December 10, 2014 - 9:58am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
After consecutive victories on the world stage to close out 2014, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth has high expectations for 2015.

Over the last couple of decades, golf hasn’t been short on its share of prodigies. Expectations are through the roof for these players who impress on the biggest stage at a young age.

That flash in the pan moment typically leads to an ill-advised decision to turn pro before the player is really, truly ready.

Take for example Justin Rose. Sure, he’s one of the best players in the world now, but that wasn’t the case when he started out.

In 1998 at age 17, Rose qualified to play in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. The world fell in love with this baby-faced sensation that wowed us all throughout that week, but especially on the 72nd hole.

RELATED: 10 Players to watch in 2015 | Spieth's winning clubs

It was there that Rose dramatically holed out from the rough for a birdie to finish in a tie for fourth in the game’s oldest major.

The next day, he turned pro… and proceeded to miss the cut in his first 21 consecutive starts as a professional on his way to becoming the youngest “journeyman” in the game’s history.

As noted, Rose turned it around, eventually establishing himself as a top-5 player in the world and became a major champion in 2013 at the U.S. Open.

That’s not always the case for young talents.

Take Ty Tryon, for instance. Remember him? In 2001, at age 16 years, 9 months, 7 days, Tryon became – at the time – the youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event when he turned the trick at the Honda Classic (today, he’s the sixth youngest).

Inspired, or perhaps blinded, by his success at that tournament, Tryon went to the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School later that fall as a 17-year-old. He made it through all three grueling stages to become the youngest player in history to earn a PGA Tour card and signed a handsome endorsement deal with Callaway.

From there, well, things spiraled. All told, the once can’t-miss Tryon has teed it up in 32 PGA Tour events since 2001. In those events, he recorded one top-10 finish (a T10 in 2003 at Bay Hill) and missed the cut 24 times. He hasn’t played in a Tour event since 2011. He might be the oldest 30-year-old in golf.

All of that brings us to young Jordan Spieth.

WATCH: Spieth drains 45-foot birdie putt at Hero World Challenge

The 21-year-old Texan has had a bubble that reads “superstar” hanging over his head for some time now. He left the University of Texas midway through his sophomore year at the age of 19 to turn professional and attempt the monumental task of gaining PGA Tour status through performance on sponsor exemptions.

The way that works, basically, is Spieth was a high-profile amateur, which made him attractive to tournament sponsors. He was also a proven winner on the world stage at the amateur level. With victories in the 2009 and 2011 U.S. Junior Amateurs, Spieth joined Tiger Woods as the only other player to win that event multiple times.

Also, in 2010, at age 17, Spieth accepted an exemption to play in his hometown Tour event, the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Through 54 holes, the high school student was tied for seventh place in his first PGA Tour start. He wound up finishing a respectable T21, which really put his name on the map.

Naturally, PGA Tour sponsors want potential up and coming stars in their respective fields. It draws fan interest and – furthermore – there’s the hope that if this young player pans out, he won’t forget who gave him a chance down the road. As a non-member of the Tour – which Spieth was to start 2013 – a player can receive up to seven sponsor exemptions.

Spieth’s first start on the PGA Tour as a pro came in the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He missed the cut. In his next start a couple of weeks later he had a promising tie for 22nd at Pebble Beach.

A month later, in his third start, the floodgates opened. Spieth tied for second in the Puerto Rico Open. For players not otherwise exempt on the PGA Tour, a top-10 finish is rewarded with the option for the player to be added to the field the following week.

So, Spieth went to Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., and tied for seventh in the Tampa Bay Championship. It was a $148,893 payday in Tampa, pushing Spieth to $521,893 in earnings on the PGA Tour in 2013. He needed $101,295 to earn as much as the 150th finisher on the 2012 money list. By doing so, he became a Special Temporary Member, meaning unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the year. He would have been limited to those seven exemptions otherwise.

And, boy, did Spieth ever take advantage of his new status. He would record another seven top-10 finishes in 2013, including his first victory at the John Deere Classic, as well as runner-up finishes in the Wyndham Championship and the Tour Championship.

His win at the John Deere also provided a signature moment for Spieth. Remember this bunker shot that earned him a spot in the playoff on the 72nd hole?

He was the easy choice for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and was also selected as a Captain’s Pick by Fred Couples for that year’s Presidents Cup.

All things considered, it couldn’t have been a better start for Spieth.

Understandably, expectations were decidedly colossal for Spieth going into the 2013-14 PGA Tour season.

Some wondered though, were we in for a sophomore slump? Spieth proved quickly that unlike the young Justin Rose or Ty Tryon before him, this was no fluke. He was – and is – a special kind of player.

Spieth had four top-10 finishes in the new season… before the Masters, where he would tie for second. A month later, Spieth tied for fourth at the Players Championship.

With a tie for seventh in his title defense at the John Deere and a tie for eighth at the Barclays at the BMW Championship, Spieth – who secured an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team – ended the season with an impressive eight top-10 finishes.

But, the critics wanted to know: where are the victories? How come this guy isn’t closing out tournaments?

Fair criticism or not – come on, he’s only 21! – that’s the life a prodigy leads. Top 10s aren’t good enough. We want wins.

For Spieth, despite an impressive season, there were no wins. He was one of the few bright spots for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, compiling a 2-1-1 record in the team’s 16 ½-11 ½ defeat.

Established now as a world-class player, however, opportunity knocks all over the globe.

As it was, Spieth found himself in Australia at the end of November to play in the prestigious Australian Open.

In his first trip to Oz, Spieth romped to a six-shot victory over a field that included Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, was so impressed with Spieth’s final-round, 8-under 63 – the best round that day by a whopping four shots – it prompted this tweet:

 
To celebrate the win, Spieth boarded a plane and traveled nearly 9,500 miles to Orlando to play in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth – otherwise known as “Tiger’s Tournament.”

The Hero World Challenge field is a short one – just 18 players. However, it included 10 of the top-15 players in the world.

It would have been understandable if Spieth had a hangover from his Australia victory and the hop to another continent.

It wouldn’t have been acceptable for Spieth, though.

The young man who harsh critics have labeled “the great player who can’t close” looked to be playing a different, much easier course than the rest of the field.

Spieth put an exclamation point on a sensational sophomore season with a mind-blowing, tournament-record 10-stroke victory. His worst round of the week was a 5-under 67. It wasn’t simply a win. It was obliteration.

"The confidence from the last two weeks will help me going forward," Spieth said after the win. "Rory (McIlroy) is the guy I'm chasing. He has four majors, is just 24, and he's setting the bar. I did a good job of starting that chase the past two weeks. But a lot of hard work is still needed."

Spieth will now take a well-earned six-week break before we see him again. And, we can’t wait to see him again. Especially with his sights set on McIlroy and the majors.

It’s often noted by analysts that Spieth isn’t exceptional at anything in particular and the stats, surprisingly, support that: He was 90th in driving distance in 2014, 137th in driving accuracy, 150th in total driving and 122nd in greens in regulation.

However, there’s no stat or barometer for heart and desire to win.

If those were measured stats, the No. 9-ranked player in the world would be right near the top. 

The sky’s the limit for Jordan Spieth in 2015
December 10, 2014 - 8:49am
Michael.Benzie's picture
TJ Yates
@TJ_Yates/Instagram
TJ Yates poses with his hole in one ball on the 7tth green at Sugar Hill in Atlanta, Ga.

It's been well over a month since this happened (Oct. 28, 2014), but how about a shout out for Atlanta Falcons quarterback TJ Yates, who accomplished a rare golf feat during the team's bye week, according to this piece at the team's website.

SHARE YOUR HOLE IN ONE: Register and share hole in one on social media at PGA.com #PGAace

A hole in one on a par 4, or a 2 on a par 5, is obviously rare. Many sites quote the odds around 1 in 13,000 for a par-4 ace for an average golfer. Yates is 27, and told the Falcons reporter he has been playing since he was 20, so we'll assume he's an average golfer, even though many quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Tony Romo are known as very strong players.

 

 

My first ever hole in one! DOUBLE EAGLE! 341yd Par 4 No. 8 at Sugar Hill Golf Club

A photo posted by TJ Yates (@tj_yates) on

 

 

According to the story, Yates went to play Sugar Hill Golf Club with his wife Amy near the Falcons Flowery Branch HQ north of Atlanta during the bye week, prior to Atlanta's game at Tampa Bay. He said he teed up a 3-wood on the 291-yard 7th hole. (Note: Yates said in his Instagram post this was the eighth hole, but he may have been delirious in excitement. The Sugar Hill Hole In One club and scorecard has this as No. 7.)

READ: The best golf shots of 2014

The hole-in-one story might sound familiar to the few that have aced a par 4. Yates said he assumed his shot was on the green, but he lost track of the ball and later figured he lost the ball. But soon enough, he found his ball in the cup.

Here's what he told the Falcons website:

"I scared her because I screamed so loud. I was like, 'Holy crap!' I was looking in the hole and she said my face just went white. She thought something was dead in the hole, like an animal. I was so surprised the ball was in there. I went nuts. I was shaking. I wish I could have seen it go in. I couldn't even really see the green where I was. I could see part of it because it was so far away. You kinda wish you could be out there with some of your golf buddies or some of the guys you usually play with because my wife was like, 'Is that good?' I was like, 'Yeah, that's pretty good.' "

It could also be noted that the Falcons' fortunes have turned slightly as well since the bye week. They ended a five-game losing streak, climbed into the driver's seat for a division title and beat the team with the NFC's best record.

NFL QB's rare hole in one
December 9, 2014 - 7:59pm
john.holmes's picture
Ryder Cup
Getty Images
PGA of America President Derek Sprague said the first Ryder Cup Task Force meeting marked "the beginning of a process that is designed to create the conditions for long term Ryder Cup success."
The PGA of America's Ryder Cup Task Force conducted its first meeting on Tuesday. Afterward, PGA of America President and Task Force Co-Chairman Derek Sprague issued this statement:
 
"The Ryder Cup Task Force met today at PGA of America Headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. for more than four hours. It was a very productive meeting where all Task Force members were engaged in thoughtful dialogue. We discussed a wide array of issues including the selection process for Captains and Vice Captains and more. Today was the beginning of a process that is designed to create the conditions for long term Ryder Cup success. We have more work to do and look forward to gathering again to complete the work of the Task Force. Once we have significant news to report from these meetings, we will be happy to share that with you."
 
 
The PGA of America created the Task Force, comprised of past Captains, players and PGA of America leadership, in October. Co-chaired by Sprague and PGA Chief Executive Officer Pete Bevacqua, it will examine the entire Ryder Cup process, including the selection of future U.S. Captains and Vice Captains, and the points system by which players make the team.
 
In addition to Sprague and Bevacqua, the Task Force members are past Captains Raymond Floyd, Tom Lehman and Davis Love III; past team members Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods, and PGA Vice President Paul Levy.
 
The 41st Ryder Cup will be contested at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., in September 2016.
 
Ryder Cup Task Force holds first meeting
December 9, 2014 - 1:14pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rickie Fowler
YouTube
Rickie Fowler got creative at the Hero World Challenge on Sunday, using a putter from the sand. Check out the result.

In case you missed it over the weekend, Rickie Fowler did something a lot of us frustrated amateurs tend to do on occasion... he attempted to escape a deep bunker using a putter instead of a wedge.

RELATED: Greenside bunker shots made easy

Here's how it went down on the sixth hole at Isleworth in the final round of the Hero World Challenge:

OK, not the prettiest result if we're being honest. High marks for creativity, but we're guessing he'll go with a wedge of some kind the next time around. 

Fowler made a double bogey on the hole. However, he bounced back with three back-nine birdies to finish with a 4-under 68 and tied for sixth.

h/t to our friends at www.3UpGolf.com

 

Rickie Fowler uses putter from deep bunker
December 9, 2014 - 11:57am
mark.aumann's picture
Jordan Spieth
Getty Images
Jordan Spieth avoided the chipping disasters that befell many of his challengers at the Hero World Challenge.

Why is it so easy to chunk a chip shot from an uphill lie? We saw even the best golfers in the world struggle with that shot last weekend at the Hero World Challenge, so it's no surprise amateurs have a hard time pulling that shot off consistently.

SHORT GAME WOES: Tiger Woods had a tough time chipping at Isleworth

PGA Professional Rodd Slater, Head Golf Professional at Two Rivers Golf Club in Dakota Dunes, S.D., said it all has to do with how we typically balance ourselves on a slanted surface.

"Most people have a tendency to lean into the hill, so as you swing the club, the club will tend to dig into the grass," Slater said.

So what do you need to do when facing an uphill chip shot to an elevated green?

1. Move the ball forward in your stance
2. Move your weight towards your back foot
3. Use a less lofted club

Slater credits Manuel de la Torre -- the first recipient of the National PGA Teacher of the Year Award and a member of the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame -- with providing the tips that he currently uses.

SHORT GAME IMPROVEMENT: Find more tips and videos here

De la Torre instructs his students to do the opposite of what feels "normal" in this particular instance. Instead of trying to lean into the hill to steady yourself, shift your weight to the point where your center of gravity is perpendicular to the hill -- so in essence, try to make your stance level relative to the slope.

"First, on an uphill pitch shot or any shot where you're on an upslope, you need to move the ball forward in your stance and your weight towards your back foot, proportionate to the slope," Slater said. "That way, you're swinging with the terrain."

And use a club that has less loft, Slater said, because the ball will already come up with a higher trajectory.

"As you're leaning with the hill, you're adding loft to the club face," Slater said. "So the ball will come out very high. So if you normally use a sand wedge, you might want to use a 9-iron so that when the ball is struck, it goes forward instead of straight up in the air."

GET GOLF READY: Find a PGA Instructor near you

Remember, because the ball won't have as much roll as with a normal chip, you'll need to land it closer to the hole. So take that into consideration. And concentrate on making a smooth sweeping swing rather than a steep downward strike.

Do the opposite if you're on a downslope, Slater said. Move your weight forward and the ball back in your stance, and use a club with added loft to play the same type of shot.

Remember: On an upslope, the ball goes forward, weight goes back. 

 

 

Three tips to avoid chunking an uphill chip
December 9, 2014 - 10:44am
mark.aumann's picture
Bear cubs
Four bear cubs decided to play through at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in September.

From alligators to snakes, it seems like 2014 was a crazy year for animals creating havoc on golf courses. Here are a few memorable encounters, in alphabetical order:

ALLIGATORS

PGA Tour pro pushes alligator into water

At the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April, PGA Tour player John Peterson gave a very dangerous assist to playing partner James Driscoll, pushing an alligator into a pond so Driscoll could play his approach shot.

 

 

BABOONS

A real baboon spooks Luke Donald in South Africa

Wildlife is a cornerstone of South Africa. Luke Donald saw that firsthand earlier this month at the Nedbank Challenge, when a baboon ran down the fairway.

 

 

 

BALD EAGLES

Eagle steals man's golf ball from green

This is one of those rare times when an eagle on the golf course isn't a good thing.

 

 

 

BEARS

Bear cubs lack etiquette on the green

These bear cubs seemed to enjoy their time on the golf course, even though they held up play.

 

 

BOBCATS

The story behind the bobcat on the Florida golf course photo

The St. Lucie Trail Golf Club in Florida was visited by a Florida bobcat in November, seen here trotting across the 10th tee.

ELEPHANTS

What kind of tracks are these?

These footprints belong to Malaysian elephants who apparently wander over from the nearby tropical rainforest, near where Ernie Els is developing a 27-hole golf resort.

FROGS

Peter Uihlein survives frog attack

Everyone is afraid of something. For pro golfer Peter Uihlein, it's tiny frogs.

 

 

 

GEESE

Golfer attacked by angry goose

This poor golfer was minding his own business when, out of nowhere, he was attacked by a goose.

 

 

HORNETS

Pablo Larrazabal attacked by hornets, jumps into lake

Pablo Larrazabal was attacked by hornets and stung more than 20 times at the Maybank Malaysian Open in April before he effected a watery escape.

KANGAROOS

Caution: Kangaroo crossing

This is a reader-submitted photo from Growling Frog Golf Course in Yan Yean, Australia, on the north side of Melbourne. And yes, those are kangaroos.

 

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Only in Australia... Growling Frog GC. #teamtitleist #mytitileist

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SNAKES

Unusual course hazard at China Open

Indiana Jones would not be amused by this sign spotted at the European Tour stop in April.

 

Oh, the animals we saw in 2014