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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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Here you’ll find the second installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here.

He could never explain his given name. Why would a German family name their son “cirE”? Some mistook it for Sire and thought him presumptuous. As a lad, with fingers crossed, he hoped that other kids hadn’t the intellectual gumption to search a Gaelic dictionary, where they would find the translation of … wax.

Why do mothers name their children such odd names, and why don’t fathers object? Flip’s father had made a career of objecting to every sincere and frivolous pursuit the boy had undertaken. Why not object to cirE? Flip stared into the morning sun, preferring the more-than-momentary blindness, and surmised that the old man knew that it was a battle he couldn’t win. Carry this bowling ball around for nine months, pulling on organs, muscles, and bones, and don’t let me pick his name? uh-UH. Stored it all up and took it out on the kid.

Considering the brief nature of February, cirE “Flip” Hedgebow feared that planning was overrated, and that much was beyond his control. He had transitioned many times before, from south to north and from north to south. After a few years, he gave little thought to each move. Yet, despite experience and wisdom, he felt possessed by neither. Flip was not wrong; the turbulence roiled beneath the surface of his calm demeanor. Work a pro shop long enough, and you learn to pass emotional tsunami off as a wink and a nod.  If you can’t, you don’t last.

February was an odd month in the Sunshine state. The amateur snowbirds had departed, and the fairly-experienced ones began to arrive. Difference? Amateurs arrive for the first month of the new year, bask in the warmth, then head home for two or three more months of cold, and get sick. The fairly-experienced brood (usually 4-5 years into retirement or freedom) had figured this out, through pain and suffering. They made their reservations one month later, stunned that time was available for them. There was a reason for that, but Flip wouldn’t consider it for a pair more of fortnights. What the departure of the amateurs meant, was lower revenues, across the board.

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