The 18: Spieth’s win and the Phil/Bones split

The 18 is a look at eighteen stories from the previous week or so in the world of golf, and they will usually be on stories that I didn’t dedicate a full post towards. Expect a combination of thoughts, GIFs, images and anything else that caught my eye from the past seven days. Some will be longer thoughts, and others will be no more than a line or two. 

The 18 will (hopefully) run every Tuesday. You can catch up on previous versions of The 18 right here.

1. There was a seven shot difference between Jordan Spieth’s 63 on Thursday and his 70 on Sunday, and when watching him play in the final round, it honestly felt like so much more than that. Statistically, he was bad off the tee, even worse on the greens and average everywhere else. He lost nearly a full stroke to the field on Sunday alone after making it look really easy at TPC River Highlands for the first three days, and at any point, it felt like he was ready to completely fall apart, and yet, it never happened.

Sure, you could say that he got lucky that the drives on 13 and 15 didn’t go in the water. You could also say that he was supremely fortunate that his drive in the playoff somehow ricocheted into the fairway after appearing to hit a tree square in the middle. Those things are probably true, and if one of those first two go in the water, Spieth probably doesn’t get into that playoff with Daniel Berger, but they didn’t and Spieth took advantage.

One of the things that you hear a lot about with Tiger when he was on top was that he could somehow turn a round that looked like a 75 into a 71 to stay in contention, and that he could still win tournaments even without his ‘A’ game. That’s exactly what it felt like watching Spieth on Sunday, which is something Kyle Porter touched on yesterday.

He now joins Tiger as the only players since World War II to win ten times on the PGA Tour before turning 24. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it really feels like Spieth is underrated on some level despite being one of the best players I’ve ever seen. Such a special, special talent.

The particulars:

  • Earns $1,224,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points for the win.
  • Moves from 6th to 3rd in the Official World Golf Rankings, and from 6th to 4th in the FedEx Cup.

2. To me, Daniel Berger is the perfect example of the depth that we have at the top of the game right now. At just 24 years old, he’s already won twice on the PGA Tour and has had a few other close calls, including this bunker holeout loss to Spieth. He’s currently ranked 18th in the world, and is pretty much a lock for the Presidents Cup team in a few months, which will be his first team event as a professional. And yet, it really feels like we don’t talk enough about him. That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just one of those things that happens when you have the young group of players that we have at the top of the world right now. It’s hard to gain attention when you have the likes of Spieth, Hideki, Rory, Rickie, Justin, Brooks and Rahm, not to mention all of the other top players as well.

The good thing is that Berger has the kind of game that won’t go unnoticed for too much longer, especially if he balls out representing the United States in a few months.

3. Shout out to Boo Weekley, who played with Spieth in the final group on Sunday, and even though I don’t think anyone gave him much of a chance to pull it out, it was great to see him back in contention. While I’m fully aware that players like Weekley probably don’t move the needle for casual fans, it always just feels like golf is more fun when Weekley is playing well. I mean, how many players would react to a dog barking in the middle of their routine like Weekley did down the stretch of a tournament that he was still trying to win?

Hope we get to see more of Weekley going forward.

4. The strokes gained leaderboard from the Travelers, where Spieth got it done thanks to being really solid with his approach play, and around the greens. As always, this is with all stats courtesy of Data Golf and only features players who made the cut.

  • Off the Tee
    • Best: Rick Lamb (+1.973)
    • Jordan Spieth: (-0.255)
    • Worst: Matt Every (-1.345)
  • Putting
    • Best: Mackenzie Hughes (+2.289)
    • Jordan Spieth: (+0.573)
    • Worst: J.J. Henry (-1.333)
  • Tee to Green:
    • Best: Jordan Spieth: (+2.496)
    • Worst: Greg Chalmers (-1.745)
  • Approach:
    • Best: Brandt Snedeker (+1.763)
    • Jordan Spieth: (+1.245)
    • Worst: Greg Chalmers (-1.338)
  • Around the Green:
    • Best: Brandt Snedeker (+1.569)
    • Jordan Spieth: (+1.506)
    • Worst: Joel Dahmen (-1.231)

5. One of the cool things that I think a lot of people touched on this week was just how great of a tournament this was in general. TPC River Highlands is a great track with one of the best finishing stretches on the PGA Tour, but I don’t think that many people regard it as one of the premier stops on the schedule. Hopefully that changes, and I think what we saw over the week was that it has a really good chance to do just that. Brendan Porath wrote a great piece on how the field came together last week, and it’s worth your time. It’s clear that Travelers is really working hard to make this tournament into a marquee event, and if this year is any indication, they’re on the right path.

6. Yesterday, I posted a piece on Rory McIlroy and our sky high expectations for him and other top players, so check that out if you haven’t already done so. I do want to touch on his overall performance from the week though, one that saw him use three different putters in an attempt to get comfortable on the greens. Ultimately, the look at the final strokes gained numbers don’t paint the best picture for Rory on the greens, as he lost nearly a stroke to the field for the week solely with the putter, but he did improve quite a bit on Sunday using a blade style putter compared to the others he used during the week.

  • Round 1: -0.933
  • Round 2: -1.121
  • Round 3: -1.540
  • Round 4: -0.087

Granted, he was still a minus on Sunday, but that’s a significant improvement from the first three rounds, so it’s something that bears watching. The fact that Rory shot a final round 64 and still lost strokes to the field on the greens is pretty scary, and it shows that if he’s even remotely passable on the greens, he’s likely going to be in the mix wherever he tees it up.

7. Players and caddies split up all the time, but like everyone else, I never thought I’d see the day when Phil Mickelson and Bones decided to part ways.

Unlike Tiger and Steve Williams, this relationship has always felt special and from a completely selfish standpoint, it sucks that we’re never going to get to see interactions like these going forward:

Still though, my favourite moment of the Phil/Bones era came at the 2014 Open Championship, and Brendan Porath captured the perfect video.

Phil wanting to hit driver, and Bones basically thinking it’s the worst idea ever and trying to think about how to talk him out of it must have happened hundreds of times over the years, but the look on Bones’ face is perfect. The dynamic was perfect, and as Brendan said, it made covering and watching golf way more fun. You never think of a player and caddie talking as the thing that you want most in a broadcast, but whenever these two got together and the cameras were able to pick up their audio, it was appointment viewing and listening. Sad to see it come to an end.

8. So, for now, Phil’s brother Tim is going to be on the bag while Phil sorts things out and I’m very intrigued to see how he gets on without Bones by his side. The biggest reason why this worked so well is that Bones knows Phil and his game better than anyone, and whoever picks up the assignment is going to have a steep learning curve and it’s going to be on Phil to perform more than ever. Who knows? Maybe Phil will just take on more of the responsibility, and he’ll just use whoever is on his bag as a sounding board and a reference point, but that’s going to be a large adjustment for him as well. As much as we’ve all made about the fact that he hasn’t won a tournament since the 2013 Open, it’s not like he hasn’t been playing well, and it’ll surprise nobody if he has several more wins left in the bag, but make no mistake: this is going to be different, and how Phil reacts to somebody new on the bag is going to be fascinating to watch.

9. For Bones, I have no doubt that if he wants to keep working, he’ll have a large lineup of suitors for his services and he should. He’s smart, a tireless worker and he knows the courses on the PGA Tour as well as anyone. I don’t think you can quantify how much a caddie is worth statistically, but from an anecdotal perspective, a caddie can’t make a bad player into a good one but they can definitely elevate good players and make them better. That’s exactly what Bones is going to do for his next employer, and whoever can get him locked up is going to be immediately better because of it.

10. Andres Romero won the BMW International Open on Sunday in Germany, and while I said above that Berger is the example of how deep the talent pool is at the top of the game, Romero is an example of how deep it is everywhere. Coming into the week, he was ranked 837th in the world, and he fired a final round 65 to beat the current Masters champion and others to win his first tournament since 2008. He only has eight other top-10 finishes worldwide since 2012, and the last time I remember thinking about him was when he punched that metal sign in Vegas and finished his round putting off of every tee to take the stableford max.

If you want your example of this game making no sense, this one is it.

11. One of those “others” that I mentioned above was Thomas Detry, the 24-year old Belgian who went to Illinois and was a three time All American from 2014 to 2016. He’s an absolute stud, and will be a name that you hear a lot from going forward, just like another Belgian All-American who went to Illinois: Thomas Pieters. Detry turned pro last year and won on the European Challenge Tour, taking the Bridgestone Challenge in August by firing rounds of 60-67-69-63 to win by 12 shots. To learn more about Detry, watch the video below.

12. Good on the PGA Tour for toughening their drug testing policy, and for announcing that any suspensions will be made public for the first time. I’m sure that some of this is a result of the ongoing Vijay Singh lawsuit, and I have my doubts that we’re ever going to see anything substantial come out of this, but it’s important to have this kind of transparency.

13. Justin Thomas called the Spieth bunker holeout before it happened, but to me, the best tweet he had on the weekend was clapping back at a random Canadian, who I can say doesn’t speak for all of us.

Pro tip: if you’re ever thinking about tweeting something like this to a professional golfer (or anyone, really), don’t.

14. It appears that we now know the venues for the next two Scottish Opens, with the fantastic Gullane getting another crack after hosting Rickie Fowler’s first European Tour win back in 2015, and Trump International Golf Links apparently on the books for 2019. No word yet on if players will be permitted to drive carts onto greens.

15. Former USGA President Sandy Tatum passed away last week at age 96, and the tributes have been flowing in for a man who was universally respected in the golf world. Tatum is going to be known forever as the man who presided over the Massacre at Winged Foot, and his adamant denials that the course setup was a reaction to Johnny Miller’s 63 at Oakmont the year prior.

16. Your must reads of the week:

Thanks to Geoff Shackelford for those links.

17. Your must listens and watches of the week:

18. Your random GIFs of the week feature Phil and Bones:

Great reaction from Phil’s caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay

Phil and Bones after winning the Open.

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