After whirlwind week, Spieth trying to adjust to major test at Muirfield
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Four players, a quartet of caddies and assorted agents, friends and instructors were walking down the fairway toward Murifield's ninth green around 11 o'clock on this sun-kissed Tuesday morning.
Three names -- Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Grant Forrest -- appeared on the small information board to the left of the green so the people in the grandstands could tell who was approaching. But the identity of the fourth member of the group was a mystery; that is, until Jordan Spieth's caddy set his bag down beside the green.
Spieth was the last man to make the field for The Open Championship after his dramatic playoff win at the John Deere Classic on Sunday so tournament officials were likely still getting his placards made. But the 19-year-old has certainly made a name for himself in a very short time on the PGA TOUR -- and he'd like to re-introduce himself to the Scottish fans in a big way this week, as well.
"It's really beautiful over here," said Spieth, who first acquainted himself with links golf when he played in the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen two years ago. "I love it. But this is not vacation time. It's work time. This is one of the four biggest weeks of the year. I've got to dig in and give it all I've got and next week I can relax."
Spieth actually had expected to play in a pro-am on Monday and then take a couple of weeks off. Plans change, though, just as Spieth's life did on Sunday when he locked up his TOUR card, vaulted to 11th in the FedExCup standings and boarded a charter flight to Edinburgh that also included Zach Johnson, one of the two players he had just beaten in sudden death.
"It was a five-hole playoff so I guess it left an hour or two later than it should have," Spieth said, almost shyly. "I got a nice reception when I got on the plane. The pros were all class acts. It felt very welcoming and I'm ready to go this week."
That is, if he can just get some laundry done. Spieth only packed for one week -- and that was three weeks ago when he headed for the AT&T National. But a tie for sixth got Spieth into The Greenbrier Classic and he was a sponsor's exemption the following week at the John Deere Classic.
"These are the pants I wore Sunday; haven't been washed," Spieth said, looking down at his khaki trousers. "Starting tomorrow everything about be fine."
That's because a rep from one of his sponsors, UnderArmor, will arrive with reinforcements. Even though it's been unseasonably warm here on the Scottish coast, when the wind blows it gets chilly and Spieth only had one sweater and a rain jacket in his luggage.
Lucky for Spieth, his mother had given his passport to a friend last week. After he shot 1 under in the first round at TPC Deere Run, a course that annually requires a lot of birdies if a player is to contend, Spieth didn't really have any expectations of what was to come.
"I was just trying to have a good week," Spieth said. "Honestly, I was just trying to make another major championship this week -- the PGA. I was trying to move up on their money list. You bring (the passport) just in case but it wasn't even on my mind."
The charter landed in Edinburgh, which is about 30 minutes from Muirfield, about 10 a.m. on Monday. Spieth walked around the city, hoping to stay awake as long as possible to get acclimated to the six-hour time change, and then spent the night in a local hotel.
The reception once he got to Muirfield on Tuesday was "awesome," Spieth said. "Guys were coming up and shaking my hand. Phil (Mickelson) was really nice on the range and he just won too, so that was pretty cool."
Mickelson, who added the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open to his World Golf Hall of Fame resume on Sunday, says he's been impressed with Spieth since he made the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship three years ago as a 16-year-old.
"I think he's one of our really good young stars that we have coming up," Mickelson said. "Obviously he's played like that. But he is more than that. He's enjoyable to be around. He's got charisma; people are drawn to him. ... Much like guys Keegan Bradley bring to the table for the PGA TOUR, I think Jordan Spieth does as well.
"Which is why winning is so important because it gets him now into the FedExCup events. ... It allows him to start thriving on the PGA TOUR, rather than having to worry about week to week. And I love his game. I love everything about it. It's not about pretty. It's not about making the most perfect swing. It's about hitting shots. And that's what he did under pressure. I love and respect that."
Spieth, who planned to get in a full 18 holes at Muirfield on Wednesday, hasn't been able to get on the Internet and watch any replays of his final-round 65 at TPC Deere Run that included a holed bunker shot for birdie on the 72nd hole that got him in the playoff with Johnson and David Hearn. Johnson bogeyed the final hole or else he would have had a successful title defense.
"It really was miraculous," Spieth agreed. "The breaks that I got, the tough breaks the other guys got. I dodged 15 bullets in regulation and the playoff. I finally got an opening fifth playoff hole and needed to take advantage, which I did, which is really good because I was barely hanging on."
Now that the win has given Spieth full playing privileges on TOUR, he also gets credit for the 1,114 FedExCup he's earned in 16 events this year. The $10 million bonus is another carrot dangled in a year full of such enticements, and he now gets to add four Playoffs events to his schedule.
It's just nice to have those events to play in," Spieth said. "I think of it as trying to win THE TOUR Championship. Typically, if you do that you're going to win the FedExCup with the way the points are adjusted. ...
"But it's really special. It's not about the bonus money -- it's that I have more opportunities to play against fields like this one."