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Spieth turns in another solid performance

Chip Ellis
Jordan Spieth shot a 3-over 73 Sunday to finish 6 under for the tournament.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old wonder who already owns a top-25 finish in a major, has one bit of unfinished business left this season - he's still trying to qualify for the season-ending FedExCup playoffs that begin in late August.

To do that, Spieth, who finished in a tie for 23rd Sunday, needs to win one of the events that precede the playoffs. So he plans to be accordingly aggressive when he gets the chance.

"Definitely, there's no decision now,'' he said during Sunday's rain delay. "If it's not a win, it doesn't do a whole lot for me. I'm fine with that.

"These [other] guys are playing great golf, [so] it's a lot to ask. I just have to keep my head down and be aggressive. That's how it's going to be.''

The two-time U.S. Amateur champion, who was 21st in the 2012 U.S. Open, has already earned full-time status on the PGA Tour.

Spieth, who spent some time this week fly fishing with brother Steven at The Greenbrier resort (a graduation present for Steven), said he still has other things to shoot for this season.

"I wouldn't really say I have expectations,'' he said, "but I have goals for the rest of the year. One is to make the PGA Championship, and I have to work hard to do that. Last week was a great step forward for that [sixth place in the AT&T National].

"I've got a chance to play in another major, a great chance for me to learn from the best players in the world.''

Weather or not

The horn sounded at 1:50 p.m. for Sunday's weather delay, and the large videoboard on the 18th hole flashed the following message: "Dangerous weather in area; seek shelter immediately.''

That prompted thousands of spectators to march off the course and head for the nearest safe haven.

Spieth, tied for fourth at the start of Sunday's final round, hadn't even played one entire hole. He was facing a 60-foot putt on No. 1 when the horn blew.

"Mentally, you don't think much about it,'' Spieth said of the unscheduled break. "It's unfortunate to hit when it did, but it's kind of nice hitting really early [for me] than on 10 or 11. You just go out and start over. Go out and warm up, make it like nothing happened.''

At 3:08, a large rumble of thunder echoed through the hills surrounding the clubhouse. Then came more heavy rain. Play didn't resume until 5 p.m., and a steady rain began falling soon after before the skies cleared.

Learning curve

Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints coach who caddied this week for Ryan Palmer, said he came away with a renewed appreciation for PGA players and those who tote their bags.

"Certainly, it's a grind,'' Payton said, "just in regard to what these guys have to do - the mental approach, the mental focus to making shots. You go through it for four days, and it's pretty impressive.''

Palmer, who finished the tournament at even par 280 after shooting 1-over 71 on Sunday, enjoyed having his buddy Payton around for the week.

"It's more relaxed,'' Palmer said. "You have fun, but you find yourself grinding a little harder, too. I used his yardage [calculations] a couple of times and it worked out pretty good.

"I made a few mistakes here and there, but what can you say? To have someone like this at your side for a round of golf is pretty cool.''

Tom terrific again

Venerable Tom Watson again showed the PGA youngsters what a good round is all about.

The 63-year-old Watson, The Greenbrier's pro emeritus and an ambassador for the resort, shot a 3-under 67 and finished the week at 4-under 276. He needed only 22 putts in Sunday's round.

"A lot of positives,'' Watson said about his week, "[especially] the long irons.''

If he had putted better earlier this week, Watson thinks he could have gone even lower as he made the cut for a second straight year.

"The greens were like rocks the first year,'' Watson said, "but they're very tough now. A lot of times, the greens play very small because of the contours. You've got to use some imagination - that's how C.B. Macdonald designed it.''

Left in the dark

Reactions were mixed following Sunday's race against the clock to complete the Greenbrier Classic before sunset, thanks to a 3-hour, 10-minute weather delay earlier in the round.

Actually, play wrapped up seven minutes after sundown, with barely enough light left to play golf.

Johnson Wagner, the third-round leader, wasn't pleased with himself or with the decision to keep playing after he shot a 3-over 73 to finish in a four-way tie for second, two shots behind Jonas Blixt.

"It was dark. It was really dark,'' Wagner said. "We should have played threesomes early this morning - not that it would have made any difference with my round. But yeah, the last few holes I felt like we were just trying to finish. Of course, we wanted to finish. I didn't mean to sound like a baby there. I'm just furious.''

Steven Bowditch, another part of that four-way tie for second, took a lighter approach to the race against darkness.

"Yeah, this happens all the time,'' he said. "The darkness mixed in with trying to win a golf tournament. I've never been involved in that. It was fun. I enjoyed it, learned a few things and move on to next week.''

Across the pond

Jimmy Walker didn't win the tournament, but he won a nice prize with his second-place finish - a trip to the British Open.

His 183.75 FedExCup points raised him to 17th in the overall standings, and fourth among players not already exempt to the Open, played July 18-21.

The top five players among the overall top 20 won bids - Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Russell Henley, Walker and Harris English. Charles Howell III, who missed the cut Friday, stayed in the overall top 20 but was bumped out of the Open derby.

Blixt was too far behind in the points standings, only rising to 39th. But he still has a chance to get in the field as the top alternate, a list based on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Howell and others have one more chance at a golden ticket - a victory next week in the John Deere Open in Silvis, Ill.

Briefly

  • The changing conditions produced an uptick in the stroke average Sunday, to 70.143. The four-round average was 69.868.
  • The par-4 13th hole, which baffled most leaders Sunday, was the toughest with a 4.240 average. Of the par-5s, the 17th came in a little easier than the 12th, 4.758 to 4.764.

    Bubba Watson boomed the week's longest drive, going 367 yards on the 10th on Sunday.

  • There were 15 international media workers representing six outlets from Korea, the United Kingdom and Japan. Many representatives are based in America and work for the overseas outlets.
  • Before Wagner teed off, Virginia Tech teammate Brendon de Jonge was safely in the clubhouse with a 4-under 66, a number that shot him up near the top 10. That would be his third top 10 at the Classic, following a tie for third in 2010 and a fourth in 2011.
  • His chance for contention melted away on Saturday when he bogeyed the 12th through 15th to finish with a 73.

  • Louis Oosthuizen holed out for an eagle on the second, which was restored to its 488-yard difficulty. After driving to the center of the fairway, he dunked a 184-yard approach.   
  • Eagles have been scored this week on three other par-4s, the fifth (Patrick Reed), 14th (Dickie Pride) and 16th (Paul Haley Jr.)

  • Bill Haas had a really unlucky break with the weather.
  • As he was ready to take his second shot, the winds suddenly kicked up, gusting to 30 mph or more. He tried to wait it out, gave up and hit into that wind and left it 83 feet short.

    Seconds after that, the horn went off to stop play. Three hours later, he saved par.


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