Backspin: Spieth continues meteoric rise

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July 01, 2013
Brian Wacker,

BETHESDA, Md. -- Not even Jordan Spieth’s closest supporters could have imagined this.

“I think we’re surprised at how fast it has all happened,” his mom, Chris, told me.

The 19-year-old’s ascent has indeed been meteoric.

In seven months, Spieth has gone from a player with zero status on any tour to having already secured his PGA TOUR card for next season.

Only a handful of players have managed to go from college straight to the PGA TOUR without stopping at q-school with Bud Cauley being the latest to do it.

“Starting the year out, I wouldn't have imagined,” said Spieth, who finished sixth at the AT&T National, where he slept on the 36-hole lead and at one point shared the lead early on Sunday, too. “I'm just happy to be out here. I'm just happy to be playing week in and week out. I'm lucky to have a place to play.”

All that’s missing is a win.

Though Spieth has already banked over $1 million in just 14 starts that came on sponsor exemptions or after a top-10 finish the week before, a victory would be huge for the former University of Texas star.

Because he has only special temporary membership, Spieth isn’t eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs. Only a win will change that. He'll get another shot at winning this week at The Greenbrier Classic. He made the field because of his sixth-place finish at AT&T National. The last two winners (Ted Potter Jr. and Scott Stallings) of The Greenbrier Classic were first-time winners.

Currently, Spieth has 569 non-member FedExCup points, which would put him 59th in the current standings and just ahead of Sergio Garcia. Add 500 points for a win and Spieth would have an excellent chance to make a run at the top 30 and the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, which would open up all sorts of doors for the rookie.

“I'm trying to get a win,” Spieth said after his fifth top 10 of the season on Sunday. “This is a great step forward for me.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“As many times as I've choked and hit bad shots and I've been nervous and it hasn't worked out, I was feeling all those things today, and to hit good quality golf shots down the stretch is such a good feeling. “ -- Bill Haas, who earlier this year blew a three-shot lead on Sunday in L.A., after winning Sunday at Congressional, where he never led by less than two over the final nine holes.

"I think it's important to lead by example and show the youth that no matter how bad you play, it's important to finish. No one likes to see a quitter. I know none of the members at my club or any students that I teach would want to see me quit." -- Indiana assistant club pro Michael Bembenickafter shooting 103 in the second round of the Web.com Tour’s United Leasing Championship, where he finished 48 over for two days.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@BrandtSnedeker: Ready for my 2nd US open in three weeks @ATTNational this week..Congo is tough!! -- Snedeker on a Congressional course where the winning score was four strokes higher than when Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open there two years ago.

@bovanpelt: The only thing worse than missing a cut on Friday is missing a cut on a Saturday. -- Van Pelt after returning Saturday morning to finish his second round only not to advance. Last year, he finished second.

@Mike_kim714: @geoffogilvy most memorable moment from this year’s US Open? “You being 3 under through 15 on Saturday” -- Ogilvy’s response to the amateur during a Twitter Q&A last week.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Bill Haas has now won at least once in each of the last four seasons, something only Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson have done. Two of those players have majors and the third has contended in them before. Pretty good company to be in. Sunday’s victory at the AT&T National was just another step in the process for the 31-year-old Haas, who has worked a little harder this year than in the past and thinks he’s close to moving into that next tier of upper echelon players. “Just to even put my name next to those guys is a start of maybe being part of that club,” he said.

2. Congressional might have played a lot like a U.S. Open venue, from the thick rough to its fairway lines, but winning there still came down to making birdies, something Haas did better than anyone else with 25, including nine in the third round.

3. Winning the Irish Open could have the same effect on Paul Casey as winning the 2009 Australian Open had on Adam Scott. Casey, once No. 3 in the world, had plummeted outside the top 150 after a couple of difficult years that included numerous injuries. “Psychologically this is huge,” Casey said after his victory Sunday. “It feels like a first win again. I have struggled with the confidence and this is a huge relief knowing I am moving in the right direction. I have great golf in me for 10 years plus. This is a massive confidence boost.”

4. Rory McIlroy’s confidence, on the other hand, is heading the other direction at the moment after he missed the cut at the Irish Open. “At the moment, no aspects of my game are strong, and I’m just feeling a bit lost at the moment,” McIlroy said. “It feels good on the range and I can hit all the shots, but when I get out on the course, it really does not seem to be there.” Paul McGinley made an estute observation about the tumultuous McIlroy, telling the Irish Independent at the start of the week that McIlroy isn’t a “flat-line” player like Nick Faldo was. “I think it’s in his DNA to be an up-and-down player,” McGinley told the newspaper. “And I think that’s going to be part of his career for the rest of his life.”

5. Stat of the Week I: With Haas’ victory, players in their 30s have won 16 times this year, compared to eight by players in their 20s (and three by players in their 40s). For all the young talent on TOUR, golfers still hit their peak in their 30s.

6. Stat of the Week II: No player has recorded his first career victory in the six-year history of the AT&T National. A small sample size, yes, but it also says a lot about the venues that have hosted the event -- Congressional and Aronimink.

7. We’re approaching the four-year anniversary of Stewart Cink’s British Open win and only major victory in a career that had been in a downhill slide since. After years of working his way through swing and equipment changes, it looks like Cink has turned the corner. His tie for fifth Sunday at the AT&T National was his best finish in a stroke-play event on TOUR since that victory at Turnberry and was his third top 10 this season.

8. Tiger Woods hasn’t hit a golf ball since aggravating a strain in his left elbow at the U.S. Open, and it doesn’t sound like he will for maybe another week. That would give him about a week to prepare for Muirfield and the British Open. Will his elbow be 100 percent by then? “A hundred percent?” Woods said. “How about GED, good enough. … There's a difference between being hurt and being injured. It's a delicate balance. I know what it's like to play both, unfortunately.”

9. Following this week’s Greenbrier Classic, the top five players in the top 20 in the FedExCup standings not already exempt will earn a spot in the British Open. In order, those players are: Billy Horschel (fifth), Boo Weekley (ninth), Russell Henley (16th), Harris English (17th) and Charles Howell III (18th). Just outside the mark: Travelers Championship winner Ken Duke at 21st.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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Where do players rank Congressional in the list of courses they play? Top third? Middle of the road? -- Bill Buchanan

It depends who you ask, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't put Congressional pretty high on the list. It’s big, classic layout that, as a lot of players say, is right in front of you. Not much needs to be done to it to make it difficult, yet it doesn’t play unfair either.

Has a caddie ever been fired mid-round at a PGA TOUR event? -- Brian C.

Brian is referring to Jessica Korda, who canned caddie Brian Gilroyed in the middle of third round at the U.S. Women’s Open and pulled her boyfriend out of the crowd to carry her bag the rest of the way. At the 2007 RBC Canadian Open, Jay Williamson did the same to his caddie, and Robert Allenby has had a couple of caddies quit on him in the middle of a round.

Have a question for the mailbag? Send it to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com or via Twitter at @pgatour_brianw.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK

Phil Mickelson is making his third straight appearance at The Greenbrier Classic, but he missed the cut in each of his first two. If anything, expect this tournament to produce the unexpected. There was Stuart Appleby’s final-round 59 to win, Ted Potter Jr.’s eagle-birdie finish to force a playoff he eventually won and Scott Stallings’ overtime win in between. But I think Webb Simpson breaks that trend. For one, he has finished in the top 10 each of the last two years there. For another, he comes in with good form having finished fifth in his last start at the Travelers Championship, where he opened and closed with a 65.

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