Welcome back to Monday’s finish, where we’re not saying anything bad about Jordan Spieth’s pre-shot routine, at least until Easter. Let us begin!
FIRST FROM THE TEE
Something you may have overlooked.
Scottie Scheffler got his new green coat more than a week ago, but stories are still trickling in from all corners of this year’s Masters. This includes a fascinating appearance Jack Nicklaus on SiriusXM PGA Tour radios in the ropes last week where he spoke about the Champions Dinner and what he’s learned sitting next door Tiger Woods — although he admitted none of us can understand what Wood’s experience was like after the accident.
“I can’t possibly tell you what he’s been through in the last 14 months. I think only Tiger can do that,” said Nicklaus. “I’m sure what he went through was very difficult. Tiger is a very ambitious young man with a great work ethic and he has a great desire to do his best. This is tiger. It was always tiger.”
The best there is Nicklaus, who refers to Woods as a “young man”. The tiger discourse these days is so focused on the effects of age, life and time – on his health and how he walks – that’s a more encouraging framing. After all, he is only 46 years old! Nicklaus, who sits next to Woods at the Champions Dinner each year, also shed some light on Woods’ decision-making process ahead of this year’s tournament.
“He’s like, ‘You know, I know I’m going to hurt. The doctors told me I would hurt myself. I accept that,” he said. “‘What am I going to do next year? and [the doctor] says, ‘You’re still gonna hurt.’
“He said, ‘Well why on earth should I wait a year to play when I know I’m going to hurt both years? Why don’t I just go back and start playing and just suck it up?
“That’s basically what he did. I found his performance quite good. I mean I think he wore out on Saturday and Sunday but I think it was great to have him back in the game.
In other words, Woods knew he was going to get hurt. He hurt. And he knows next time, whether it’s at the PGA Championship, the US Open or the JP McManus Pro-Am, he’ll likely be injured too. He seems mentally ready to deal with the consequences.
Who won the week?
Jordan Spieth won for the second time in a row on Easter Sunday. His RBC Heritage win came with a tartan jacket and $1.44 million. Spieth’s win crept up on us in a number of ways: For one, he missed the cut at last week’s Masters and appeared to play his way in and out of contention a half-dozen times over the weekend. But on Sunday he shagged 18 and then watched his competitors collapse one by one until he was the only man left.
Hyo Joo Kim of South Korea won the LPGA Tour LOTTE Championship by two shots Hinako Shibuno. The win was her fifth on the tour and made her No. 6 in the world. Kim bogeyed No. 17 to reduce her lead to just a single shot – but then slammed the door with a decent back and forth for birdie at No. 18.
“I’m proud of this shot,” she said of her winning goal. “Maybe I got a lot of people to sit on the edge of their chairs, so I felt great about it.”
Still worth mentioning.
It’s hard to remember a week when so many pros walked out of a PGA Tour event feeling like they should have won. Some even have reasonable cases! At least seven golfers finished a shot from the playoffs. Let’s hum through them.
Patrick Cantley made it to the tie against Spieth, but with his opponent in the bunker, he went for the kill, misjudging the wind and getting stuck near the lip of the same front bunker. It was an unfortunate miss that soured the end of another impressive week for the world No. 4, who has now finished fourth or better in six of his last 11 starts.
Harold Varner III can still be furious over a strange situation that transpired on Friday involving a neighbor in slippers and an out-of-bounds line. The miss ended up costing him two shots, which felt particularly meaningful as he finished Sunday 12-under par while Spieth was on 13.
Shane Lowry was in the solo lead, battling left and right after pars before his chip shot on the par-3 14th rolled past the hole and into the water behind, resulting in a double bogey. He had an eight-foot birdie attempt at No. 17 but missed that too, penalizing him with a T3.
Sepp Straka rallied on part of the lead with a birdie at 17 but then found the front bunker at 18 and bogeyed to join the group at 12 under. And Cameron Young missed a six foot for par at 17 and also finished at 12 under.
There were three others who finished at 12 under who were far happier to be there. Cameron Davis Shot 63, the day’s round to rally to T3. JT Poston had the second-best score of 64, which included a birdie in 18th place. and Matt Kuchar also ended his day in style with a birdie at the age of 18, securing his second consecutive top three finish. Not all thirds are equal.
Maybe next week?
There was a notable number of pros who missed the cut at RBC. DustinJohnsonwho had competed in the Masters but had an uneven season. CameronSmithwho competed as the second hottest golfer in the world. Matthew Fitzpatrickwho is in the middle of a great season. Ricky Fowler, who was no better than T40 in his last 10 starts. Harbor Town is a very specific test of skill, and I think we can dismiss most of the missed cuts here as one-offs. But still interesting to see the MC list.
WHAT WE SEE
Spieth sends it.
A contributing factor Jordan Spieth‘s win was his aggression off the tee. Harbor Town is known for neutralizing distance like any other course on the tour, which is why you’ll often see a mix of smaller clubs competing. And while Spieth is probably a longer hitter than he’s given credit for — he finished last season ranked 66th. But he played aggressively at RBC and finished second in the field in driving distance (where all trips are measured). That suggests he was pushing it up the fairway, feeling confident hitting the ball where he was looking. That helped him finish fourth in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.
“I would say Tee to Green if you take my last three events it’s as good as it’s ever been,” Spieth said.
He also explained why he likes the feel of this course.
“If you hit good shots, you get birdie looks. If you’re not hitting good shots, you’ll have to play cool punch shots through trees. It stands the test of time. It just always seems to do that.”
Spieth appreciates a cool slap shot just like anyone else. Maybe that’s why he was able to play so aggressively off the tee.
WHAT WE HEAR
Annie’s advice to Jordan.
For the second week in a row, we have a Texas Longhorn leaning on his high school sweetheart’s advice on his way to victory. Last week was Scottie Schefflers wife meredith urge confidence. Spieth’s wife came this week annie urge caution.
After missing a tap-in on the 18th hole on Saturday, Jordan winced. He figured it might end up costing him a lot of time.
“I mentioned it Michael [Greller, his caddie] and then to Annie. When I drove to the clubhouse to sign my card I said I knew it would cost me 18 and I hoped it did because if it didn’t it meant I had played a very average round [Sunday]. So I hoped that I had worked my way into the competition anyway.”
Spieth said he was more upset after the round than he has ever been during a tournament.
“There’s just no excuse for that kind of brain farting as a pro for myself, but also for Michael, who works his ass off going out there and doing what could potentially affect the outcome of a tournament. And I’ve done that several times on this track in the last four weeks.”
“She never comments on my golf,” Jordan said at the introduction. But she offered some advice here:
“You need five seconds when you miss a putt before you hit your tap-in.”
Spieth said the news stayed with him all Sunday.
“A couple of times I just wanted to rake and I was like, ‘No, I have to last five seconds.’ I’m just glad it didn’t affect everything in the end, to be honest. Just made it a little more exciting in the end.”
Spieth is unlikely to miss his seven-inch winning putt, no matter how long it took him to line it up. But it was reassuring to see it hit the bottom of the cup anyway.
3 things to watch this week.
1. Golf Advice!
With Peyton Manning! This was a fun interview which you can listen to in podcast form or on YouTube below:
2. Hollywood Golf!
Hancock Park, technically. But the DIO Implant LA Open brings the LPGA back to a star-studded city this week at Wilshire Country Club. Brooke Henderson is your defending champion.
3rd team golf!
The Zurich Classic never quite lived up to its potential, but this could be the best year yet in terms of team talent. Patrick Cantley cooperates with Xander Schauffele. Victor Howland cooperates with Collin Morikawa. and Marc Leishman cooperates with CameronSmith. Those three emerge as tournament favorites, with others including the Masters champion (Scheffler teamed with him Ryan Palmer) not far behind.
We meet next week!