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Jordan Spieth Makes History From The Driving Range

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If there’s such a thing as a true closer in the game of golf, Spieth has done everything in his young career to solidify his place as a true closer. With the exception of a shotty seven-minute stretch at the 2016 Masters, Spieth has closed the door more violently than anyone other than Tiger Woods in the last 30 years. Converting eight of his last nine previous 54-hole leads into victories, there seemed to be little question that he’d slam the door on Kuchar and the field on this Sunday at Royal Birkdale. Yet, with three bogies in the first four holes, maybe it was Kuchar’s time. Steady Eddie Kuchar did what he was supposed to. Making the turn in even par next to Spieth’s three-over, they were tied at the top.

The pair plodded along Nos. 10-12 without fireworks, but at No. 13 Spieth hit a drive that Johnny Miller said “may have been the worst drive I’ve ever seen a pro hit.”

It was bad. Real bad. Over the river and through the woods, to a Titleist truck they went. Spieth never looked as though the wheels were falling off to that point; he just seemed uncomfortable. But when he put his hands on his head as he watched his tee ball disappear into driving-range obscurity, it seemed his fate was all but sealed. No Claret Jug for Jordan.

Yet 28 minutes later, he dropped a ball onto the impact area of the Royal Birkdale driving range after taking an unplayable lie penalty. Then he yelled at his caddie, Michael Greller, “Michael, number?” Greller turned around and looked toward the green that had to be 180 yards from the top of his sand dune. Another yell from Spieth, “Mike! You can’t stand there!”

Greller would move, and Spieth would hit his driving iron a little chunky. But it stopped just out of the dangerous gorse and short of a pot bunker, leaving him a chip and putt for a bogey. All the while Matt Kuchar was stuck taking a knee in the fairway as the second-to-last group made its way three holes ahead.

Bogey he would make, and Kuchar snuggled his birdie putt to leave a tap-in for par. For the first time all weekend, Spieth didn’t have a share of the lead. The final group headed into the par-3 14th with Kuchar ahead by one.

In Tiger Woods fashion, Spieth stepped up to the tee and striped a six-iron at the 200-yard par-3. He missed making an ace by less than a couple inches, deflating any hope Kuchar had of maintaining his one-shot lead with a par. Spieth would make that birdie as Kuchar logged another par. Back to all square with four to play.

Standing on the par-5 15th hole, Spieth pulled out the driver and all the world inhaled deeply, holding their breath to see if he’d rip another drive off the planet. He wouldn’t; he’d stripe it right down the fairway and Kuchar would follow. With Kuchar not on the green in two, Spieth pounded a 3-wood to the front edge, leaving an eagle putt that would be outside the normal range for mere mortals. Kuchar got it on the green and left a makeable birdie putt, but it wouldn’t matter. Spieth would drain his putt for eagle and walk off the green with instructions for Michael Greller to “Go get that!”

Kuchar made a solid birdie at No. 15, but it wasn’t enough. Spieth walked to the 16th with the solo lead once again. Another long birdie rolled in for Spieth on No. 16 and sent him to No. 17 with a two-shot lead after Kuchar made a ho-hum par.

Kuchar and Spieth went opposite ways off the tee at No. 17, yet they both walked off with birdies after taking the three-shot approach.

After the driving-range bogey, there didn’t seem to be anything Spieth could do to make double-bogey at No. 18, and he didn’t. A slightly right tee shot left him with a decent lie and a decent number into the green. He’d put his approach on the front half of the green while Kuchar would find a pot bunker. Two putts for par was enough for Spieth to win by three as Kuchar bogeyed No. 18 and the final pairing posted a pair of 69s.

Five-under in the last five holes of a major championship is unheard of, especially after such an abysmal start by the eventual champion. Spieth has done things we’ve never seen done before since the day he came on the PGA Tour. His flair for the dramatic has shown up time and time again, most recently in his last PGA Tour win at the Travelers where he holed a bunker shot for birdie to beat Daniel Berger in a playoff. Finishing birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par at Royal Birkdale to hoist his first Claret Jug and third major victory is truly dramatic.

Spieth is the second youngest to win three legs of the career grand slam, and he’s the youngest American Open Champion ever. And it seems that everyone else is going to have to hit the driving range to give Spieth a run for his money atop golf’s modern Mount Rushmore.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Jerry

    Jul 25, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Look, we all get caught up in the moment, and Jordan’s finishes are dramatic. But 2015 Masters …(drops mic)

  2. piter

    Jul 25, 2017 at 1:14 am

    So why is this historic again? Coz he missed the fairway big time? or coz he needed 25 minutes between shots? Or coz he is the second youngest winner of something? If you are the 122nd youngest winner, wouldnt that be equally historic? Maybe we should call him a hero too…

  3. Jack Nash

    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Had to be one of the crapier played final rounds in a Major that I’ve seen in decades. Lucky for Spieth he was playing Kucher. Mr Top 10 was never going to be a threat. It was up to Jordan and his breaks Not to lose it.

  4. nyguy

    Jul 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Didn’t really feel like the open this time around, and that 30 mins spieth took was bs…. make the decision and take the shot. Felt like the PGA was bending over backward for spieth.. and the commentary was chill inducing…

    • xjohnx

      Jul 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      For the record the PGA has nothing to do with the Open. I don’t disagree with you about it taking too long but this was an odd case. When the rules officials can’t even figure out what to do it changes the argument.

  5. LL

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Don’t have an issue with Jordan taking advantage of the rules but I do have an issue with the amount of time he took and was allowed! It does not seem fair that Kuchar had a clear advantage on the hole but had to wait 20+mins to make his putts, perhaps killing his momentum. Some of Kuchar’s following shots seemed to suffer from maybe stiffening up while waiting around?!

  6. chris franklin

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Verifies the old adage that in golf it’s better to be lucky than good.

  7. Brian Crookes

    Jul 24, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Is it me? or did anyone else find it odd that Spieth’s driver was laying down behind him after his drop and seemed to be pointing to the green, which I thought was a penalty…

  8. xjohnx

    Jul 24, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I wonder how much Titleist would have hypothetically spent on making sure their trailer was parked there instead of one of the other ones. Talk about perfect advertising.

    • Er

      Jul 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Yeah. That photo is priceless. Titleist must be laughing their heads off.

  9. Pelling

    Jul 24, 2017 at 8:47 am

    “I will not be counting this as a major victory”

    Good luck with that, let us know how it works out for you.

  10. Tom54

    Jul 24, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I watched the Open and they never quite explained exactly where his tee ball finished on 13. All they said was he took an unplayable. Did it go in a bush, in The gorse? They didn’t really show him picking up the ball where ever it wound up. Great bogey and the finish is what great players find a way to do.

  11. Markallister

    Jul 24, 2017 at 3:36 am

    driving range in bounds? i will not be counting this as a major victory. was his drop taken within the spirit of the game or within the letter of the rules. i’ll let you decide. some people might call him jordan cheath. i would refrain from such extremity, however.

    • eeehaun

      Jul 24, 2017 at 5:10 am

      I would partially agree with your observation, however, if they deemed #10 OB playing from #9 tee DURING THE PRACTICE ROUNDS then you can’t fault Spieth for utilizing the rules that were set forth before play began. He didn’t cheat anybody and given how many officials were in the neighborhood of that 15-minute debacle it certainly wasn’t on him to determine its validity. If you wanna bark up someone’s tree give the R&A a call. Otherwise quit yelling at the folks who aren’t on your lawn.

      • Markallister

        Jul 24, 2017 at 8:57 am

        i think ultimately the player is responsible. in this scenario the player did not act within the spirit of the game, because it is well-known that practice facilities are not part of the course. he should have done the right thing and played the ball as it was.

        • J

          Jul 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm

          If it isn’t marked as OB then it is part of the course. Every course I have played has had the driving ranged marked as OB, but if it isn’t marked as OB, which in this case it wasn’t, then it is fair game to take a drop in.

    • golfraven

      Jul 24, 2017 at 7:27 am

      I was also surprised there was no OB. Ah well, he made the best out of it also honering his sponsor. It could not have played better for Titleist.

    • Pelling

      Jul 24, 2017 at 8:46 am

      “I will not be counting this as a major victory”

      Good luck with that, let us know how it works out for you.

      • Markallister

        Jul 24, 2017 at 8:59 am

        well, i think it is only a matter of time, before my count will become the official one.

        • IHateGolfIsAwesome

          Jul 24, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          They had 2 of the foremost rules officials from Europe right there while the decisions were being made. Not sure how you feel your call will eventually overrule theirs. Plus the driving range was in bounds all week. A pre-tourney rule.

    • lopey986

      Jul 24, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Except they covered that after the round on the golf channel. The driving range is considered playable every single day for members so they kept those rules the same for this event.

    • xjohnx

      Jul 24, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Serious question. How many PGA tour events and/or majors mark the practice range as OB? I know most courses incorporate this as a local rule exclusively for player safety. I personally would consider a professional tournament an exception from this. If a player walks onto the range to hit a shot, professionals are not going to try to hit him. Your local course, all bets are off.

      I also feel like some people are saying he should have been penalized as if he hit it there. Remember he did not hit it onto the range that “should be OB”. He hit his drive well within the imaginary stakes.

      • Dave

        Jul 24, 2017 at 11:45 am

        Their point is that if it were OB then he would no be permitted to take a drop there.

        • xjohnx

          Jul 24, 2017 at 11:57 am

          Dave, I know. I was wondering how often that’s really the case in these tournaments. I genuinely have no idea.

    • TexasSnowman

      Jul 25, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      Golf Channel reported that the Driving Range is played as ‘in bounds’ by the members and the R&A made decision to keep it that way as they prefer to have the Open Course play as similar to members play as feasible.

  12. Rich

    Jul 24, 2017 at 2:17 am

    So sick of the American golfing press jumping on the latest flavour every 5 mins. So what, Spieth wins the Open. 5 mins ago they were saying John Rahm was going to be winning everything and five minutes before that they were pissing in Brooks Koepka’s pocket because he won the US Open. They’ll forget about Spieth in 5 more minutes of he doesn’t win the next one too. Pathetic, predictable and boring.

    • TexasSnowman

      Jul 25, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      As a Texan, I am a Speith fan but I agree with you this is true in all sports, whoever wins is all unicorns and puppy-dogs. Boring, true.

  13. Someone

    Jul 24, 2017 at 12:14 am

    doesn’t anyone have a problem with the fact that it took 28 minutes to play the hole and they were two holes behind on the field? i mean c’mon…we never get a gallery to help us find our ball. we don’t get an immediate rules official to show up at our beckon call.

    it ought to be where the player must use their judgement, just like we do. They can face their consequences at the end of the round for any misplayed shots. part of playing the game is also knowing the game.

    i don’t get paid millions and when i lose my ball or possibly have a chance of losing my ball, i have to play a provisional or go back to the last spot i took my shot.

    i get it, they’re playing for millions, whatever. that shouldn’t change the game…

    • dan mcco

      Jul 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

      The 1/2 hour delay is my major issue. The twosome had already been asked to speed up play before the hole. Total time to get a ruling can’t be more than a couple of minutes. The rest was on Spieth. Now I expect every group in front of me to take however long they want to play their unplayables. He should have received a penalty for slow play.

  14. Dat

    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    I fully agree.

  15. Ude

    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Sooooo true lover
    I want you to keep 2 things coming and one is your great comments

    • M S m i z z l e

      Jul 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Y’all bringing back the fun like before I got blocked…
      Keep it up yo

  16. dr bloor

    Jul 23, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    “Titleist: Our irons are exactly what you need to get out of the trouble our drivers put you in.”

  17. Matt

    Jul 23, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Brilliant example of links golf and what a win for Spieth.

  18. Wilson

    Jul 23, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Someone whispered the driving range is usually OB.

    • Adam Crawford

      Jul 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      They addressed that after the coverage. The RA made the decision to play the Range in bounds because that’s how the members play it day to day. It was the first question Spieth asked when the official came over.

    • CrashTestDummy

      Jul 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Yeah, if it was considered OB he wouldn’t of been able to drop there. However, where his ball ended up off the tee shot would of likely been in bounds. In that scenario, he would probably go back to the tee and re-hit his tee shot.

      Being able to hit from the range saved him a lot of distance so he could get the third shot closer to the green and have a good chance at bogey. If he re-hit his tee shot the likely scenario would of been a double bogey.

      • Brice Truitt

        Jul 23, 2017 at 9:17 pm

        There’s no “probably” about it. Had his initial tee shot been OB, he would’ve had to re-tee it. Would’ve been no other options.

  19. Tommy

    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Shoddy…..not “shotty”. C’mon Adam..killing me

    • Adam Crawford

      Jul 23, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Sorry, I couldn’t find it on Urban Dictionary.

      • Anonymouz

        Jul 23, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        Try Merriam-Webster. It’s shoddy. It’s an actual word.

  20. ooffa

    Jul 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    What’s in your bag?

  21. Sam

    Jul 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    You can’t beat lucky, skilled and God’s gift to putting

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Courses

Brough Creek National: The backyard course you wish you’d built

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted a golf course in your backyard.

Of course you have.

Now leave your hand raised if you actually rolled up your sleeves and made it happen.

Among the very few people left with their hands in the air are Ben Hotaling, Zach Brough, Evan Bissell, and Mark Robinson, the driving force behind Brough Creek National. That’s right. These guys are building a golf course in their backyard. From scratch.

The true beginnings of golf aren’t well-documented, but one thing’s for sure: people were playing golf at least 400 years before the first working internal combustion engine. Long before golf course architecture was a multi-million dollar investment before the first dime of revenue trickled in, courses were laid down largely by hand using the natural movement of the land. In that same spirit, Ben happened to notice that there was one particular shot in their backyard that reminded him of the Road Hole at St. Andrews, as it plays over their barn and to a green situated right in front of the road to the property.

Ben ultimately convinced his roommate Zach, whose family has owned the land for some time, that they should clear some trees and put in a makeshift green for their Road Hole. That was in 2015 and, while that’s technically the genesis of Brough Creek National, it was in 2018 when they started sharing their ideas in No Laying Up’s online forum section that things escalated rather quickly. Bouncing ideas off their fellow compatriots revealed great natural setups for a Biarritz/punch bowl combination, a Redan, and more. Before they knew it, they had a 630-yard, 7-hole golf course criss-crossing through the three-acre property in Kansas City, KS.

Road Hole green at Brough Creek National

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Brough Creek National is that it has operated solely off of donations, which started with a weed eater here and a can of herbicide there and has since grown to a recent GoFundMe campaign of $15,000. These donations have allowed them to purchase grass seed and other vital equipment to see the project through. The community aspect of Brough Creek National is so important to what they’re trying to achieve that anyone who provides their name and address on the website is sent a free new membership packet (I happen to be member #209). Included are some stickers, a ballmark, and a welcome letter that states (among other things),

“We are proud to have you as a lifetime national member at our exclusive, member-owned (and maintained) club…The vision of Brough Creek National is to have a place for community golf modeled around fun for members and guests from all golfing backgrounds…Your dues will be assessed at the rate of $0.00 annually.”

Ben further emphasizes the importance of the community aspect by saying:

“I think Brough Creek stands for community. It’s like-minded individuals coming together and supporting something they’re proud of. It’s a smart, intriguing golf course, but it’s ultimately about making friends and that’s what matters. The quality of the golf course is almost inconsequential because the real purpose is to assemble this brotherhood of people who are passionate about the game of golf. We think it’s done in a way that sheds the elitist stigma that golf has often struggled with and we’re almost mocking that in a playful way.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone they have to experience the game a certain way, but we try to go above and beyond to be approachable and welcoming because we think that’s more important than status. Golf’s not a money-making business. It’s just not. So, why don’t we just take that out of it, come together as a community, and create something we can all be proud of?”

If we’re all having an honest moment, not even Ben and Zach know exactly how this project is going to evolve, but one thing’s for sure: an emphasis on maximizing fun for the highest number of the golfing community is never a bad place to start. Those who believe par and total yardage are irrelevant in determining the amount of fun available to them should be in for a treat. To watch the project unfold, check out www.someguysbackyard.com and follow @someguysbackyrd on Twitter and @someguysbackyard on Instagram.

Below is an overview of the course, narrated by Ben Hotaling

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Opinion & Analysis

Brooks Koepka’s coach, Claude Harmon III, on BK’s PGA Championship victory, working with the game’s best, and more

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Coming fresh off the celebration of Brooks Koepka’s fourth major win, Koepka’s long-time coach, Claude Harmon III chatted with Johnny Wunder as he was just about to hop on a plane back to The Floridian.

Here are the highlights of their conversation.

JW: Claude how you doin’?

CH3: Uh, I’m hungover!

JW: Brooks is walking off the 18th green after another major triumph. What is the first thing you guys said to each other?

CH3: Well, obviously there was a lot of emotion in that moment, but he told me it was the happiest he has ever been on the golf course, and after everything he’s done, that’s a big statement.

For him to put in all the hard work and to fight as hard as he did on a golf course that completely changed on the last day and come out on top makes me extremely grateful to be a part of the team that supports that. I believe he will find out more about himself from getting through the final nine holes than he would if he would have had a parade coming in and won by seven.

JW: That’s a great point. It seems like he is more apt to win even more majors based on that back nine than he would have otherwise.

CH3: I don’t think if you were watching it on TV you could have any appreciation for just how difficult it was. What DJ did yesterday was impossible and having that up ahead applies even more pressure to a leader. Ricky Elliott and BK are looking at the scoreboard and seeing DJ and 3 under and having no idea how that’s even possible. It was that tough.

JW: I think Brooks stubbornness is part of his true greatness. Would you agree?

CH3: His perspective constantly was “I’m still in the lead and someone is going to have to catch me and this golf course is extremely difficult.” Even after all the bogeys on the back side, he still controlled the lead and kept that mantra. The crowd yelling “DJ! DJ!” actually didn’t piss him off, it woke him up and made him want to hit a good drive and show the crowd he was still leading.

JW: How did yesterday compare to Shinnecock? 

CH3: At Shinnecock it was an interesting situation because Fleetwood…posted before BK was even off and in that case, Brooks said it was like playing against a ghost. No matter what he does, Tommy isn’t going to make any more mistakes or change in any way. That’s a tough scenario when you are staring at a number that won’t move for 5 1/2 hours.

JW: What do Brooks and DJ have that people can learn from.

CH3: It’s funny because we hear these cliches in sports psychology all the time, but I believe those two are the living embodiment of ONE SHOT AT A TIME. They don’t look back. Ever.

JW: Speaking on DJ. I’m watching the back nine and thinking to myself this guy is playing out of his mind, it was literally a battle of the best.

CH3: We talk about it all the time in golf, what we always want is the two best players in the world going toe to toe. We had that yesterday and I hope as time goes by we can look at this final round as a battle we will be talking about for a long time. Best players in the world on a tough but fair golf course with the ultimate prize on the line. In situations like this when there is this kind of pressure and these stakes you can look at the leaderboard and see the cream rising to the top. Rory, DJ, Jordan all with good rounds on a really tough day.

JW: You met Brooks in 2013, he showed up in his mom’s beat up Explorer and don’t know him at all. What was your first impression?

CH3: I was introduced to him by Pete Uihlein, his old roommate, and at first glance, he had raw talent and a ton of speed, but no plan. At the time he was hitting a draw and was uncomfortable with that. He told me his current coach wanted him to hit draws, and I said well that’s your fault, not your coach’s. It’s the player’s responsibility to manage himself and the information he’s comfortable with. When we worked on him getting into a fade, he started to click and he turned to me and said “it can’t be this easy.” My reply was “it has to be this easy!” At that level, under the gun, it better be easy. [Golf is] tough enough already.

JW: What were his career goals early on?

CH3: Even then, he wanted to be an elite player who won multiple majors. I was coaching Ernie Els at the time who had just won his fourth major and Brooks was on the Challenge Tour. He was committed to getting there but needed guidance, someone with a plan that wasn’t just his golf swing. Obviously, it worked out.

JW: What would you say is the Harmon secret to getting the best players in the world to peak as often as you guys do?

CH3: My dad told me: “What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.” At the Masters this year Brooks, in practice, was really struggling. Look, it’s Masters week and I’m not going to go in there and start putting thoughts in his head. At that point, if this is a shuttle launch, we are in the cockpit and there is no turning back. My dad always had his guys have a go-to shot that they “knew” they could hit. Brooks calls it his “fairway finder” which is a squeeze off fade with a driver. I told him to hit a couple of those knowing it might spur some confidence. After a few absolutely flushed missiles, his confidence went up and he turned to me and said…”fairway finder all day.” The rest is history.

JW: You coach DJ, Brooks, Jimmy Walker and Rickie. Describe each in one word

JW: DJ
CH3: Natural

JW: Brooks
CH3: Tough MF

JW: Rickie
CH3: Genuine

JW: Jimmy
CH3: Soulful

JW: Thanks old friend
CH3: Talk soon, thanks man.

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Podcasts

On Spec: Swing weight is overrated

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A deep dive into one of the most talked about but truly misunderstood aspects of club building: swing weight. What it really means, and why it isn’t the end all be all for a set of clubs.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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