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Chris Gay: Hot, sweaty golf deserves a t-shirt

Posted: July 26, 2017 - 1:28am

I should get a T-shirt.

After covering golf for seven days in temperatures climbing somewhere north of 2,327 degrees, I need some sort of shirt. Something like: I survived Golfmageddon 2017.

Seven days of golf coverage in eight days in this kind of weather is rough. It's the heat. It's the humidity. And it's a lot of sweat, along with a lot of water and sports drinks.

Those men, boys and girls playing in the tournaments deserve a T-shirt, too. As bad as it was for me, I know it was worse for them.

In recent weeks, I covered golf tournaments at two Columbia County golf courses - the Georgia Amateur Championship at West Lake Country Club and the E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship at Jones Creek Golf Club. Despite sweating into my eyes on more than one occasion (that burns, by the way), I found time to ask golfers different questions. One thing I typically asked: What did you think of the tournament?

After gauging the thoughts of golfers from around the state and the Southeast, I can tell you what I already knew. The folks at Jones Creek and West Lake did a great job holding their respective tournaments. The courses, especially the greens, were each in great shape. The golfers felt welcomed. Play moved quickly.

West Lake director of golf Kirk Hice and his team should be congratulated for a fantastic job. I can't wait to see what other big-time golf events West Lake holds in the future.

Everyone at Jones Creek (Gregg Hemann, Ray and Melissa Mundy, Dan Troutman, to name a few) deserves kudos as well. The E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship only seems to get better and better, and that's a credit to the fine folks at Jones Creek and the 300 volunteers who help with the event.

So if you're looking for a course to play this summer and want to earn your own T-shirt, go play Jones Creek. Or if you can get on West Lake, play there. Or try our other fine courses in Columbia County - Bartram Trail and Champions Retreat. We're fortunate to have great golf courses and even better people running them.

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JORDAN RULES: For years, folks talked about Tiger Woods possibly passing Jack Nicklaus for the most professional major golf championships. Now that it appears that won't happen, maybe we need to add Jordan Spieth to the conversation.

At 23, Spieth (who turns 24 on Thursday) now has three major championship victories after his British Open win Sunday. He needs only to win the PGA Championship next month for the career Grand Slam, which would put him in rare air. Only Nicklaus, Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen have pulled off the feat.

Also, Bobby Jones famously won the Grand Slam in 1930, when he claimed the British Amateur, British Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open titles.

Spieth is on the major championship pace set by Nicklaus, who also had three major wins by age 23 - he added No. 4, his second Masters title - in 1965 when he was 25. Woods only had two major titles before he turned 24 - he then won three majors in 2000 when he was 25.

For the record, Nicklaus owns 18 major titles, while Woods has 14 and Walter Hagen 11. Ben Hogan and Gary Player each won nine, while Tom Watson brought home eight. Spieth is tied for 29th place on the all-time list.

The Golden Bear won seven major championships by the time he turned 30. Spieth will need to win four of the next 24 major tournaments to keep pace.

Spieth is up to No. 22 on the career money list with more than $32.5 million in earnings. He could easily climb another five, six spots on the career list by the end of the year.

If he continues his success, the young Texan will force his way into the conversation with Nicklaus and Woods. A win at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow (I still like Rory McIlroy there) would certainly make Spieth one to watch for years to come.

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HOW HE WINS: While Nicklaus and Woods were known for their prowess off the tee, Spieth is not the longest hitter on tour. He's not even close.

Entering the British Open, Spieth ranked 98th on the PGA Tour this season in driving distance at 291.4 yards off the tee. His driving accuracy hasn't been that great either (59.6 percent, No. 121 on tour).

So how is he winning? With his wedges and irons.

Spieth ranks in the top 15 on the PGA Tour in approach shots from 125 to 200 yards - he's first on shots between 150 to 175 yards. He also ranks sixth in approach shots from 50 to 75 yards. Because of this, his greens in regulation percentage is 70.7, fifth on tour.

Spieth is also a solid putter. He averages 28.6 putts per round (No. 32 on tour).

So it goes to show you don't have to swing as hard as you can when you play golf. If you want to improve your game, work on your iron play and your wedge game. And practice some putting as well.

If you're spending too long hitting your driver on the range, you're doing it wrong. Spieth is proving that.

And if you're spending too long on the golf course - and you're sweating to death in the process - maybe you deserve a T-shirt.

 

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