Jordan Spieth is one of those players who sum up the reason we play golf. Not watch golf, though that’s great, too. Play golf.
We stumble around for more than half a round, maybe this goes on for 17 holes, and we find that one shot that gets us going.
It raises a Claret Jug for him. Us? It brings us back to the course. That’s our trophy.
Jordan Spieth? Oh, to have every synapse in our body alive – and crackling.
I wrote those words a couple of weekends back, not long after I struggled through watching the British Open, before and after church, with a phone that was losing power like Jordan was losing strokes on the front side at Birkdale. I saw enough of the 13th to see Jordan shudder with his hands over his head after his tee shot. Did he just bump a table and knock his mom’s china onto the porcelain-tiled floor. I saw him climb that tall dune – he was so far up, I thought he’d go Charlton Heston on us and throw down some stone tablets – before the phone died and I had to catch the highlight show.
I posted those thoughts onto a Facebook group page post and, at three, got more likes than anything else I’ve posted there. Hey, the group only has 37 members.
Beyond this rush of such viral Facebook acceptance (right … ), I felt compelled to have another go at this. It’s been more than a year since I blogged about golf. And the subject that day was, again, Jordan Spieth.
I used something else that bounced away shockingly from Jordan’s clubs, his Amen Corner mess at the Masters – “Spieth’s Splashes” I called it – to show that some things in golf aren’t going away. There are still notable chokes at major tournaments, and there still is a notable downfall in participation in golf the last two decades.
There were plenty of examples to support both. But I won’t break out the “works cited” here. I’ll just embrace the moment, these still early chapters of a champion golfer’s story, and relate my limited first-person experience with Jordan Spieth. Uncannily, some of it has come along with Matt Kuchar (yep, Jordan’s mate those final two days at Birkdale), and Rory McIlroy, who also crafted a top-five Open finish this year.
If someone like Jordan Spieth can’t generate the masses to hit the links, if Millennials’ participation lags in an Ancient game, they’re missing out on all the fun. I, however, prefer to get into this.
I remember the first time he was paired with Rory. This was 2013 at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Spieth was 19 and playing on a sponsor’s exemption extended to him because he failed to earn playing privileges through PGA Tour Q-School, and his education would continue here when he missed the cut.
He saw McIlroy, a two-time major champ by this time, shoot a second-round 67 on the way to finishing second. But he was schooled more by Kuchar, also in that grouping the first two rounds.
“Matt was in a lot of really hard positions and he made his seven to eight-foot putts,” Spieth said after watching Kooch rally from a stroke past the cut line with a pair of back-nine birdies. “I just feel like my little sister could have putted for me and shot a better round.”
His sister has gone through school with special needs, and she sees the world through a different set of eyes. So do we, with big brother, and it could have started in this tournament. He had three-straight birdies to get him to 4-under in his first round, yet he tripped on his 17th hole with a triple.
Two years later, in a Texas Open that has reverberated for years, he lost by four strokes to Jimmy Walker. Even then, down seven shots with eight holes to play on Sunday, Spieth put the pressure on Walker with four-straight birdies on the back.
“He really made me fight hard,” the future PGA champ Walker said. “He kept hitting it close.”
Spieth would beat Walker to a first major championship. He would head to Augusta a couple of weeks later and slip on a Green Jacket with the thought he picked up after pressing Walker:
“You’re never out of it in this game.”
Did anyone think that with Spieth standing on top of a dune at Birkdale’s 13th? But he’s right; we’re never out of it, and that’s why we play this game.
Tim Price is the author of two books and can be followed on Twitter by visiting @golflikeurpoor