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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Jordan Spieth,

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
2016 US Open Preview: 5 Contenders
Jun 15, 2016 8:48 AM
Plum, Pennsylvania, finds itself at the centre of the golfing world this week as Oakmont Country Club gets ready to host its first US Open since Ángel Cabrera prevailed at plus-five back in 2007. Here Golfsmash surveys the players we feel are best placed to contend for the title. The Favourites: 1. Jason Day He may have fallen short at the Masters at the start of April; however, Jason Day starts the US Open as the form player on the PGA Tour and he legitimately sits atop the world rankings. The Aussie came into the Masters (where he finished 10th) off the back of consecutive wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell World Match Play Championship and he has since gone on to post a tied-fifth finish at the Zurich Classic and a victory at the Players Championship in four subsequent starts (not finishing lower than 27th through that sequence). The 28-year-old has registered six top-25s and three tournament victories in 11 starts on the PGA Tour in 2016 and has managed a remarkable total of seven titles through the course of his last 18 starts worldwide. Furthermore, Day’s all-round game seems ideally set-up to tackle the challenge posed by one of the toughest courses in America. He is averaging just over 302 yards off the tee so far this season (20th on Tour and comfortably enough to tackle the lengthy Par 3s, daunting 600+ yard Par 5s, and shorter, reachable Par 4s) and ranks top of the strokes gained putting chart. If Day hits top form at Oakmont, it is difficult to see anyone stopping him claiming a second major in his last three such starts. Jason Day feels mental resolve is vital for #USOpen success at Oakmont: https://t.co/ZH1Kjj5ALF #GolfOnSky pic.twitter.com/PXIzjlt7em — Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) 14 June 2016 2. Jordan Spieth Spieth only needed three starts to win after his nightmare on the back-nine of Augusta at the start of April, and while the trauma of the 80th Masters will probably never leave the 22-year-old, the swiftness with which he has returned to the winner’s circle suggests that he may be a fiercer and more psychologically robust competitor for having endured such a painful experience. Spieth arrives at Oakmont as the defending US Open champion; he has registered 10 top-25s in 12 starts on the PGA Tour in 2016 and ranks 16th, ninth and third on Tour for strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained putting and scoring average respectively. And while the fact that the Texan is shorter off of the tee than the rest of the world’s top-six will mitigate against his chances of winning on a mammoth 7,000-plus yard course, he still boasts an average driving distance in excess of 294 yards (50th on Tour) and remains the best long-distance putter in the world. A narrative of redemption has dominated the build-up to Spieth’s US Open campaign and it would take a brave punter to back against a player of his class repeating Rory McIlroy’s recovery from a nightmare final round at Augusta five years ago. 3. Dustin Johnson 12 months on from that agonizing three-putt on the 72nd at Chambers Bay, Dustin Johnson remains in search of his first ever major championship victory. The 31-year-old has recorded 11 top-10 finishes in 31 major championship starts (most recently tying for fourth at the Masters in April) and the fact that no player has ever managed more than 24 such finishes without winning suggests that the 31-year-old is edging ever nearer his breakthrough. Johnson arrives at Oakmont in fine form with 11 top-25s in 13 starts on the PGA Tour (eight top-10s, two top-threes) this term and he has won at least once in the US in each of the last eight consecutive seasons. It is also notable that, as one of the world’s longest hitters (he is averaging 309 yards off the tee in 2016; third overall), Johnson will have the luxury of being able to choke down off of the tee in order to avoid hitting into Oakmont’s deep rough without ceding yardage to his opponents. That said, the fact that the North Carolina native ranks 105th around the green and 168th when putting from inside 10-feet this year suggests that he may struggle to control his short-game on glass-like greens and question marks persist regarding his ability to maintain composure under pressure at the biggest events. Resilience, by definition, is an ability to bounce back. In golf terms, it's Dustin Johnson: https://t.co/AGYWMSYKHy pic.twitter.com/uDOX5ThzlX— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) 13 June 2016 4. Rory McIlroy The decision to place the majorless Dustin Johnson above the four-time major champion, Rory McIlroy, in our US Open tips might seem a strange one, not least owing to the fact that McIlroy won his first event of the season in sensational style on the occasion of his penultimate start the Irish Open last month. However, it is unclear how well the Irishman’s game will translate at Oakmont. There can be little doubting the fact that McIlroy possesses the distance and accuracy off the tee required to contend on the long Pennsylvanian course (he is 10th on Tour for driving distance, averaging over 305 yards, and tops the strokes gained off of the tee chart); however, his putting has been patchy for 18 months now, and on the lightening-fast greens of a US Open circuit, such a weakness has the potential to prove fatal. McIlroy ranks 68th for strokes gained putting this season; he is 188th when putting from inside 10-feet and cedes an average of just under one full stroke per round to Day on the greens. The fact that McIlroy has now twice changed putting grip in the middle of major championship season speaks to the extent of his anxiety with the flatstick and flaky putters very rarely win US Opens. The world number three will be praying for some rain to soften the greens up. 5. Phil Mickelson It has been 39 months and 60 PGA Tour starts since Phil Mickelson last won at the Open Championship at Muirfield back in July, 2013, and the fact that Lefty only managed four top-10s in 30 starts across the 2014 and 2015 seasons led many commentators to conclude that his time competing for golf’s biggest honours had come to an end. A run of nine top-25s in 14 starts through the first five months of 2016, however, has propelled Mickelson back into the world’s top-20 and the fact that this run has included runners-up finishes at Pebble Beach in February and at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last weekend suggests that the 45-year-old is on the cusp of ending his trophy drought. Much of Mickelson’s revival owes to his decision to part with long time swing coach Butch Harmon in favour of Australian, Andrew Getson, last November and the fact that the five-time major winner has carded six runners-up finishes at the US Open means that he would dearly love to break his winning duck at Oakmont this week. Mickelson is 12th on Tour for strokes gained tee to green this season; he is third for strokes gained putting and first for scoring average. If the fates smile upon Lefty over the next four days, a long overdue career slam is not beyond the realms of possibility. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]

Sean Donnelly
Jordan Spieth’s Commercial Success Mirrors His Rise On The Course
Jan 16, 2016 10:31 AM
Now is not a bad time to be Jordan Spieth. For just days after blowing away the field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last weekend (becoming one of only two players in PGA Tour history to finish a 72-hole event at 30 under or lower), the 22-year-old was confirmed as the first player in 13 years to surpass Tiger Woods as the PGA Tour’s top-earner. Golf Digest’s annual report on professionals’ earnings calculated that the $53 million Spieth received in on-course winnings and off-the-course endorsements in 2015 placed him as the Tour’s highest-earner over the last 12 months. The Texan narrowly edged out Phil Mickelson in second spot, who totalled $52.3 million in 2015, and Woods in third who accrued $48.5 million. While the fact that Mickelson and Woods came so close to eclipsing Spieth’s revenues despite going winless on Tour last season suggests that the world No.1 still has some way to go before surpassing the American old guard (more than half of Spieth’s earnings came in on-course winnings last season), the trend is clear and one can only envisage Spieth’s revenues increasing over the next decade. On the course, Spieth has already vastly outstripped both Tiger and Phil. The Masters and US Open champion totalled $23 million in on-course winnings in 2015 compared to Mickelson’s $2,301,730 and Woods’ $551,098. Indeed, this was the second season in a row in which Tiger totalled less than $1 million in on-course earnings and the first year since 2001 in which the 14 time major champion’s earnings dipped under the $50 million mark. Both Mickelson and Woods are already relying almost solely on endorsement revenues to rival the earning potential of Spieth and fourth-place Rory McIlroy ($46,968,190) who made $9,468,190 on the course last season. However, the money that golfers make in endorsements is always inexorably tied to the quality of their performances inside the ropes, and as Tiger and Mickelson cease to be competitive concerns at elite-level events, equipment and clothes manufacturers aren’t going to be willing to pay them as much to promote their brand as was the case 10 years ago. EA Sports, for instance, have already bumped Tiger off the front cover of their PGA Tour video game in favour of Mr. McIlroy. It is impossible not conclude that this decision has as much to do with the fact that the key demographic at which their games are targeted are more accustomed to seeing McIlroy win majors (he has managed four in the last four years) than they are Woods, who has not claimed a major since the 2008 US Open. Likewise, UnderArmour’s decision to award Spieth equity in the company as part of a multimillion dollar, 10 year sponsorship deal last year was closely tied to his becoming a double major champion and climbing to No.1 in the world. The same consideration would have prompted CocaCola to place Spieth on the same financial level as LeBron James, Jennifer Aniston and Taylor Swift in terms of their sponsorship roster and AT&T, Titleist and Rolex are all going to have to up what they pay the seven-time Tour winner when their endorsement agreements are up for renegotiation. 2015, as has been widely stated, heralded a changing of the guard at the elite-level of the PGA Tour as the tripartite rivalry inaugurated between Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day has caused memories of Tiger’s dominance to recede into memory. This transformation is reflected in the players’ earnings. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]

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