A rookie prank on his friend, and the rookie pays
SAN DIEGO (AP)—Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have known each other since they were 14 and were picked to represent the United States in the Evian Junior Masters in France. Their families have stayed in each other’s houses during tournaments. Spieth and Thomas often stay together on the road.
Thomas might be three months older, but he’s still a PGA Tour rookie.
Spieth, already a Ryder Cup veteran starting his third year on tour, had no choice but to remind him of that at the Phoenix Open.
There are only 75 or so parking spots for players at the TPC Scottsdale clubhouse lot. Spieth had one as the No. 9 player in the world. Thomas had to valet his car in another lot as a sponsor’s exemption.
Thomas jokingly told Spieth he would take his spot, and when Thomas arrived for early practice Wednesday, he couldn’t resist.
“I wouldn’t do it to anyone else, but obviously I was going to park in his spot,” Thomas said. “I shouldn’t have told him I was going to do it, because then he wouldn’t have known it was me.”
Instead, Thomas sent him a Snapchat of his car in Spieth’s parking spot with this message: “This is what happens when you get into a tournament late. You have to compromise.”
“I’m not going to be outdone by a rookie,” Spieth said. “When I arrived, I decided to tip the valet guys and tell them, `My buddy is trying to mess with me. Can we tow his car out of here? Can you put my car in there and not mention it and tow his somewhere else?’ There’s always an extra set of keys (for courtesy cars), so they got the keys and took his car three lots over.”
Thomas practiced in the morning and was ready to leave, which became a problem when he got to the parking lot.
“I saw my car wasn’t there and I was like, `He seriously towed me car,”’ Thomas said.
Spieth was playing in the pro-am, so he didn’t see until later a string of text messages sent by Thomas, each one sounding a little more desperate.
“Where is my car?”
“What did you do?”
“Are you serious? I need my car.”
“Jay said it’s at the Hilton. What are you doing to me?”
That would be Jay Danzi, Spieth’s agent, whom Thomas finally found in the clubhouse. Danzi innocently told Thomas not to worry because his car had been taken back to the Hilton in downtown Phoenix about 20 miles away. Except that Thomas was staying only a mile away in a house.
“He had me going. … I just wanted to leave,” Thomas said. “He eventually told me the guys moved it to one of the other parking lots. I came over and the head valet guy is smiling at me. I said, `Can you please get my car?”’
So maybe that’s what Thomas was talking about Friday evening when asked about how fun it was to be on tour with Spieth, “just as a friend and as a peer that we get to hang out and be 21-year-olds.”
This was their first tournament together as PGA Tour members.
Spieth, 1 up.
“He was in a panic attack for a few hours, so that was worth it,” Spieth said.
And Thomas said he has learned his lesson and won’t park in Spieth’s spot the next time. Then again, they’re staying together this week at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I’ve got a whole week to plan something,” Thomas said.
BACK TO BETHPAGE: Even though the USGA presumably gave up on Bethpage Black after a second U.S. Open in 2009, the public course on Long Island remains very much in the picture with the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup.
And the list keeps growing.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday two additional stops for Bethpage Black that feature the world’s best players. The Barclays, the opening FedEx Cup playoff event with the top 125 players on the PGA Tour that year, will return in 2021 and 2027.
The Barclays first went to Bethpage Black in 2012, and it returns in 2016 as it continues to rotate with three top New Jersey courses.
DO THE MATHS: The Official World Golf Ranking often gets criticized when someone rises to No. 1 without having won a major, such as Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. They played the best golf over a two-year period, consistently had top finishes and won tournaments when no one was dominating the sport.
Overlooked in the euphoria over 17-year-old Lydia Ko becoming the youngest golfer at No. 1 was how her record the last two years compared with those now chasing her. Ko turned pro 14 months ago, and in the last two years already has four victories and 15 finishes in the top 10.
Inbee Park has nine victories and four majors over the last two years and had 17 top 10s a year ago. She is now No. 2 Stacy Lewis, the world No. 3, has had six victories and one major in the last two years.
MASTERS UPDATE: Augusta National made it through one month without sending any more Masters invitations to PGA Tour players.
The Masters prefers to keep its field under 100 players, and it has done that since 1966. There already were 90 players who were eligible and expected to compete when the year ended, and Matias Dominguez of Chile made it 91 by winning the inaugural Latin American Amateur Championship.
As for PGA Tour winners?
Patrick Reed (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), Jimmy Walker (Sony Open), Bill Haas (Humana Challenge) and Brooks Koepka (Phoenix Open) already were eligible for the Masters. Nine more PGA Tour events remain before the field at the Masters is set.
Four players from the European Tour currently are in the top 50 and would be eligible if they stay there at the end of March. However, ranking points on the European Tour will drop significantly over the next two months except for the World Golf Championship at Doral.
BUBBA’S FAMILY: Bubba Watson officially has a foursome.
The two-time Masters champion said the adoption of a baby girl was completed last week. He and his wife, Angie, previously adopted a boy named Caleb shortly before he won his first Masters in 2012. They named their daughter Dakota to keep the alphabet going—A (Angie), B (Bubba), C (Caleb) and D (Dakota).
Watson said they have had the girl since birth, and his wife was at the hospital. Dakota was born two days after Watson won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
DIVOTS: There’s a reason Lucy Li will not be returning to the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship on Sunday before the Masters. The USGA said the 11-year-old from San Francisco did not enter because of scheduling conflicts. After winning her age division at Augusta National last year, Li became the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open. She missed the cut at Pinehurst No. 2. … Jimmy Walker received a fresh set of head covers from Titleist on Tuesday, except for his 3-wood. He got that one in 2001 when he qualified for the Byron Nelson Championship, his first PGA Tour event, and he doesn’t want to replace it. … The PGA Tour China released a 2015 schedule of 13 tournaments, up one from its inaugural year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy has not finished worse than second in his last eight official European Tour events.
FINAL WORD: “It’s not like I’m out there trying to send any sort of message to people, but I guess if they are going to beat me, they are going to have to play well.”—Rory McIlroy after winning in Dubai. He has four wins and four runner-up finishes in his last 12 events.