Backspin: Spieth had nothing to lose

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Jordan Spieth had a plan coming into this season.

“I guess the plan got exceeded,” he said Sunday night after winning the John Deere Classic in a playoff. “I wanted to just earn my TOUR card for next year this year somehow.”

How quickly that plan changed is a testament to just how talented Spieth is. He also had nothing to lose.

Prior to his victory, Spieth, playing mostly on sponsor exemptions, had racked up five top 10s, including a runner-up, and more than enough cash to secure his card for next season.

The only thing he couldn’t do? Participate in the FedExCup Playoffs because he was only a special temporary member of the TOUR.

“The position I was in prior to this week was if I don't win, it doesn't do anything different for me,” Spieth said. “When you don't have anything to lose and you want to strive for everything that comes with it, I kind of fire away.

“Being in the position I was in versus if I was a member of the TOUR already and were fighting if I hadn't played as well in certain events, I was fighting for my card, fighting for every dollar, it would have made a little bit of a difference. I had to kind of go for broke, and it paid off.”

And thensome.

Spieth went from no status to 11th in the FedExCup standings and earned a spot in The Open Championship (he remembered to bring his passport), the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, next year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions and of course the Masters.

It was all made possible by among other things Spieth’s hole out from the bunker on the final hole of regulation, and his low, running approach shot from the rough on the fifth extra hole to set up the clinching par.

“Swinging free,” Spieth said. “Once you're in the playoff, you might as well go for the pin. You either pull it off or it ends up in the water. It's not like it costs you two strokes; you still get second place. Either way, it wasn't a bad outcome, and that is the way I thought about it. I just said, you know what, who cares? And I got a nice break on 18 (in the playoff), and somehow parred it again.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I'm extremely cheap as it is, because I was very cheap in college. Maybe I'll work into it a little bit. But for now, the check is the check, but this is what I wanted. I'm just happy I got one of those big checks instead of one of the little ones.” -- Jordan Spieth, who has no big plans for the $828,000 that came with Sunday’s victory.

“You want an Open title by your name. To finally get it, even though it's a Senior Open, I still regard it as a very high honor.” -- Kenny Perry on winning the U.S. Senior Open.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@BillyHo_Golf: Got a brand new secret weapon this week for the Open Championship! -- Billy Horschel, not citing Octopus pants this time but a 2-iron he will put into play.

@JohnPetersonLSU: Real happy for @JordanSpieth. Meet you on the 9th green at 9. Wear something nice. -- Somehow, I’m guessing Spieth won’t fall for that one.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. A couple of weeks ago, Tiger Woods declared his strained left elbow “GED,” or “good enough,” for The Open Championship. It wasn’t until last week, however, that Woods started chipping and putting again. Late last week, he said on his website he is a “full go for the British Open,” adding, “I'm very confident that my left elbow strain won't be a problem and I will be able to hit all the shots I need to hit. That's why I took the time off, so it could heal, and I would feel comfortable playing again.” He’s still taking anti-inflammatory medication for the elbow and getting treatment, however.

2. As for Phil Mickelson, he arrives at Muirfield perhaps feeling as good as ever about his chances in the one major that has continually vexed him. He has just two career top 10s in The Open Championship -- a tie for second in 2011 and a third-place finish in 2004. “It's important to me, and it's probably the biggest challenge of my career is hitting the shots that are required here,” Mickelson said after his playoff victory in the Scottish Open. “To win here and to play well here, finally win on a links golf course, it really means a lot to me, and it also builds my confidence heading into future Scottish and British Opens. But, to win any Open Championship, whether it's the Scottish Open or the British Open, on links golf, you need some luck. You need a little bit of luck. You need some good breaks with your tee times; I had some good weather with my tee times this week. You need some good bounces. You just need a little bit of luck, as well as good play.”

3. Speaking of luck, Adam Scott didn’t have much of it over the final four holes at last year’s Open Championship. He’s never seen the tape of that final round but told me a few weeks ago that he’s tempted to watch it now that he has since won his first major championship. You can see what else he had to say in an exclusive and extensive Q&A here.

4. I don’t know what to make of Rory McIlroy’s chances this week, other than they don’t appear to be good. Most startling? These numbers: He ranks 129th in strokes gained-putting compared with 82nd last year, and he’s 165th in scrambling compared with 33rd a year ago. He has also gotten up and down only 53 percent of the time, down from 60.2 percent a year ago.

5. Luck has nothing to do with Steve Stricker’s play at the John Deere Classic. A three-time winner of the event, Stricker tied for 10th this year -- his seventh career top 10 in a dozen appearances in the event. With his 5-under 66 on Sunday, Stricker is now a collective 100 under over the last five years at TPC Deere Run.

6. The John Deere Classic has now produced 19 first-time winners with six of them coming since 2000 at TPC Deere Run -- Michael Clark in 2000; David Gossett, 2001; Mark Hensby, 2004; Sean O’Hair, 2005; John Senden, 2006; and Spieth this year. Just a hunch, but I think Spieth will be the best of that bunch.

7. Stat of the Week I: Spieth became the youngest winner on TOUR since Ralph Guldahl won the 1931 Santa Monica Open at the age of 19 years, 8 months and 3 days.

8. Stat of the Week II: In 1999, Sergio Garcia had four top 10s as a 19-year-old. Rory McIlroy didn’t have any on TOUR at that age. Spieth has six, including a win. That’s not to suggest the Texan will be better than or even as good as Garcia or McIlroy but it provides at least a little perspective on how good Spieth has been this season.

9. Stat of the Week III: This was already the seventh playoff of the 2013 season. None of the previous six made it beyond two holes. The five-hole playoff last week was the longest since John Huh defeated Robert Allenby on the eighth extra hole at last year’s Mayakoba Golf Classic.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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Will Tom Watson make the at The Open this year? -- Dominic

Will the sun rise in the east? Watson making the cut at The Open happens almost as frequently as Fred Couples gets in contention early in the week at the Masters. Watson has made the cut in three of the last four Opens, and I’m not sure I see that changing this year.

Can Rickie Fowler legitimately make a push for his first major next weekend? -- Kyle Weise

He tied for fifth there a couple of years ago, and his ball flight and aggressive putting stroke tend to play well on a links course. Fowler is too good not to win a major and he has as good a chance at The Open as any of them.

Do you think Luke Donald and his craving for a win in a major will finally pull him through this time? -- Taylor Dunmar

You can crave a major all you want, Taylor, but unless you execute it doesn’t matter. His best chances have typically come at the Masters, but he does own a couple of top-5 finishes in The Open since 2009. For Donald, it’s all about keeping the ball in play off the tee and hoping for firm, fast conditions.

Have a question for the mailbag? Send it to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com or via Twitter at @pgatour_brianw.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK

The Open Championship is the hardest of the four majors to predict for a variety of reasons, none perhaps bigger than the weather and the end of the draw you end up on. The last time The Open was played at Muirfield, weather was a major factor in the third round, when the leaders were met with rain, wind and cold after the morning groups played in completely benign conditions. It was also 11 years ago, so there’s not much to draw from it that would be applicable this year. That said, it’s hard not to like Tiger Woods’ chances -- if he’s healthy. Others I like: Lee Westwood, who has a history of contending in majors, along with Brandt Snedeker and Branden Grace.

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