Spieth says PLAYERS ‘harder to win than a major’
May 08, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- May 08, 2018
Jordan Spieth on his approach to TPC Sawgrass
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jordan Spieth came to Rickie Fowler’s defense on Tuesday when the discussion turned to majors won. Or in Fowler’s case, not won.
Fowler, however, has won THE PLAYERS Championship, the signature victory of his four career wins on the PGA TOUR. Spieth has not won THE PLAYERS – in fact, he’s missed the cut in his last three starts after a T-4 finish in 2014 – but has three majors.
From Spieth’s perspective, Fowler’s 2015 win at TPC Sawgrass is every bit as impressive as any major victory.
“We look at this tournament up there in about equal value with the major championships,” Spieth said. “The only thing that holds it away from being a major is simply people jotting down how many majors people won.
“I mean, it is one of the toughest tests in golf, with potentially the best field in golf. I think it is the best golf in all of golf. If you win here, you can win anywhere else. There is no added thing that any other tournament brings that this tournament doesn’t have.
“Therefore, guys like Rickie, who kind of catches some slack for having not won a major yet, essentially he’s won what’s harder to win than a major: THE PLAYERS.”
Informed of Spieth’s comments, Fowler could only smile. “See, so I won one?” he said.
For the first two rounds this week, Fowler will be playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Those two have combined to win 19 majors. But from a PLAYERS standpoint, Fowler was won as many as Mickelson and could join Woods as a two-time winner this week.
Mickelson, the 2007 winner, wouldn’t be surprised if THE PLAYERS eventually is recognized on equal terms as the majors.
“It certainly is up there for me, given the strength of the field and the quality of the event,” he said. “I think it’s one of these events where, over time, it may very well become or be looked at as a major championship.”
His thoughts have filtered down to younger players, including Jon Rahm, a frequent practice round partner who was coached at Arizona State by Mickelson’s brother Tim.
“I’ve heard Phil say many times, he looked back at this win as the same category as the majors,” Rahm said, “I mean, that says it all for all of us. I think we would all look at it as a major championship.”
Fowler, who posted his best major finish last month with a solo second at Augusta National, is proud of his PLAYERS win, when he played the final six holes of regulation in 6 under to join a playoff that included Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner. Fowler won on the fourth hole with a birdie at the 17th. It was his fifth birdie in six trips to 17 that week.
“To have won this in ’15, you’d like to consider it almost like winning a major,” said Fowler when asked about being the best player without a major. “Obviously, it has that feel and the field that we have here, as well. We’re ready to go do it. It’s time to get myself off that list.”
Origins of Tiger's stinger shot
Tiger Woods told the story Tuesday about how he developed his infamous stinger, the low, penetrating shot that he often leans on. It starts in his youth when he, ahem, “borrowed” a beryllium copper Ping Eye2 1-iron from his dad Earl.
“He couldn’t hit it anyways,” Woods said. “He had no speed, so he couldn’t hit it in the air. I said, I’ll take it off your hands. So I used it for a number of years.
“I’m brilliant – the longer the ball stays in the air, the longer time it has to go crooked, so get that thing on the ground. So I started chipping and hitting these 1-irons, and it worked out. And then eventually, it started to basically cross over into other parts of my game. …
“That 1-iron was probably the start of learning how to hit the ball down, and plus we had balata balls back then, so learning how to take spin off of it was a big thing.”
Odds and ends
Phil Mickelson posted his 43rd career victory earlier this year at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. Afterward, he received a congratulatory note from George W. Bush – the 43rd President of the United States. “He said 43 has a great ring to it,” Mickelson said. “I just thought that was one of the coolest things that came from that and one of the most memorable.”
Jon Rahm’s victory earlier this year at the CareerBuilder Challenge came on the West Coast version of the Stadium Course, at PGA West. Pete Dye was tasked to design that course after his legendary creation at TPC Sawgrass. But Rahm doesn’t know if the earlier win will help him this week. “It’s night and day,” he said. “First off, it’s Bermudagrass here; it’s overseed over there. So that’s the first difference. The ball reacts completely different on the green. But the design, it is somewhat similar.”
Justin Thomas has a morning tee time on Thursday and plans to return to his hotel in time to watch the Woods-Mickelson-Fowler group that tees off at 1:52 p.m. ET. How star-packed is that group? “It’s hard to believe – and it’s absolutely not even close to any disrespect to Rickie – but Rickie being the third person in a group … I mean, that hasn’t happened in however long,” Thomas said. “He’s such a big name everywhere we go, Rick is. But when you’re with Tiger and Phil, it’s a totally different animal.”