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.

Tiger Woods behind favorites for 2018 U.S. Open

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Tiger Woods is a step back of the betting favorites for the 2018 U.S. Open at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. as the world’s top golfers get set to compete in the second major of the season this week at Shinnecock Hills.

Woods sits at +1600 on the odds to win the US Open this week, tied with Jason Day, Justin Rose, and Rickie Fowler on the board and behind the top four betting favorites on the list. The 42-year-old, however, only has two Top-10 results in his nine PGA Tour events so far on the season.

And those two finishes came back in March, at the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since then Woods has finished 32nd at the Masters, 55th at the Wells Fargo Championship, 11th at THE PLAYERS Championship, and 23rd at the Memorial Tournament.

Woods is a three-time US Open winner, taking the tournament in each of 2000, 2002, and 2008. Since 2008 he’s only played in the event five times, finishing sixth in 2009 and fourth in 2010, but 21st in 2012 and 32nd in 2013, and missing the cut in 2015. And since the end of the 2015 season Woods has only played in one major tournament, this year’s Masters.

Still, Woods only trails those four favorites on the golf betting lines at the sportsbooks, with Dustin Johnson the tournament chalk at +900, Rory McIlroy second on the board at +1100, and Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth rounding out the quartet at odds of +1400.

Johnson, Spieth, and McIlroy are all former US Open champions, with McIlroy winning in 2011 at Congressional, Spieth winning in 2015 at Chambers Bay, and Johnson winning in 2016 at Oakmont. For betting favorite Johnson that was his first and so far only major tournament win on the PGA Tour, but he’s coming off a victory in the FedEx St. Jude Classic over the weekend.

And Johnson is also atop the updated World Golf Ranking, having jumped over Thomas for the lead on that list with his win over the weekend. Rose sits third in the current rankings, with Spieth fourth, Jon Rahm fifth, and McIlroy sixth.

Rahm is set at +2000 on the odds to win the 2018 US Open for this week, behind defending tournament champion Brooks Koepka (+1800) and ahead of Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama – who are both pegged at +2800 odds. Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed, and Sergio Garcia hold down betting lines of +3300 for this week.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Four golfers headline 2018 THE PLAYERS odds

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THE PLAYERS Championship features one of the top fields of the year on the PGA Tour, and sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com have a logjam at the top of the board for the event which gets underway on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth are pegged as +1400 co-favorites on the odds to win THE PLAYERS Championship at the sportsbooks, with Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler just a step back of that quartet at +1800 odds.

Of those golfers, both Day and Fowler are past champions at the event, with Day taking the tournament by four strokes in 2016 and Fowler picking up a victory in a playoff against Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner at the event in 2015.

Last year’s winner at THE PLAYERS, meanwhile, is pegged as a longshot to claim the tournament title once again this weekend. South Korea’s Si Woo Kim topped Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter by three strokes at the event last year, becoming the youngest ever winner of the tournament. The 22-year-old is back with the longer shots at +7500 odds for this week.

Oosthuizen is also down the golf odds list at +7500 for this year’s edition of THE PLAYERS, with Poulter set at +6600. Rafa Cabrera Bello and Kyle Stanley tied for fourth place the tournament last year, finishing four strokes back of the leader; they’re both longshots at +10000 odds this week.

Martin Kaymer, the 2014 champion, is at +20000 odds this week, with Tiger Woods, who won this tournament for the second time in 2013, sitting in the second tier of contenders on the odds at +3300. Woods also won this event back in 2001, and hasn’t played in this tournament the past two years.

Joining Woods at +3300 on THE PLAYERS Championship odds is Phil Mickelson, who won this event in 2007. Mickelson finished well back in the pack in a tie for 41st place at this tournament last year, 13 strokes behind the leader, but is a strong third in the FedExCup standings so far on the season.

Matt Kuchar, the 2012 champion, sits at +6600 odds for this week, while 2009 winner Henrik Stenson, riding a strong three-tournament run, is listed at +2800. Jon Rahm (+2200), Justin Rose (+3000), and Paul Casey (+3300) round out the top of THE PLAYERS betting lines.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.