Planet Golf — 04 April 2021 by GW staff and news services
Spieth wins for first time in 1,351 days

SAN ANTONIO — Jordan Spieth tapped in for par to win the British Open for his third major and 11th victory in just five years on the PGA Tour. He never imagined he would go 1,351 days before he felt that way again.

He went 82 events on tour without winning. Once the No. 1 player, he was headed out of the top 100 in the world.

And now he’s back.

Spieth ended a mystifying slump Sunday by giving himself birdie chances and making most of them, closing with a 6-under 66 to hold off Charley Hoffman for a two-shot victory in the Valero Texas Open.

“There’s peaks and valleys in this sport, but I never expected to go this long,” Spieth said. “Back then, in between wins, maybe I took things more for granted than I should have. It’s very difficult to win out here and I’ll certainly enjoy this one as much as I have any other.”

The only surprise was that he figured he would be more emotional. He was too busy holding off a spirited run by Hoffman, who went from a three-shot deficit with six holes to play to one shot behind. Spieth all but sealed it with a wedge to a back pin to 5 feet for birdie.

“This is a monumental win for me,” Spieth said. “It’s been a long road. There were a lot of times that I didn’t know I would be here.”

Now he heads to Augusta National as one of the favorites at the Masters. Even going so long without winning, the 12th win of his career allowed him to join some elite company. In the past 40 years, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas has won at least 12 times before turning 28.

The 27-year-old from Dallas showed signs of turning it around after starting the year by missing the cut at Torrey Pines. He was tied for the 54-hole lead in Phoenix. He led by two going into the final round at Pebble Beach. He was two behind going into the last day at Bay Hill. He reached the weekend of the Dell Match Play.

“I’ve had a chance on Sundays three or four different times in the last two months, and today was by far the best that I played,” Spieth said. “Just to see those putts go in, I felt like I was doing everything right those other Sundays and I hit good putts and they wouldn’t go in. Today I hit a couple that I didn’t quite strike very well but they went in.”

Tied for the lead with Matt Wallace going into Sunday at the TPC San Antonio, Spieth moved out in front and didn’t let anyone catch him. He built a three-shot lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, when Hoffman made him sweat.

Hoffman chipped in for birdie on the par-3 13th and holed a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 16th to get within one shot. But he found a bunker off the tee on the short par-4 17th and had to settle for par as Spieth moved two shots ahead, and they both made par on the closing hole.

“I’ve lost golf tournaments, I’ve won golf tournaments, but today Jordan won the golf tournament,” Hoffman said. “Obviously I put some pressure on. Obviously I would have liked to have hit some better shots coming down the stretch, but gave myself an opportunity coming down the 18th fairway and that’s all you can ask for. Hats off to Jordan.”

Spieth, who finished at 18-under 270, moved to No. 38 in the world. He is back in the top 50 for the first time in more than a year.

Wallace couldn’t keep up and closed with a 70 to finish alone in third. Lucas Glover (66) finished in fourth, while Anirban Lahiri birdied the last hole for a 69 to finish alone in fifth.

Spieth typically is a favorite at the Masters, where he was runner-up in his debut in 2014, won wire-to-wire the next year and was runner-up again after losing a back-nine lead in 2016.

He once said he never really thought about much why he played well and won, he just did. Now after so much inspection of a game that got away from him, and the work it required to get back, he appears headed in the right direction.

“There’s some key moments here and there, different time periods where I felt like things were turning around,” he said. “There’s also moments I look back on where I hit balls till my hands bled and I wasn’t doing the right thing and I just went home thought about it. Lost sleep. This sport can take you a lot of different directions.”

On this day, it took him to a trophy ceremony that came with a pair of cowboy boots.

Third Round

SAN ANTONIO — Jordan Spieth shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday to move into a tie for the lead heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open.

Spieth and Englishman Matt Wallace are at 12 under after each player birdied their final two holes of the day. Wallace also posted a 67, and Charley Hoffman is alone in third at 10 under after shooting a 65.

Hoffman was seven shots back after a bogey at No. 4, but he finished up with six birdies and sank a five-foot eagle putt at the 14th. He won here five years ago.

Three consecutive bogeys early on the back nine sent second-round leader Cameron Tringale to a 1-over 73 that put him at 8 under for the tournament. India’s Anirban Lahiri is at 7 under after a 69.

Tom Hoge finished with five birdies and moved up 26 spots on the leaderboard with a third-round 66. He is in a group of four players at 6 under that includes Lucas Glover (70), Gary Woodland (67) and Matt Kuchar (70).

The start of play was delayed 2+ hours by rain.

Time has just about run out on Rickie Fowler’s chances to make his 11th straight Masters appearance next week. He has to win to get in, but his 69 Saturday has him in 21st place and nine shots out of the lead.


SAN ANTONIO — Cameron Tringale made a move for his first PGA TOUR victory with a 3-under 69 Friday and a two-shot lead after two rounds of the Valero Texas Open.

ringale, a 12-year veteran, was at 9-under after a round that included five-straight birdies and leads Jordan Spieth and Englishman Matt Wallace.

Spieth continued his comeback from a three-year winless slump and was at 7-under after a 70. Wallace shot 68. Kyle Stanley also shot 68 and was at 5-under with Brandt Snedeker (67), Kevin Stadler (70) and Erik van Rooyen (68).

First-round leader Camilo Villegas shot a 76 to fall five shots back in a group that includes Matt Kuchar, who shot his second 70.

Tringale led by as many as five strokes after he closed out his front nine with consecutive birdies on his fourth through eighth holes and then birdied his 11th. Three of those featured approach shots that left him with putts of less than 5 feet.

“I just hit a lot of really good iron shots to those holes,” Tringale said. “I think my furthest putt was 4 feet, so just good approaches to the green. Still gotta roll those in, but was able to do it. I took advantage most of the time.”

His birdie run marked a quick turnaround from his start when he opened with bogeys on his first two holes.

“I was really just trying to get back into the round and get into the red numbers again,” he said. “I kept it in play and just had a lot of looks and a few went in.”

A win would give Tringale, 33, his first official TOUR win. He won a team event at the Franklin Templeton Shootout with partner Jason Day in 2015. This year he was tied for seventh at Pebble Beach.

Spieth continues to look like he’s getting past a slump that has seen him drop from No. 1 in the world in 2016 to No. 92 in January. Now 53rd, he’s in good position for his fifth top-10 finish in the past two months after a four-birdie round. He hasn’t won since 2017.

“I’m really pleased with where things are at, but they’re not where I want them to be at,” Spieth said. “I’m trying to kind of take it slowly and patiently and reward myself, be excited about the good ones and not get too down about the bad ones.”

He opened with birdies on his first two holes but fell back to even for his round with bogeys at 11 and 13.

“I thought the start was key for me, and I got off to a great start,” he said. “I put some really good swings on the ball after kind of being a little sloppy at the end of yesterday’s round.”

Spieth birdied the par-5 14th by getting up and down from a greenside bunker. He had an easy 3-footer for birdie on the next hole and almost chipped in for another at the 17th.

Wallace is also looking for a first PGA TOUR trophy, but he’s won four times on the European Tour since 2017. He had a bogey-free round. Only one of his scoring putts — a 20-footer on his 11th — came from more than 5 feet away.

“Whenever you go bogey free, whatever golf course it is, it’s nice, but especially here,” Wallace said. “I’ve been feeling comfortable about my game for a while now, just trying to hole a few more putts and keep the scoring going and making the right putts at the right time.”

Snedeker, four strokes out of the lead, opened his round with three-straight birdies and added another two holes later. He pitched in for an eagle at his par-4 8th hole but played even par the rest of the way.

Phil Mickelson recovered from a first-round that saw him take a 10 on the 18th hole. He shot 3-under 69 on Friday. He’ll head to Augusta next week after missing the Valero Texas Open cut at 4-over.


SAN ANTONIO — Camilo Villegas chipped in twice to highlight a nine-birdie round that earned him an 8-under 64 and the first-round lead at the Valero Texas Open on Thursday.

Sung Kang, a 33-year-old South Korean, is two shots back with Cameron Tringale after each had a 66 at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course. Jordan Spieth, whose struggles the past three years appear to be subsiding after four top-10 finishes the past two months, is three back (67) with Seung-Yul Noh and Hideki Matsuyama.

Phil Mickelson dropped to 15 shots back when he had a 10 on the 18th hole — he took two penalty shots and another three strokes trying to get away from a greenside stream — and ended with a 79.

Villegas won the TOUR Championship in 2008 and the Wyndham Championship in 2014, but has endured injury and then the death of his 22-month-old daughter last year. His two top-10 finishes this year include a tie for eighth at the Honda Classic.

“Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Villegas said. “The last few years I’ve been up and down with many things. We keep showing up and the results start showing up.”

He bogeyed his opening hole Thursday and birdied six of seven holes in the middle of his round.

That streak included putts of 23 and 20 feet and a chip-in from the fringe at his 13th hole. He finished up when he holed out from about 45 yards away to the side of the green.

“Some days the hole is a little bit big,” Villegas said. “On (the last hole), I got really lucky. I hit a chip that was probably going off the green, and it hits the pin and goes in.”

Kang, the 2019 Byron Nelson champ, got his round rolling with an eagle on his 11th hole. He hit the green in two on the par 5 from 292 yards and made a 30-foot eagle.

“I played great today, but I didn’t start off very good,” Kang said. “I struggled a little bit with a new driver from the start, but I found a way to hit it on the back nine so started driving a lot better.”

Kang birdied three of his last four, including his finishing hole with a 22-foot birdie.

Spieth birdied three of his opening five holes. Looking for his first win since the 2017 Open Championship, he had steadily dropped in the world rankings until he hit No. 92 in January after missing the cut in five of eight starts.

“Overall with the score, I certainly would have signed up for 5 under starting out,” Spieth said. “I felt like I played some really nice golf on our front nine. I didn’t quite hit it as good as I have been, but certainly the short game came through. I mean, 5 under around this track is a good score. I’d take four more of them.”

Five of Spieth’s seven birdies came before he made the turn. For the day, three of his birdie putts came from longer than 15 feet, including a 21-footer at his second hole.

“Overall, just chipped and putted really well, which was the difference-maker today,” he said.

He used a putter from the fringe while 16 feet away for birdie at his second-to-last hole. He made up for hitting into the bunker on the right off the tee, but he couldn’t recover on his 18th.

He pushed another tee shot right and hit a provisional. But he found his tee shot near trees, punched it out near the green, yet failed to get up and down and settled for his second bogey.

“It just got a little bit off there today off the tee on contact,” Spieth said. “The rest of the swing, I mean, I feel like I’m swinging the same and out in front of it and putting a good move on it.”

Spieth has used the Texas Open to bolster his game in the past. In 2015, he finished second after four straight birdies late. Two weeks later, he won his first major at the Masters and in June won the U.S. Open.

In February, Spieth had a share of the lead after a third-round 61 at Phoenix and he led by two shots going into the final day at Pebble Beach.

Last month at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard in Florida, he was two shots out of the lead heading into the final day and finished tied for fourth.

Scottie Scheffler, a Dallas native and former Texas Longhorns standout like Spieth, shared opening-round 68s with Tom Hoge and Sebastian Munoz. Scheffler was runner-up last week in Austin at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

He made up for a bogey on his 17th with an 11-foot birdie putt at his last.

“I made a few silly mistakes here and there, kind of two sloppy bogeys, but other than that, I felt like I played really solid,” Scheffler said. “I was pretty frustrated bogeying a par 5 there towards the end of the round, so having a nice bounce back will give me some momentum and make me rest a little easier.”

In addition to Mickelson’s final-hole struggles, he had a three-putt inside nine feet and on the next hole missed from less than four feet.

Abraham Ancer was tied with Spieth at 4 under early in his second nine, but a triple-bogey and bogey finish put an even-par 72 on his card.

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