. Can you put something out for us?”

Here’s the freestyle Sanderford performed:

“Yo Ranger fans, Miss Texas in the house. C’mon, y’all. Let me hear a shoutout. I threw the first pitch, got it over home plate. Hey, Jordan Spieth. You wanna call me for a date?”

Here’s the full video:

Maybe she didn’t know this, but Spieth’s girlfriend Annie Verret was in attendance that night. Oops!

courtesy of golf.com

 

Jordan Spieth has one major flaw in his game and it doesn’t matter

jordan6Jordan Spieth is having one of the best seasons in the history of the PGA Tour with top-4 finishes at every major, including two wins, and more than $10 million in earnings. But that hasn’t stopped some from expressing concern over his one perceived flaw, his driving distance.

Despite all his success, Spieth is amazingly mediocre off the tee in the era of big drives, ranking 77th on the Tour this year with just a 292.3 yard average. Joel Beall of Golf Digest pointed out that the disparity on drives between Spieth (who finished 2nd) and Jason Day (the eventual winner) in the final round of the PGA Championship was “jarring” noting that on some holes, the gap between their drives was 60 yards.

But does it matter? Not according to this chart. While the relationship is not overwhelming, there is a general trend that the longer you hit the ball on the Tour, the lower your score. But as you can see, there is one obvious outlier, Spieth.

jordan-drivesIn other words, the rest of Spieth’s game is so good, it doesn’t really matter how far he hits the ball off the tee.

Things are even more jarring when we pare down the results to just the golfers who average at least 290 yards off the tee. Now the relationship is even stronger (R2 jumps from 0.11 to 0.18) and Spieth is still sitting way out there by himself while most of the other golfers cluster around the trendline.

jordan-scoringAt the PGA Championship, Spieth noted that he works on his distance and has “gotten a little bit longer each year.” He also admitted he is a bit envious of the bombers, noting that players like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson “are playing a different golf course, I certainly envy that.”

Based on the charts above, it would seem the other golfers should be envious of Spieth.

courtesy of Cork Gaines (businessinsider.com)

Jordan Spieth just became No. 1 in the world. And yet he leaves Whistling Straits in second place

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

With his performance at the PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth became the official No. 1 ranked player in the world.

Yet, Spieth’s Sunday will be remembered for falling short.

It seems miscalculated, perhaps even cruel; to catalog Spieth’s play this week as a disappointment. Despite the misfortune of teeing off in harsh conditions on Thursday afternoon, Spieth kept himself in the tournament, a sentiment most of his fellow late-wave competitors could not say. (Oh, the mind wonders what Spieth could have done if he started in the morning.)

Even while Jason Day made a mockery of Whistling Straits, Spieth was very much in the Wanamaker running, his hopes ultimately dashed by Day’s tremendous lag-putt at the 71st hole.

Speith finished with a final-round 68, good for second place. This standing bestowed Spieth his summer-long pursuit of the No. 1 ranking, displacing Rory McIlroy from the spot.

So why does it feel like Spieth is leaving in disappointment?

Because, he is.

“Major championships are what we’re remembered for in this sport,” said Spieth after his round. “It’s what I imagine all of our dreams were as kids, to play professional golf and to compete and try an win major championships.”

Golf is the rarest of sports where the lines of success and failure are tenuous, ambiguous and ever-changing. Brooks Koepka’s T-5 finish will be noted as success. Same for Branden Grace’s third-place showing. Spieth beat both, yet, somehow, leaves Wisconsin with a less-positive connotation.

For the year, Spieth captured two major titles. He tied for fourth in the British Open to go along with the PGA Championship’s silver medal. He was four shots shy of a Grand Slam.

That’s quite the season. Hell, that’s quite the career.

But, as Spieth is finding out, when you’re the face of your sport, anything less than a championship is defeat. LeBron James can attest as much.

“You could look at that from a negative view of what could I have done, or you could look at it where maybe one putt and I would only have one major this year,” Spieth said. He’s right. Just as James is a Ray Allen shot away from owning just one ring.

But history doesn’t count the barely-mades.  It’s the near-misses that are remembered.

And make no mistake, he was close.

Look no further than the 11th hole on Sunday. Day’s tee shot appeared to be headed for deep rough, which would likely negate a chance to reach the par-5 in two. Instead, Day’s ball found the fairway, leading to a birdie.

Spieth, on the other hand, saw his second-shot approach fall just short of rolling into the green, catching a railroad tie and ricocheting into heather. On a hole that was statistically the second-easiest of the day, Spieth took par.

“It’s not easy,” Spieth commented in the media tent. “It takes a lot out of you. I’m tired right now. I mean, I left it all out there. I’m tired from the majors this year because of what it does.”

The FedEx Cup remains on the PGA Tour schedule, as does the fall’s Presidents Cup. Spieth will be a main player in both.

“This year isn’t over; I’ve got a lot of big tournaments coming up. But the four biggest are finished now until April.”

When you’re a golfer of Spieth’s caliber, those are the only four that matter. And the assessment is simple: Did you win?

For Spieth on Sunday, that answer was no.

courtesy of Joel Beall (golfdigest.com)

Day in the lead at PGA as Spieth makes a charge

jason dayThree times this year, Jason Day has gone into the final round of a major with his name atop the leaderboard.

Twice this year, Jordan Spieth has posed with the trophy.

The two hottest golfers face off in the final group of the final major of the year at the PGA Championship, both wanting nothing more than to have their named etched on the Wanamaker Trophy. Both go into the final round relying on a different set of memories.

Day made six consecutive 3s in the middle of his round, lost momentum with a double bogey from a bunker and then steadied himself with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that sent him to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Spieth.

“I’m not looking it as a negative,” Day said about his close calls. “You can’t, because you’ve got two shots and I’ve played phenomenal golf leading up to this. But now I’ve got to focus on round four. Everything I need to do is just make sure that I focus and prepare myself for tomorrow.”

Spieth was losing patience with nine straight pars until he blistered the back nine, closed with three straight birdies and shot 65.

He was five shots behind and had two holes to play, hopeful to stay within three or four shots. He wound up only two shots behind and poised to join Tiger Woods (2000) and Ben Hogan (1953) as the only players to win three majors in one season.

Just like his bid for the Grand Slam that ended at St. Andrews, Spieth is more concerned with one trophy than a collection.

“Just to try to get my name on the Wanamaker Trophy, that’s about it. That’s the only history I’ll be thinking of when we step on the first tee is you can hoist that trophy tomorrow and make it happen,” Spieth said. “I’ll go into tomorrow strictly for the history piece of trying to get my name on a different major.”

Day was at 15-under 201.

The abundant sunshine and endless action Saturday might have been a preview for what could be a sensational end to the majors. And while the focus is on Day and Spieth, this was hardly a two-man race.

Branden Grace holed out from the front bunker on the tough 18th hole for birdie and a 64, the low score of the third round that put him three shots out of the lead. The South African was tied for the lead with three holes to play in the U.S. Open until hitting his drive out-of-bounds onto the railroad track at Chambers Bay.

Justin Rose, despite a double bogey on the fourth hole for the second straight day, had a 68 and was three shots behind. And not to be overlooked was Martin Kaymer, the winner at Whistling Straits five years ago. He had a 65 and was four shots behind.

But in this undeniable generation shift in golf, Day and Spieth in the final pairing is compelling.

“You can never count out Jordan right now with hos he’s playing, especially this year,” Day said. “He’s just full of confidence right now. So with my confidence level and his stellar play right now, I feel like it’s going to be an exciting finish tomorrow.”

Spieth, even with a Masters and U.S. Open title in hand, still has a chip on his shoulder the way he lost his bid at St. Andrews. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play and finished one shot out of a playoff at the British Open.

“When I think of this being the last major of the year, it’s a little bit of a sad feeling because I really, thoroughly enjoy playing in majors,” Spieth said. “You want to make the most of it, even though … we’ve won two this year.

“So you look at it as a single major, as a chance to win this major, and there’s enough fight in us to finish this one off tomorrow, I believe.”

The turnaround late Saturday afternoon was stunning.

Looking determined as ever, in control of his swing and putting beautifully, Day was 6 under over a six-hole stretch in the middle of his round. That included an eagle on the 11th hole, where he hit his drive with such force that he hit pitching wedge to 15 feet.

One swing changed everything.

He tugged a 5-iron into a bunker left of the 15th green and was surprised by the amount of sand. The first shot didn’t make it up the slope and rolled back into the sand, and Day wound up with a double bogey right about the time Spieth shifted into another gear.

Spieth made a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and then hit 4-iron to 12 feet for a birdie on the 17th. His goal after a slow start was to stay close enough to have a chance on Sunday.

The volunteers were slow to post Day’s double bogey on the large leaderboard on the 18th green, which Spieth couldn’t help but notice as he lined up his 7-foot putt.

“I saw Jason was at 16 under and I said, `You’ve got to be kidding me. When is he going to slow down?'” Spieth said. “I saw that he was 16 under with four holes to go, thinking he could get to 17 (under pretty easily). I need to make this to have a chance within four of the lead. And then I think he’s dropped a couple of shots since then. But I did all I could do to finish off the round.”

It put him in position to sweep the three American majors. But he still was two shots behind Day, determined not to let his great year end without winning his first.

“If he goes out and wins tomorrow from him putting well, then he deserves it,” Day said. “But I’m going to give him a fight.”

courtesy of AP

Spieth playing with a chip on his shoulder

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth has a green jacket in his closet, a silver U.S. Open trophy on his mantle and a chip on his shoulder.

The world No. 2 is far from content despite having a year most would consider a good career — winning the first two majors at the Masters and U.S. Open and adding two other PGA Tour titles to his resumé and $9.3 million to his bank account. Instead, the British Open has left a bad taste in his mouth that will linger when he tees it up Thursday at Whistling Straits in the first round of the PGA Championship.

On the Old Course in St. Andrews, Spieth’s unprecedented bid to win the modern day Grand Slam came up one shot short of a playoff. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play in the oldest championship in golf but couldn’t close the door on history or clutch the Claret Jug.

Instead of joining Ben Hogan as the only player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same year, the Texan left Scotland with his chili running hot. And it’s still simmering.

“Unlike the first two majors I had a chance to win and I didn’t pull it off. And that was the hardest part to get over for me,” Spieth, 22, said Wednesday at Whistling Straits after wrapping up his final preparations for the PGA.

“My frustration was we were tied for the lead with two holes to go, with one of them being a birdie hole and we didn’t close it out. We didn’t even get into a playoff. That was the hardest part for me and I certainly have a chip on my shoulder off of that that I’m wanting to get off.”

There’s unfinished business to settle. And there is plenty of history Spieth can make this week on the course along Lake Michigan. With a victory — and he’s clearly the favorite — he’d join Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three majors in a season in the modern era. He would also become the only player to win the American Slam — capturing all three majors played in the United States.

Further, and of no less importance, he has a chance to overtake Rory McIlroy as the world No. 1.

There are other motivating factors. While he’s only played in two, Spieth has not made the cut in the PGA Championship, and that irks him. And while he’s only been a member of the PGA Tour for three years, he hasn’t met his goal of making the cut in all four majors in the same season.

“I still haven’t accomplished that goal set at the beginning of the year that I said I wanted to make the cut in all the majors,” Spieth said. “And you wanted to contend and have a chance to win at least one of them. Certainly they have gone according to plan up to this point, but that first part of that goal has yet to be accomplished. So I got some work to do these first two days, and from there we’ll adjust and work our butts off to try and get a third major this year, which would be a pretty cool place in history to be a part of.”

Spieth certainly worked his butt off Wednesday playing nine holes. As he approached every green, he spent plenty of time finding — and then hitting from — the worst places around the putting surfaces. He even jumped down to the beach of an inland lake bordering the fifth green and hit shots off the sand toward the hole.

In anticipation of the wind picking up in the first round, Spieth wanted to ready himself for anything.

“There are a lot of tricky spots in the rough, because you have changing rough around the greens, from some of it being blue grass to some of it being a fescue-type grass. It plays extremely different, depending upon where it lies, so I wanted to get a variety of shots,” Spieth said.

“You have to be prepared for the worst. … So that’s what we tried to see today, rolling balls off of greens and around greens.”

As far as rolling balls on the greens, the game’s best putter said the surfaces are pure — which doesn’t bode well for the other 155 players in the field. He also likes the layout and knows all about the hundreds of bunkers, each a difficult challenge.

And he’s coming off a final-round 66 in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational that vaulted him into a tie for 10th and gave him momentum heading to the Badger State.

He will be a force to handle just as he has been all year. And his year isn’t over. He will play with Zach Johnson, who won the British Open, and McIlroy in the first two rounds. McIlroy is returning to play after missing two months due to an injured ankle. But he didn’t stop watching Spieth.

“Whenever you see someone put together a season like this, of course you become motivated,” McIlroy said. “But as well you’re inspired. I think the performances that he put in at the Masters and the U.S. Open and even at St. Andrews when he was so close, they were inspirational performances. That’s something really, for him, to be proud of, especially how he handled everything at St. Andrews going into all the Grand Slam talk. I think even though I’m not that much older, I probably wouldn’t have handled it quite as well as he did.”

Spieth is set to go once more. He is confident and in form, running a bit hot and chasing the Wanamaker Trophy and the No. 1 ranking in the world.

“I did not have a time frame set (to become No. 1),” Spieth said. “When that was a goal that was just a career goal, that at one point in my career I would like to be No. 1.

”Given everything that’s happened, I believe now that I would like it obviously to be sooner rather than later, and then to be able to hold on to it. That’s a whole other animal as I’m sure Rory knows, Adam Scott knows, Luke Donald knows, there’s Tiger … there’s a number of them that understand what it’s like. I don’t know what that feels like yet. That will be a new goal.”

courtesy of  Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Sports

Out of Sight Out of Mind? McIlroy Eyes PGA Return To Take Back Spotlight

It appears increasingly likely that Rory McIlroy isn’t going to give up his No. 1 ranking to Jordan Spieth without a fight, with all signs pointing to a McIlroy return at next week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

McIlroy has been sidelined since rupturing ligaments in his left ankle while playing soccer with friends July 4. That meant he couldn’t defend his title at the British Open at St. Andrews, on a course he loves. He again missed out on a title defense at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone South in Akron, Ohio.

But now it appears the long-hitting wonder from Northern Ireland is ready to come back at Whistling, another course he seems to enjoy. (He tied for third at the 2010 PGA.) On Wednesday, McIlroy posted video of himself working out, his Nike-clad feet (including an unwrapped left ankle) balanced on foam pads as he throws a medicine ball from right to left. On Thursday he posted video of himself hitting a driver at full speed, his left ankle adorned with blue athletic tape. And on Friday he is expected to make it official: He will be back in action amid the dunes at Pete Dye’s Wisconsin masterwork, where he and Spieth could find themselves tussling for No. 1.

Hard as it is to believe, today marks just more than a month since McIlroy hurt himself. It seems like much longer, which perhaps owes to the compelling Spieth narrative that played out in McIlroy’s absence.

Having won the Masters and U.S. Open (plus two regular PGA Tour events at Innisbrook and TPC Deere Run), Spieth came into last month’s British Open at St. Andrews hoping to become the first since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the season’s first three majors. Spieth also was hoping to keep alive his dream of an unprecedented calendar-year grand slam. He almost did it too, faltering only with a bogey at the tough 17th hole and a par at 18.

 

Zach Johnson won with a clinic in clutch golf, including birdies on the first two holes of the four-hole aggregate playoff to distance himself from Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman and cruise to victory.

All of that was enough to make us forget, at least for a little while, about McIlroy, even though he, too, has won two regular Tour events (although one of them, the Cadillac Match Play, was a WGC event). When last we saw him he was making an inspired run at the U.S. Open, but he ran out of magic on the back nine, his final-round 66 and T9 finish a letdown. That left the stage to Spieth, who won thanks partly to Dustin Johnson’s costly three-putt.

The drama at the Old Course at St. Andrews, four weeks later, was such that it was easy to forget then that McIlroy was still the game’s nominal No. 1. It was easy to forget that just three months earlier McIlroy himself had been going for his third consecutive major championship victory at the victory at the Masters, where he shot weekend rounds of 68-66 to finish fourth. It was easy to forget that in winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May, McIlroy fired a third-round 61 at Quail Hollow, the 2017 PGA Championship venue.

Out of sight, out of mind. But the four-time major winner is out of sight no longer. McIlroy’s seasons typically start slowly and build up to big finishes as the summer wears on and bleeds into the fall. (He already has two PGA Championship victories on his resume, including 2014 at Valhalla and 2012 at Kiawah.) But it remains to be seen how he will be affected by this latest setback. So he can hit a drive a full speed. That’s good. But is his left ankle as strong as it needs to be for the hilly walk at Whistling Straits?

At the very least McIlroy should give the surging Spieth something to think about while presenting fans with the tantalizing possibility of one of the greatest but rarest gifts in golf: a true rivalry at the top.

That’s an excellent start.

PGA Championship: The Grand Slam Bid is Done, but Spieth Is Not

jordan5Jordan Spieth was on the 14th green and battling in conditions so severe the wind approached 40 mph.  ”They pulled us off the course,” he said.  Spieth wasn’t talking about St. Andrews.  This was Sunday at Whistling Straits, where he took a two-day scouting trip of the course that will host the final major of the year.

Spieth was one shot away from making the PGA Championship the most significant golf event since Tiger Woods completed his sweep of the majors in 2001 at the Masters. The 22-year-old Texan was trying to become the first player to win them all in one season, and he came closer than any of the other three greats – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods – to getting the third leg of the Grand Slam at the British Open.

His three-putt on the 14th green at St. Andrews, when the second round resumed in wind so strong Spieth was heard to say, ”We never should have started,” is not what cost him a chance at the claret jug. He had four other three-putts that round. He took four putts on the eighth green in the final round. He also made a bunch of birdies all week, and at the end of 72 holes, he needed one more. Simple as that.

If there was a hangover, it didn’t last long.

Spieth was playing golf in Dallas with friends when his roommate mentioned the ”weirdest feeling” about watching the Open. He told him that it seemed as though Spieth had an off week at St. Andrews, perhaps because he already had won the Masters and U.S. Open. Maybe it was ingrained in everyone, Spieth included, that anything but a victory at the British Open was not going to be acceptable.

”We played good golf given everything,” Spieth said. ”It’s still good to play a major and lose by one shot. But that was one shot from being the greatest week of my life, instead of being on the back burner. That’s what put it in perspective for me.”

It was a memorable run, and now it’s time to move on.

Spieth already has shown at such a young age he is equipped to do just that.

His goal at St. Andrews was to ignore what was at stake and treat it like another major. Put the ball in play. Make putts. Get in contention. He said when it was over the historical significance never crossed his mind even when he was tied for the lead with two holes to play.

His approach to Whistling Straits isn’t much different.

”I really don’t think it changes at all,” Spieth said. ”Like I said, the historical part never factored into my preparation or knowledge of the course or whatever. All in all, I have the exact same feeling. I may feel better. I knew what was at stake, and there was an added element to that off the course. Those were the questions everyone was asking. That’s what the crowd was saying as you go hole to hole in the practice round. `The Grand Slam is alive.’

”I wish they were still saying that,” he said. ”But since they aren’t, that might ease the burden as far as practice.”

He laughed when asked about the American Slam – winning the three U.S. majors in the same season.

”When did that start?” he said, already knowing the answer.

No one ever talked about an American Slam until it was served up as a consolation prize to Woods when his shot at the Grand Slam ended in the wind and rain at Muirfield in 2002. Woods made a strong run at the PGA Championship that year by making birdie on his last four holes, only to finish one shot behind Rich Beem.

Now the opportunity falls to Spieth. It’s still a chance to achieve something no one has ever done, though it feels hollow compared with what he was chasing a month ago at the home of golf.

The Grand Slam is over. His season is not.

Spieth knows what it’s like to adjust goals during the course of the season, just as he did as a rookie in 2013 when he started the year without a PGA Tour and finished it as the youngest American (20) to play in the Presidents Cup.

Looking back, he set modest expectations for 2015.

”My goals for this year were to make the Presidents Cup team, contend in at least one major and make the cut in all the majors,” he said. ”In 2013, they were tangible, specific goals I could shoot for. Right now, what’s bigger than what we’ve done? We had a chance to do something no one has done – win all four majors in a year.”

Part of the challenge is to finish strong. That’s what Spieth failed to do last season, when he finished out of the top 20 in six of his final seven events on the PGA Tour. In his eyes, a new season starts this week at Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, followed by the PGA Championship and then four FedEx Cup playoff events.

”I would like to win one of these last six events,” he said. ”I’d like to be in contention and close one of them out, stay focused on trying to win one of these six and forget about how this year has gone. This is so new for us. It’s hard as a team for us to sit back and not want to soak in what’s happened.”

A lot has happened. And even in the final two months, there’s a lot left.

courtesy of AP News

Jordan Spieth ‘May Be the Best Putter Ever,’ says Ian Poulter

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Ian Poulter, not particularly well known for doling out praise, has given Jordan Spieth the highest of compliments, saying the 22-year-old “may be the best putter ever.”

The 39-year-old Englishman told Reuters that Spieth’s putting is the reason this year’s Masters and U.S. Open champ is finding himself in contention every week.

“Statistically he’s the best putter in the game and he may go down as he best anyone has ever seen,” Poulter said. “If you look at the percentage of putts he holes from 25 feet it’s remarkable. That’s generally the distance you hit it to when you are playing well. It’s an amazing percentage of putts that he holes and we all want that sort of putting stroke.”

Spieth holds a number of first-place rankings among his peers when it comes to putting. He leads the Tour in putting average (1.693 putts per hole), putts per round (27.88) and—the stat Poulter is so impressed by—putts from 25 feet (he makes 28.85 percent of them).

They say it takes one to know one. Poulter himself has an impressive resume when it comes to putting; he is 15th on Tour in strokes gained putting and 16th in overall putting average, with his big wins coming in at putts from seven feet (third) and putts from 10-15 feet (sixth). More than once he made heroic saves for the European team at the ‘Miracle of Medinah,’ where the Europeans came from four points back overnight to win the 2012 Ryder Cup 14.5-13.5.

Perhaps crowning Spieth the best of all-time is premature (the kid just turned 22 July 27), but he’s well deserving of the praise.

Golf: 2012 Ryder Cup Ian Poulter makes final putt to win on 18th Fourballs Medinah Country Club/Medinah, IL 9/29/2012 X155533 TK5 Credit: Fred Vuich

Golf: 2012 Ryder Cup
Ian Poulter makes final putt to win on 18th Fourballs- Medinah Country Club/Medinah, IL
9/29/2012        Credit: Fred Vuich

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)