Shell Houston Open
Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan
Meet the newest member of the PGA Tour: Jordan Spieth. He’s 19, from Texas, just earned a special exemption for the remainder of the season, and primed for a breakthrough, maybe as early as this week in Houston. Ladies, beware!
You recognize the name, even if you’d struggle to pick him out of a lineup of one. But from where exactly? If you’re a devotee of the college golf ranks, you have a problem more serious than Pseudo Bulbar Affect and rickets combined, but it means you probably remember Spieth winning three events for the Longhorns as a freshman, leading the team to a national championship. If it’s the pros that clog more of your brain tubes, you may recall Spieth becoming the sixth youngest player – ever – to make a cut on Tour at the 2010 Byron Nelson.
Still doesn’t ring a bell, but you’re HIV positive you’ve at least seen the name somewhere before, then I’ll direct you back to last year’s US Open. You know at Majors, well not the PGA Championship, twice a broadcast when the network flashes a bizarre leaderboard on the screen featuring a group of players you’ve never heard of, with little ‘a’s in parentheses next to their names? That graphic is exclusively reserved for amateurs, which Spieth topped at the Olympic Club. Also, in golf it’s pronounced AM-UH-TUR not AM-UH-CHORE for no reason other than overt pretention.
If none of those events jar your memory, you never recognized his name to begin with. Which makes you a LIAR! One whose pants are constantly on fire. Because you sure as hell haven’t been watching early season Web.com events, or were one of the brain damaged dozens that said, “all the world’s best players are at Doral, but I hear this Puerto Rico Open is superior entertainment.” If you actually happen to be one of those people, there’s a 107-percent chance you had a relative playing in the tournament. And if that truly is the case, you’ve become ultra familiar with Spieth over the last few months.
Turning pro in December, Spieth entered the season ranked No. 810 in the world rankings, with no status on any Tour, living off limited exemptions. Which means he’d take an invite to any gated country club that doesn’t require you to address everyone as ‘sir’. After missing the cut at the Farmers and posting a respectable T22 at Pebble, Spieth took his talents to the minor leagues, the Web.com Tour, to smooth out the bumps in his game.
It worked, and it only took two events too. After a T7 in Panama and a T4 in the hilariously unsafe nation of Colombia – where even the police get kidnapped! – Spieth fired four rounds in the 60s, including a Sunday 67 at the PR Open, propelling himself into a tie for second, a 193-spot bump in the rankings and, most importantly, a $308,000 payday. Not bad for a kid that just became legal… in Canada.
Now, the actual monetary value doesn’t really concern him – I mean, he’s sponsored by Under Armor and titan of the sports drink world BioSteel Sports Supplements – a place that sounds like it will eventually be under investigation by Major League Baseball – kid’s got cash. No, in order to have access to unlimited exemptions throughout 2013, Spieth needed to earn $474,296 in winnings, or one dollar more than No. 150 on the 2012 money list, Brendon “The Dud” Todd. Something he accomplished two weeks ago with a T9 at Copperhead, in a pretty loaded field.
So that’s four straight Top 10s, on two different tours entering play at Redstone. Spieth’s moved all the way up to No 215 in the world and gets an opportunity to make a mark in his home state. It would be a great story, and who doesn’t love a great story? Get him in your lineup and you’ll have double the reason to celebrate when Spieth reels off another first page of the leaderboard finish. Sans (a).
Rory McIlroy – Bounced from golf’s summit by some dude named Eldrick Tont, but a win in Houston puts him right back on top. Something Tiger encouraged him to do, texting McIlroy, “get my finger out of my ass and win this week.” What a weirdo. Plus, the last time we saw Rory, on the course, not fulfilling his fantasy of dating himself, he was shooting a Sunday best seven-under 65 at Doral.
Keegan Bradley – A bronze medal at last week at Bay Hill makes it three consecutive Top 7 outings for KEEGS. Another strong showing in Texas and he’ll join Chester A. Arthur, Ted Bundy, the guy who dubbed George Clooney’s vocals in O Brother Where Art Thou on Vermont’s Mount Rushmore. He’ll be taking cheese’s spot.
Thorbjorn Olesen – There are passels of good reasons to take Thorbjorn: I took the time to look up the correct spelling of his name (that extra ‘e’ is nonsense btw), his commitment to daring sartorial choices, and the fact he’s pretty damn good. But the main one? He’s Danish, whose monarchy is sacrosanct, just like my picks. Don’t question them, just like Denmark’s royal family.
Jordan Speith – Who? Ohhhhh… right.
Phil Mickelson – Phil needs the money for his joint pain forces him from the links. Turns out his writing and acting career aren’t viable career alternatives. There’s no way Phil would ever fake cheer for anyone that passionately besides himself.
Carl Pettersson – Ever wonder what happened to the mounds of food the Swedish Chef made over the years? Pettersson ate it. Ever wonder what happened to the Swedish Chef? Pettersson made him another causality of his powerful gut.
Steve Stricker – Since Stricker’s playing a limited schedule this year feel free to use him whenever he’s lacing up the soft spikes. It’s been a great success so far. In three events he’s yet to finish worse than fifth.
Jimmy Walker – Sometimes having safety on your squad and that’s what Walker provides. He’s made eight cuts in eight tournaments, collecting three Top 10s along the way.
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Photo via ESPN