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Wednesday at the AT&T Pro-Am

Jordan Spieth Back at the AT&T Pro-Am, Max Homa Making Debut

Feb. 5, 2014

spiethAs much as some are anxiously pushing to compare the up-and-coming star to Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth isn’t listening to or reading any of it.

“It’s an honor when I hear where other people were at this point in their career, starting their second year out, but ultimately you can’t draw on that. You need to keep your head forward, looking and setting new goals and harder goals,” said Spieth, who’s making his second AT&T appearance this week. “Although it’s been a good start to the year, I haven’t accomplished any of the tangible goals I’ve set for myself. But I feel like I’m off to a good start.”

While the golf world waits for the next Tiger, it’s Spieth (have they given up on Rory already?) who’s now entered the equation, and for good reason.

It was two years ago that Spieth — then still an amateur — hurtled onto the scene by earning low amateur honors at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. It was a feat he achieved despite everyone focusing on another amateur — then-17-year-old Beau Hossler.

Last season, Spieth’s fortunes kept rising. The Texas native picked up his first win at the John Deere Classic, and later played in the Presidents Cup on his way to earning Rookie of the Year honors.

Just a month ago, Spieth finished second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

As for his quick ascent, Spieth attributes it to the fact that it’s his second time around the PGA Tour block.

“I’m just a completely different person mentally at a tour event this season than I was last year,” said Spieth, who’s playing this week with country music star Jake Owen.  “I think I’m just a veteran now. It’s the way I’m preparing, like course preparation. Just when you play a year on tour, even though so many golf courses are so different, they’re still places that in college I would fire at the pins. And I’m just learning that you can’t do that. … I just looked back at where I made my bogeys and over the past year, and it was typically because of where my approach shots went. And it was because I would get myself short-sided, so it’s about learning when to fire and when to kind of chill out.”

Still, Spieth knows he still has some things to work on. Among them is chilling out when things aren’t going right. Despite a second-round 63 at the Farmers earlier this year, it appeared at times that Spieth was also flustered by Torrey Pines.

“It’s something I need to work on,” Spieth said. “There’s a difference between a big, real competitive fire and then there’s a difference between that and showing it on the course. I don’t really care what other people see, it’s about what and how it affected me. And it’s something I’ve been working on hard the last couple years. It’s just maturing. I just have more maturing to do about letting things happen, not trying to want it too bad on the weekend. And it’s something that my coach and I are really talking about.”

If he keeps his cool, and his ankle stays healthy (it was iffy at Torrey Pines), Spieth could make another big splash by winning at Pebble Beach.

Homa’s AT&T Debut

Former Cal standout Max Homa says he played Pebble Beach for the first time about a month ago. Then, he couldn’t help but be overtaken by the beauty of the place.

“It’s the most beautiful golf course I’ve ever been on.” Homa said.

The 2013 NCAA champion is making his AT&T debut thanks to a sponsor exemption.

For Homa, it’ll be his fourth PGA Tour start. He also played in the Open, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the recent Farmers Insurance Open. His best finish in his other three starts was ninth place at the Frys.

As Homa said, he’s quickly finding out that jumping from the NCAA’s to golf’s biggest stage isn’t easy. Playing in events with multiple venues (AT&T, Farmers Insurance Open) doesn’t make it any easier, either.

“I think I’m still in the early phases of learning that,” Homa said. “The biggest struggle I think is not seeing the courses before. My last two weeks, playing Torrey Pines and here, I mean it’s five courses I had to play for practice rounds, and you really don’t get that many days. So I’m really trying to figure out exactly how to prepare. I guess, once I kind of get a game plan, it will be a bit easier.”

Homa will open Thursday at Pebble Beach with amateur partner Jay Ireland.

Weather Watch

According to a PGA Tour spokesperson, up to an inch of rain could fall on Pebble Beach somewhere before, during and after Thursday’s first round.

While the rain is a bummer, it’s much needed. The wet stuff also should be a cause of celebration for the amateurs because without it, they could be facing their own type of U.S. Open.

Both at September’s Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach and the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational in November, it was the professionals who were in awe of the difficult firm and fast conditions at Pebble Beach due to the drought.

“I couldn’t put any spin on any shots,” remarked Fred Couples.

“The course really is playing the way it’s supposed to, and when it plays like this it’s a great challenge,” Tom Lehman said.

During the final round of the Invitational, only three players were able to break 70.

While the rough is always kept to a minimal at the Pro-Am to help the amateurs, only some rain will keep the greens from playing as hard and fast as they did at the First Tee Open and Invitational.

Who’s With Who

One of the fun things to check out at the Pro-Am is the pairings. Things even got juicy during Wednesday’s practice rounds when Super Bowl losing QB Peyton Manning headed out with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Manning knocked out and Belichick (and Pro-Am participant Tom Brady) in the AFC Conference title game. But Manning also has high respect for the guy in the hoodie.  Prior to their matchup, Manning said of Belichick, “He’ll go down as the greatest coach of all time.”

Come Thursday’s first round, one interesting pairing is D.A. Points playing with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s a change of pace for Points. In 2011, Points swept the Pro-Am playing with Bill Murray.

If you’re looking for long drives and other entertainment, the foursome to follow will be two-time winner Dustin Johnson paired up with his future father-in-law and former hockey great Wayne Gretzky, and the always dapper John Daly playing with newcomer Kid Rock. With Daly and Rock, there’s no telling what may happen.

-Jerry Stewart

Author: Jerry Stewart

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