Spieth's strategic planning paying off
Decisions away from Augusta National boost his performance
April 10, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth fired a second-round 66 to set the 36-hole course record at the Masters Tournament. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth is renting two houses this week.
One is for sleeping. The place he can rest, gather his thoughts, find some quiet time if necessary.
The other is for fun. The place he can hang out in and enjoy time with his parents, brother, friends and anyone else in town from Dallas this week.
If he walks into the latter and golf is on television, someone immediately changes the channel. It doesn’t matter if it’s turned to lawn darts or HGTV. Anything but golf.
The point is once Spieth leaves Augusta National, golf isn’t watched, discussed or perhaps even thought about. Playing cards, shooting pool, playing table tennis, watching the Dallas Mavericks -- there are plenty of ways to keep himself entertained.
It’s the same setup he had last year in his first Masters Tournament appearance when he tied for second as a 20-year-old.
Now he’s the solo leader after 36 holes, having set the Masters record for lowest score through two rounds at 14 under. He also tied a record for the best start in any major.
“I feel comfortable this week,” Spieth said. “I haven't really felt very nervous. I've felt in a good place.”
Friday night will be the third time Spieth has slept on a lead after a round at Augusta National. Considering he has played just six rounds here, that’s about as difficult to wrap your head around as anything else he’s accomplishing right now.
The first time he had the overnight lead at the Masters was after 54 holes last year, when he shared the top spot with Bubba Watson. He didn’t win but shot a respectable even-par 72.
Now, it appears, his quiet space is paying even bigger dividends. “I slept well last night,” he said.
He plans to enjoy the time away from the course prior to Saturday’s round, too. He’ll have a lot of time to kill -- he finished Friday afternoon and he doesn’t tee off in the final group with Charley Hoffman until 2:55 p.m. ET. But he doesn’t have any concerns about keeping himself occupied.
“Going to be just hanging with friends and family and taking it easy and hopefully just acting like nothing’s going on,” he said. “Just get ready for tomorrow, understanding that this is just the halfway point.”
At 21 years old, Spieth is playing at a level we’re not used to seeing at his age, at least by someone not named Tiger Woods. The two houses, having his family in town, poker games -- those things should help him relax and not think about what’s really at stake.
Golf history is littered with players who have blown big leads in majors -- particularly at Augusta National, where Greg Norman famously led by six going into Saturday and again on Sunday in 1996 only to lose by five. But through two rounds, Spieth has looked nothing short of spectacular in every sense of the word and doesn’t have much, if any, in the way of mental scar tissue.
He also doesn’t have much of an awe factor, which is almost always an issue at the Masters, particularly for players with little experience.
But Tiger wasn’t in awe and he won here at age 21. Seve Ballesteros did at 23.
“I’m not comparing myself to those guys in any way,” Spieth said. “But I’m saying, it’s only taken them a time or two to figure it out to get into contention and close out the tournament. It means that it can be done.”
It helped last year that his first look at Augusta National came about six months before his first Masters start. And it will help this year that he has already been in the cauldron here late on a Sunday afternoon.
“After getting into contention last year and seeing what Sunday in the final group was like,” Spieth said, “now it feels more like a regular event.”
It also feels like home.
If Spieth wins this week, he’d be the first Texas native to win a Green Jacket since Ben Crenshaw, who played his final Masters round on Friday. Spieth and Crenshaw both attended the University of Texas -- about 40 years apart -- and Spieth considers Crenshaw a mentor.
Earlier this week, they played a couple of practice rounds together, with Crenshaw giving Spieth some putting tips that the youngster put to use during the first two rounds.
And now that Crenshaw is done playing, he’s free to cheer from the gallery. He even told Spieth he’ll be sitting in the crowd at 15, a beer in one hand, a sandwich in the other.
“I highly doubt that,” Spieth laughed.
So the more we see of Spieth the more good stuff there is.
He already has two career wins on the PGA TOUR and a flair for clutch and dramatic performances. There isn't one area of his game that jumps off the page other than the one that counts the most: Getting the ball in the hole in as few strokesas possible.
“He is very impressive,” said Henrik Stenson, No. 2 in the world and 16 shots back after two days playing alongside Spieth. “He's definitely an old head on young shoulders. He's playing strategically. He's playing very mature. And, yeah, not making too many mistakes.”
Including on his housing.