ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Jordan Spieth knows how to mix business with pleasure. His business is playing great golf. His pleasure is playing great golf courses.
Spieth leaves this week for Down Under, where he defends his title Nov. 26-29 in Sydney at the Australian Open. The first stop is Melbourne and a chance to play the fabled sand belt courses. He has games lined up at Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath.
“I’ve heard Kingston Heath is unbelievable,” Spieth said. “And then Royal Melbourne, I hear you get on the first tee and think, ‘Piece of cake,’ and then watch your tee shot bounce in the air. There and then Long Island, the courses there, are on my bucket lists of courses I haven’t played yet.”
Spieth surely has a long list. He’s only 22 and just completed his third year as a pro.
What intrigues him about Melbourne’s sand belt and Long Island (Shinnecock, National Golf Links) is “that style of golf was meant for that area.”
He missed his chance at Long Island in August during The Barclays, although that was never the plan even before he missed the cut. He was supposed to play with Justin Thomas at Pine Valley the Monday after the tournament. When he missed the cut and had an extra day on his hand, Spieth chose to play Baltusrol with Rickie Fowler (who also missed the cut) to see it ahead of next year’s PGA Championship, and then headed to Boston to work on his game.
Not to worry. That’s an easy trip to plan.
“I’ve done pretty much everything I want to do,” Spieth said. “I still haven’t played Oakmont (next year’s U.S. Open). We have Royal Troon coming up. I haven’t played Carnoustie. But sought after? Sand Hills in Nebraska, the Coore-Crenshaw. I’ve heard it’s supposed to be that good, from Crenshaw and everyone down there.”
One area he failed to mention was Chicago Golf Club, one of the five founding courses of the USGA.
“Chicago Golf and Butler, I don’t have as much of a desire. I heard they’re great, and it will happen at some point,” Spieth said. “But for a style of golf that is so unique to the area, that’s what I’m looking for.”
And that’s what he’s about to get in Melbourne.
SHOWDOWN IN NAPLES: There are 71 players in the CME Group Tour Championship, though it’s effectively a showdown between Inbee Park and Lydia Ko.
At stake? Just about everything.
Ko leads the money list by $188,321 at $2.75 million (first prize is $500,000) and has a narrow lead in the world ranking and player of the year. Park, coming off a win in Mexico, has a slim margin in the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
This really could be winner-take-all in Naples, Florida.
Even if neither win, Park capturing either player of the year or the Vare Trophy would give her the 27 points needed for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Park then would be eligible next year by completing her 10th season on the LPGA Tour.
Meanwhile, Stacy Lewis can claim the $1 million bonus from the Race to the CME Globe if she wins. Park has two majors among her five wins, while Ko has one major among her five. Lewis has yet to win this year.
SPRINT TO DUBAI: Danny Willett needed to finish alone in 28th at the BMW Masters to lead the Race to Dubai, but a bogey on the 17th hole at Lake Malaren meant a three-way tie for 28th. Rory McIlroy is still in the lead, but just barely.
McIlroy, who has been atop the European Tour ranking since his tie for fourth in the Masters, leads by 1,613 points. That’s not much considering the winner of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week gets 1,333,330 points.
And it’s not just a two-man race.
Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace could win the Race to Dubai with a victory. Byeong Hun An, who tied for third at the BMW Masters, also has a mathematical chance.
HOME BOY: Kevin Kisner is happy at home, living in a 1950s era house off the 17th fairway at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, South Carolina.
He’ll be living at Sea Island through at least the end of the year as the house gets expanded. They haven’t had a garage, and now they have a family with an 18-month-old daughter.
“I told (wife) Brittany, ‘Either find us a new place or find somewhere you want to move, a new house.’ And she wanted to stay there,” Kisner said.
Sea Island is a popular spot with several PGA Tour players, along with a sister-in-law who can help when Kisner is traveling. Kisner wouldn’t rule out moving there at some point in his career, though he can see some disadvantages that have nothing to do with golf.
“My off-course activities are not good for that area, like hunting, being in the woods, getting away with people who don’t play golf,” he said. “It’s all golf down there. All my buddies at home don’t play golf professionally. They play recreationally, and they don’t ask me about golf all day, which I like.”
OPEN TICKETS: The R&A will start selling a “twilight ticket” for the British Open at Royal Troon next year.
Along with reducing the price of tickets bought in advance, the R&A will offer a ticket for 25 pounds that allow fans onto the course after 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. That might not sound like much time in America, but not in Scotland. The last time it was held at Royal Troon, the last tee time was 4:21 p.m.
“We recognize that many people have work commitments during the week, and the new twilight tickets will give them an attractive option to attend the Open,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.
The R&A also will reduce the price of daily tickets to 60 pounds if purchased before May 31. Daily tickets are 80 pounds after that. Weekly tickets (Sunday to Sunday) will be 230 pounds if bought before May 31, which is 10 pounds less than 2015. Those tickets are 260 pounds if bought after that date.
DIVOTS: John “Spider” Miller will return as U.S. captain for the 2017 Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club. Miller’s team lost to Great Britain & Ireland this year. … Bae Sang-moon is in the Army. According to South Korea-based Yonhap News Agency, Bae began his military service on Tuesday and will be in the army for 21 months. … BMW has become title sponsor of the South African Open, which will be played Jan. 7-10 in Johannesburg. It already sponsors two other European Tour events, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the BMW International Open in Germany. It is unlikely for the German-based automaker to extend its sponsorship of the BMW Masters in Shanghai. It also sponsors a FedEx Cup event on the PGA Tour. … Justin Thomas at No. 64 had the best world ranking of the six PGA Tour winners so far this season.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Americans have won only six of 30 official events on the LPGA Tour schedule this year going into the CME Group Tour Championship.
FINAL WORD: “I think that’s why golf is the ultimate mental sport because you have all the time in the world to ask yourself all the crazy questions.” — Graeme McDowell.