Jordan Spieth silences his doubters at The Open – including himself

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SOUTHPORT, England – It wasn’t Jean van de Velde standing in the burn at Carnoustie, but it was no less outrageous – Jordan Spieth perched atop a dune glaring into a cold rain.

This is where major championships go to die.

Although Spieth was trying as best he could to see a line to the 13th green, and minimize the damage of a drive that ended up closer to the practice tee than it did the fairway, he may as well have been watching the claret jug slipping away into the gloom.

Van de Velde went on to lose that 2006 Open in spectacular fashion, whereas Spieth’s finish was even more remarkable and completed a wire-to-wire victory that was far more eventful than anyone could have imagined just 24 hours earlier.

“Give me a round number,” Spieth shouted to his caddie Michael Greller from atop the hill adjacent to the 13th fairway. Two holes later, he was once again barking at his trusty bagman, “Go get that,” he defiantly yelled after his 70-footer for eagle trundled into the hole, the emotional extremes telling you everything you needed to know about the 146th Open.

History will recount that it was that eagle, or maybe the birdie putt at the 16th hole or the tee shot that never left the flag at No. 14 for a bounce-back birdie, that won Spieth his third major; but that ignores the unsightly significance of his bogey on the 13th hole.

In his prime, Stewart Cink once described Tiger Woods’ Sunday style with a lead as a prevent defense, a give-them-nothing-but-take-everything sort of deal.

Outwardly, Spieth may not have the same 1,000-yard stare, but the internal burn to chip away at the competition is no less intense. It was the plan when he began the final day at Royal Birkdale – kill ’em with pars.

But this wasn’t like that, at all. This was more heavy lifting than a heavyweight bout, with a gritty texture befitting this Liverpool suburb.

That fairways-and-greens blueprint didn’t survive the first hole, which Spieth bogeyed. He chopped up the third and the fourth to drop into a tie for the lead with Matt Kuchar, and when he added another at the ninth – he’d penciled in just four bogeys total through his first 54 holes – the free-fall was in full flight.

Things move at 100 rpms on a Sunday with a major title onthe  line, and when Spieth’s drive sailed some 100 yards right of the short stuff at No. 13 the wheels were visibly spinning.

Over the course of 20 surreal minutes Spieth consulted with one rules official, then another. He herded the massive crowds this way and that, and paced around like a madman before finally coaxing a 3-iron short of the green and getting up and down for an all-world bogey.

“From there he did what he’s always done, he just grinds,” Greller said.

This wasn’t the 2016 Masters, when he squandered a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play, or even the ’15 Open when he finished a shot outside a playoff following a bogey at the 71st hole. This was much-needed proof, to himself if not the entire world, that he could be the closer he’s always aspired to be.

Spieth joked that he would have gladly traded his lively day for a more mundane, 17 pars and a birdie 69, but then that wouldn’t have had the same significance. Spieth needed this victory, warts and all.

Always an active mind, the doubts arrived early on Sunday for Spieth. He’d just blown a three-stroke lead before the turn and the internal dialogue was hard and harsh.

“I thought before the round, I thought I have a reputation as being able to close, but I was hesitant in saying ‘majors,’ to myself,” Spieth conceded. “During the round today I definitely thought any kind of fear or advantage that you can have in this moment over other individuals, not just Matt Kuchar today, but other people that are watching – that’s being taken away by the way that I’m playing right now.”

Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, now has the chance to become the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam at next month’s PGA Championship, the kind of lofty accomplishment that’s not lost on one of the game’s most astute students. But on Sunday as the rain pelted Royal Birkdale and his gaze drifted toward the claret jug, that wasn’t the history he was interested in.

He’d said on numerous occasions that he’d moved on since that ’16 collapse at Augusta National, but players say a lot of things. It’s a competitive firewall to keep talents like Spieth from venturing too far down the rabbit hole.

With apologies to the sports psychologists of the world, there’s no room in golf for self-examination when your next round could just as easily be a breakthrough or breakdown, depending on the outcome.

But then Spieth isn’t your normal champion and as things started to unravel early on Day 4 the déjà vu must have been deafening.

“He’s heard a lot since that ’16 Masters and I’m sure somewhere in there some doubts crept in, but he just said I know how to do this,” Greller said.

Most players wouldn’t admit to such doubts, but then Spieth isn’t most players. On Sunday, he conceded he was uncomfortable to start the round and only slightly less uncomfortable after scrambling for bogey at the 13th hole. More so than the elements or a demanding links, it was those emotions and how he dealt with them that was so rewarding. It may have been Kuchar who he beat by three strokes, but it was the scorecard against an assortment of doubts and demons that will resonate long after he leaves England.

“Closing today was extremely important for the way I look at myself,” Spieth said.

On a wild day along the Irish Sea, Spieth proved to everyone, including himself, that he’s a fighter, a closer, a champion.

Presidents Cup singles recaps: U.S. clinches 12th win in 14 tries

2022 Presidents Cup - Day Four
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Trevor Immelman’s International team began the week at Quail Hollow Club outmanned and as massive underdogs before digging themselves a big hole. But for a moment on Sunday, it looked as if the visitors would dig themselves out of it.

That was until the Americans shut the door, winning the Presidents Cup for the 12th time in 14 events.

After winning Saturday afternoon’s fourball session, the Internationals entered Sunday trailing by four points and needing to win at least 8 1/2 of a possible 12 points in singles to pull off the upset. They gave it their all, too, at one point pushing the projected final score to just 16-14.

But Tony Finau flipped an important match versus Taylor Pendrith and Xander Schauffele hung on after letting Corey Conners tie their match after being 3 down on the back nine. Add in some match-tying going on toward the bottom of the tee sheet and that was enough to kill any momentum the Internationals had.

Schauffele then secured the clinching point with a 1-up win over Conners.

Here is a match-by-match recap of Sunday’s singles matches (as they finish) in Charlotte, North Carolina:

Match 19: Si Woo Kim (INT) def. Justin Thomas (U.S.), 1 up

This one was chippy. Thomas led for much of the way, turning in 2 up. But Kim birdied Nos. 10 and 11 from 20 and 11 feet, respectively, to tie the match. A couple holes later, with Thomas back to 1 up, Kim made Thomas putt from inside of 3 feet to tie No. 13, and the decision clearly miffed Thomas, who rolled in the par. Kim won the next hole with par and then shushed the crowd after matching Thomas’ par make at No. 15. Kim and Thomas traded holes at Nos. 16 and 17, the latter won by Thomas after he stuck his approach to 3 feet. It looked as if the two would play to a half-point, but Kim birdied the par-4 18th hole from 10 feet while Thomas missed from 9 feet to drop to 17-5-3 in Cup matches. Kim earned his third point of the week.


Match 20: Jordan Spieth (U.S.) def. Cam Davis (INT), 4 and 3

Early on, it appeared as if Spieth’s Cup singles struggles would continue as Spieth, 0-6-1 in the format between the Presidents and Ryder cups, fell 2 down after two holes. But Spieth holed 20-plus-foot birdie putts on Nos. 4 and 5 (from the fringe) to tie the match. He added a 27-foot par make at the par-5 seventh to remain even with the rookie Aussie, who bogeyed the ninth after retaking the lead with par at No. 8. That allowed Spieth to take momentum to the back nine, where he birdies Nos. 11-13 to win those holes and take a commanding lead that he wouldn’t surrender. His win capped a 5-0 week as Spieth became just the sixth player in event history to accomplish the feat and the first American since Jim Furyk in 2011. “I was more nervous than I probably should’ve been today,” Spieth said, “but I really wanted to get that monkey off my back.”


Match 21: Sam Burns (U.S.) tied Hideki Matsuyama (INT)

Burns capped his debut Cup with an 0-3-2 performance, but he played much better than that record indicates. He was 2 down on the front nine to Matsuyama before birdieing Nos. 10-12 to take his first lead of the match. The birdie on No. 10 came from nearly 50 feet. Burns gave the lead away at the par-4 15th hole as Matsuyama won it with bogey, but the American managed to sneak away with an important half-point after Matsuyama’s birdie chip at the par-4 finishing hole hit the flagstick and stayed out.


Match 22: Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) def. Adam Scott (INT), 3 and 2

Cantlay jumped on the veteran Aussie by making two birdie bombs at Nos. 2 and 3 (from 20 and 27 feet, respectively). Scott bogeyed the par-3 fourth to go 3 down and couldn’t claw back to better than 2 down as he won just two holes all match. Cantlay sealed the win – and a three-point week personally – after Scott lipped out a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th hole and Cantlay rolled in a short par putt.


Match 23: Sebastian Munoz (INT) def. Scottie Scheffler (U.S.), 2 and 1

Scheffler played the first seven holes like a man on a mission to secure his first full point of the event. He carded two birdies and led 2 up at that point. But Munoz won Nos. 8-10 to flip the match. Both played traded 60-foot eagle bombs at No. 11, and Munoz kept Scheffler at arm’s length, birdieing three of his next six holes while winning No. 15 and 17 to send the world No. 1 home at 0-3-1.


Match 24: Tony Finau (U.S.) def. Taylor Pendrith (INT), 3 and 1

Each player led 2 up at one point in a back-and-forth fight. Finau won the first two holes before Pendrith got them right back and then some, winning four of the next five holes – three with birdies – to take a 2-up lead of his own. But Finau didn’t give up. He birdies Nos. 11-13 to retake the lead and made some crucial putts – 13-foot and 15-foot birdie makes at Nos. 16-17, respectively – to put Pendrith away.


Match 25: Xander Schauffele (U.S.) def. Corey Conners (INT), 1 up

Schauffele did everything he could to give a point to the struggling Conners, but the Canadian ultimately couldn’t take advantage. He went 0-3 in team play and then carded five bogeys and double against Schauffele. The American led 3 up after winning No. 10 with par, but then lost Nos. 12-14 by playing that stretch in 2 over. He appeared to be on his way to losing No. 15, too, after driving his ball into the water. But he hit an incredible third shot from 220 yards out and an awkward lie to 11 feet and made par to win the hole. Conners squandered a big chance at the par-4 17th hole, missing a 5-foot par putt that would’ve won the hole. By tying the hole, Schauffele guaranteed himself at least a half-point, which would get the Americans to 15 points – enough to retain the Cup. Schauffele tied the last to win 1 up and get the clinching full point.

Rory McIlroy overcomes six-stroke deficit, claims FedExCup title and $18 million

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Rory McIlroy claimed his third FedExCup title by capturing the Tour Championship on Sunday. McIlroy overcame a six-stroke final-round deficit to Scottie Scheffler to claim the $18-million bonus.

Scheffler began the final stanza with a heavy advantage, thanks to a fantastic finish to the third round Sunday morning.

After play was suspended Saturday evening because of an inclement weather threat, the field returned to East Lake at 9:45 a.m. to wrap Round 3. Scheffler and Xander Schauffele, in the final group and separated by one shot, were in the 13th fairway when play resumed. Scheffler played his final six holes in 4 under to reach 23 under par. Schauffele played them in 1 over to drop to 17 under.

McIlroy wrapped up a third-round 63 to also reach 17 under and grab a spot in the final-round final twosome.

Both he and Scheffler bogeyed the first hole, but while Scheffler continued to slip, McIlroy steadily rose. The Northern Irishman made four birdies over the remainder of his opening nine to turn in 3-under 32. Scheffler, meanwhile, posted a 37. The difference was one.

Following a McIlroy birdie at the 12th, they were knotted.

Im was also in contention through much of the final round. He got within a shot of the lead before a double bogey at the par-4 14th.  Im made a couple of late birdies to again climb within one of the lead, but he was unable to birdie the par-5 18th, settling for a 66 and a 20-under finish.

Im, ultimately, was chasing McIlroy. After McIlroy bogeyed the 14th to drop one back of Scheffler, he rolled in a 31-foot birdie at the par-3 15th to draw even at 21 under. McIlroy then scrambled for par at the 16th, while Scheffler made bogey.

With two holes to play, McIlroy led by one.

Scheffler had a chance to regain a share of the lead at the par-4 17th, but after sticking his approach shot to 12 feet, he badly shoved the birdie effort and made par. With one hole to play – and an $11.5 million difference between first and second place – McIlroy maintained the slight edge.

Both players hit the fairway at the 18th, Scheffler driving it 334 yards and McIlroy 342. Hitting first, Scheffler found a bunker short and right of the green. McIlroy followed by hooking his second from 228 yards off the left grandstands.

Again playing first, Scheffler blasted his bunker shot over the green. McIlroy was able to get relief from the grandstand and chipped to 20 feet. After Scheffler was unable to chip in for birdie, McIlroy just needed to two-putt for par to secure victory. He did that easily. Scheffler settled for par and a T-2 alongside Im.