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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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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Memorial Tournament betting preview: Collin Morikawa to reign supreme at Jack’s place

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The PGA Tour heads to Jack’s place to play the 2024 edition of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. The Memorial is regarded as one of the most prestigious non-majors of the PGA Tour season, and for the second consecutive year the tournament will be a “Signature Event”.

Muirfield Village Golf Club is a 7,571-yard par-72 located in Dublin, Ohio that features Bentgrass greens. A Jack Nicklaus design, the course was built in 1974 and redesigned by Nicklaus in 2020. The course can play extremely difficult due to its long rough and lightning-fast greens.

The Memorial Tournament will play host to 80 golfers this week, which is down from 120 last year. The top 50 and ties will make the cut. Being a designated event, the field is predictably stacked and will feature most of the biggest stars on Tour. All eligible players have committed to the event in addition to sponsor’s exemptions Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel. 

Past Winners at the Memorial Tournament

  • 2023: Viktor Hovland (-7)
  • 2022: Billy Horschel (-13)
  • 2021: Patrick Cantlay (-13)
  • 2020: Jon Rahm (-9)
  • 2019: Patrick Cantlay (-19)
  • 2018: Bryson DeChambeau (-15)
  • 2017: Jason Dufner (-13)
  • 2016: William McGirt (-15)

Key Stats for Muirfield Village

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Muirfield Village to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Jack Nicklaus designs all have one thing in common: They reward the best iron players on Tour. When designing Muirfield Village, Jack created a second-shot golf course that strongly benefited golfers who could really dial in their approach shots. With that in mind, does it surprise anyone that Tiger Woods won this event five times?

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.37)
  2. Corey Conners (+1.14)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.14)
  4. Sepp Straka (+0.88)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+0.88)

2. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking does include approach, but if there is any week to overemphasize Strokes Gained: Approach, this is the week. The statistic also incorporates Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, which will be important considering the rough at Muirfield Village can be exceedingly penal.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1.88)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+1.60)
  4. Ludvig Aberg (+1.56)
  5. Corey Conners (+1.42)

3. Good Drive %

Driving the ball well will be an important factor. Bombing it off the tee is not a requirement at Muirfield Village, but distance always helps. The rough can get very long, and golfers who can’t put the ball in the fairway will fall out of contention quickly. Balanced and consistent drivers of the golf ball should be the targets this week.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Collin Morikawa (+88.1%)
  2. Tom Hoge (86.1%)
  3. Sepp Straka (+85.9%)
  4. Scottie Scheffler (+85.8%)
  5. Alex Noren (+85.8%)

4. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass – Fast)

The Bentgrass greens at Muirfield are lightning quick. Whoever can master these difficult putting surfaces has a major advantage at Jack’s place.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass+Fast) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Justin Rose (+1.43)
  2. Thomas Detry (+0.88)
  3. Sahith Theegala (+0.77)
  4. Harris English (+0.74)
  5. Denny McCarthy (+0.73)

5. Strokes Gained: Nicklaus Designs

We often see similar leaderboards when events are hosted by Jack Nicklaus designed courses. The model this week will look to incorporate those golfers.

Strokes Gained: Nicklaus Designs (per round, min. 4 rounds) Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.49)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.32)
  3. Collin Morikawa (+1.99)
  4. Shane Lowry (+1.74)
  5. Austin Eckroat (+1.67)

6. Course History

We often see similar leaderboards when events are hosted by Jack Nicklaus designed courses. The model this week will look to incorporate those golfers.

Course History (Strokes Gained: Total (per round, min. 4 rounds) Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.75)
  2. Patrick Cantlay (+2.54)
  3. Justin Rose (+2.17)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.77)
  5. Jordan Spieth (+1.66)

The Memorial Tournament Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: BS (18%), Good Drive % (16%), SG: Putting Bentgrass – Fast (13%), Course History (13%) and SG: Total Nicklaus Designs (13%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Shane Lowry
  4. Alex Noren
  5. Sahith Theegala
  6. Collin Morikawa
  7. Rory McIlroy
  8. Tony Finau
  9. Keegan Bradley
  10. Sepp Straka
  11. Corey Conners
  12. Viktor Hovland
  13. Russell Henley
  14. Si Woo Kim
  15. Justin Thomas

2024 Memorial Tournament Picks

Collin Morikawa +1800 (Fanatics)

Collin Morikawa has consistently shown up in the biggest events over the past few months. He finished in a tie for 3rd at The Masters, 9th at the RBC Heritage, a tie for 16th at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 4th at the PGA Championship. He also finished 4th in his most recent start at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Iron play is always a strong indication of where Morikawa’s game is trending, and his Strokes Gained: Approach numbers have seen a recent uptick. The two-time major champion has gained an average of 4.0 strokes on approach over his last two starts, which despite not being as good as his peak approach numbers, are a major improvement over the past year or so.

Morikawa has played some great golf at Muirfield Village throughout his career. He won the Workday Charity Open in 2020 and lost in a playoff at The Memorial Tournament in 2021. His two most recent starts at the course have ended in a withdraw and a missed cut, but his current form is much better than it was over the past few seasons coming into the event.

In addition to the strong iron play, the ability to keep the ball in the fairway will be a major advantage for a Memorial Tournament that I anticipate will play relatively difficult. Morikawa has gained strokes off the tee in eight consecutive starts, including 3.8 strokes at the PGA Championship and 4.0 strokes at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

The American has been fantastic at Nicklaus Courses since he burst onto the scene on the PGA Tour, and that was once again on full display at Valhalla last month. In his last 36 rounds, Collin ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus designs. He also ranked 1st in the field in Good Drive %, which will be a key this week.

It’s been a while since the 27-year-old has won a big event on Tour, but that could very well change this week at Jack’s place.

Justin Thomas +2500 (BetMGM)

Justin Thomas is winless in last 43 professional starts, dating back to the 2022 PGA Championship. For a player with 17 professional wins and in the prime of his career, that’s a long time.

Other than being “due”, Thomas has shown signs that is just about all the way back from his two-year slump. He has four top-ten finishes this season, with three of those being at a “signature” event or a major. Most recently, he’s finished in a tie for 5th at the RBC Heritage, a tie for 21st at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 8th at the PGA Championship.

JT has loved Nicklaus designs throughout his career. He finished 2nd at the 2020 Workday at Muirfield Village, losing in a playoff to Collin Morikawa. In his last 30 rounds at the course, he ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Total.

In addition to the obvious course fit, Thomas’ ball striking numbers have come to life of late. He gained 4.1 strokes on approach at the PGA Championship to go along with 4.6 strokes off the tee. Valhalla another Jack Nicklaus design so it’s encouraging to see that’s where he had arguably his best ball striking week of the season. The key for Thomas will be keeping the ball on the fairways this week and he’s improved his SG: OTT performance in four consecutive starts.

Thomas is finally in form and ready to get back in the winner’s circle at Muirfield Village.

Byeong Hun An +5000 (DraftKings)

Byeong Hun An is playing the best golf of his career. This season, the 32-year-old has finished T16 at the Genesis Invitational, T16 at The Masters, T8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 3rd at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The South Korean’s ball striking has been fantastic this year. He’s gained strokes both off the tee and on approach in six consecutive events. An will now head back to a course where he’s had plenty of success. Back in 2018, he lost in a playoff to a surging superstar named Bryson DeChambeau. Ben has five top-25 finishes in eight starts at the course. The few times he missed the cut were in 2020 and 2021 when he was really struggling with his game.

An has had some close calls of late and I believe we need to stick with him for one more week.

Corey Conners +6000 (DraftKings)

Corey Conners is absolutely striping the ball right now. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 5th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 22nd in Good Drive %.

At last week’s Canadian Open, Conners ranked 4th for the week in approach and finished in 6th place. In his previous two starts, Conners ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach at the Wells Fargo Championship and 4th at the PGA Championship. There are very few players on the planet that are currently hotter with their irons than Corey Conners.

Conners has a solid history at Muirfield Village with mixed results. His best finish came in 2022, when he finished T13 and also finished T22 back in 2020. While putting is typically Conners’ greatest weakness, he’s gained strokes on the greens in three of his six starts at the course and ranks 30th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bentgrass, so there’s hope that the 32-year-old can putt to field average this week.

Conners’ ability to hit fairways and dial in his mid-irons can propel him to the top of the leaderboard this week at a course that favors ball strikers.

Will Zalatoris +8000 (DraftKings)

I’m not entirely sure if Will Zalatoris is fully healthy based on his recent struggles, but there are enough positive signs for a player of his talent at this number.

Zalatoris made a Friday charge in his most recent start at the PGA Championship, which enabled him to sneak through the cut line. For the week, he gained 3.56 strokes on approach and has gained on approach in nine of his past ten starts.

Although he’s struggled at times, Zalatoris still has some strong finishes in big events this year. He finished in a tie for 9th at the Masters, a tie for 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie foe 2nd at the Genesis Invitational.

If Zalatoris is feeling fit, Muirfield Village is a perfect course to showcase his strengths. He’s one of the best iron players in the world and already has a 5th place finish in his most recent start at the course (2022).

This is a buy low opportunity on a world class player that has win equity.

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Opinion & Analysis

Saso says so! Yuka Saso survives for second U.S. Open title

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One of my favorite golf writers was the late Ron Balicki, and not just for the shared first name. Balicki was called, and enjoyed, the nickname “Wrong Ron,” because whoever he chose to win, was guaranteed to do not that. I might have inherited the moniker, sadly, and if you read yesterday’s update, this week goes miles to secure that designation. Four amateurs made the cut, and three of them tied for low amateur at 12-over par. I picked the one that did not make that number. Hilarious, no? As for the tournament proper, the new “Wrong Ron” guessed the correct country, but the wrong golfer. I went with Hinako Shibuno, and it was the other pride of Japan, Yuka Saso, who stole the show. Alas!

For a healthy portion of the day, odds were in the favor of a player earning a second Open title. Important note:  her name was not Yuka Saso. As golfers around her crumbled, Minjee Lee held steady at +1 on the day, and -4 on the week. Arpichya Yubol from Thailand had made the big move of the day. She reached -3 on the day an -1 for the week, before two late bogies dropped her to solo fifth position, a remarkable achievement. The round of the day came from Ally Ewing, who posted four birdies against zero bogeys for 66 and a tie for third spot.

As for Minjee, the round’s thread began to unravel at the 9th. A missed fairway led to bogey, and she followed with a three-putt for another at the tenth hole. Double bogeys at 12 and 14 took her out of the running for the title, and opened the chase to a new segment of the field. Hinako Shibuno would ultimately finish in solo second, one of two golfers to finish under par on the week. Shibuno was never a threat for the title, but when others lost their momentum, she found herself positioned for a runner-up finish.

It was Yuka Saso who turned in the day’s memorable performance. Saso turned in even par on the day, preserving her position at one-under par. Andrea Lee (+5) and Wichanee Meechai (+7) fell away from their place atop the third-round chart, as did Minjee Lee. Suddenly, Saso had posted four birdies in five holes on the inward half. She finished at two under on the day, four under on the week, and earned a three-shot win over Shibuno.

In her post-0round comments, Saso revealed that she had doubts that she would win again, especially a major title. She discussed the addition of a new putter to her bag, and her extraordinary confidence in her driver. Finally, Saso revealed how important the first cut of rough was to the resolution of the tournament. That wee bit of playable grass made all the difference in her mind.

With the refreshing transparency that all writers desire, Yuka Saso won for a second time on Sunday. We’ll forgive her if she values the US Open silver a bit more.

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19th Hole

5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers

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*Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on GolfWRX in September 2023*

Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.

Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:

After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”

So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?

Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.

2022 KPMG PGA Championship

At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.

Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.

Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…

Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.

Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.

Donald Trump

@TheWhiteHouse

Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.

For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

2021 U.S. Women’s Open

In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.

She then lost the tournament.

Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:

“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “

Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.

2023 Solheim Cup

Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.

Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.

Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.

Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.

Instagram

‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’

There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.

I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).

Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi)

Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.

Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.

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