Spieth form no surprise to Hickok
February 15, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth plays a tee shot on the 13th hole during the Genesis Open. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Kramer Hickok looked at the leaderboards around Riviera Country Club and was very surprised.
Surprised to see his own name near the top that is – not to see his close friend and former roommate Jordan Spieth two shots ahead of him at the Genesis Open.
Spieth has been in somewhat of a slump of late so his 7-under 64 to lead the first wave of players in the opening round was a surprise to some.
The former FedExCup champion hasn’t had a top-10 on the PGA TOUR since last season’s Open Championship in July and currently sits 178th on the season long points list.
But Hickok – who is in the midst of his rookie PGA TOUR season and shot a 5-under 66 to be T2 in the same wave – knows Spieth better than most.
They were at the University of Texas together as freshman in 2012 when the Longhorns won the national title… at Riviera no less.
“Of course I’m not surprised to see him up there. Jordan's a stud,” Hickok said.
“Everyone gives him such a hard time because his standards are so high, and they're just as high for himself, but he's one of the best in the world and he can go shoot 7, 8 under at any moment."
“If the putter heats up, his driver heats up, he'll be just fine.”
The 11-time PGA TOUR winner had an impressive time with the putter and his short game in general, going eight of eight in scrambling and chipping in twice.
But he knows his striking off the tee still remains a work in progress.
“With the conditions we had, that was a great scoring round, and looking forward to the rest of the week, trying to improve on kind of the way I'm striking it,” Spieth said.
“From San Diego to Pebble was significant progress, from Pebble to here has been significant progress just in the way I feel hitting the ball."
“Whether the scores reflect it or not, I know how I feel striking it so I know when it's close. I'm looking to try and make progress each day in the way that feeling sustains this week because it didn't sustain through the weekend at Pebble."
“But I know what went off and I know what to fix. It's just kind of a little bit of trial and error right now.”
The fixes come with the help of coach Cameron McCormick, who incidentally also works with Hickok.
And it is the Australian coach who gets plenty of credit for Hickok’s opening round, the second best of his season thus far.
Prior to this week Hickok’s best result was a T23 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. He’s made just three of nine cuts in his rookie season.
“It's kind of been a struggle. We hit balls for about four hours just working on some lower body movement, something I've been struggling with,” Hickok said of a pre-tournament coaching session.
“We seemed to grind it out and basically I’ve played really well with this feel before, I've won with it in Canada, I've won with that feel on the Web last year in the Finals, so it's a feel that I know I can go out and trust under pressure and play good golf.”
Unlike Spieth, Hickok wasn’t part of the Texas playing squad in 2012. So his memories of that famous week where Spieth took down Justin Thomas and Alabama in the final at Riviera are limited.
“I remember Dylan Frittelli making a 30‑footer to win the national championship and running to jump on him. That's about it,” Hickok smiles.
“That's really my experience with Riviera. I've only played 54 holes now around this golf course. So I got to watch a little bit of golf back then, kind of pick up on a few things, but I'm trying to learn as much as possible every day.”
Part of that learning was a practice round with Spieth earlier this week and some advice already played dividends.
Hickok was looking at the drivable par-4 10th hole with lay up in mind until Spieth talked him into driver.
But Spieth wasn’t advocating over aggression. In fact he was trying to disassociate the notion of needing to get at the infamous hole.
“Everyone thinks of 10 as a birdie hole because you can hit 3‑wood at the front edge, and he's like it's not, it plays 4.5,” Hickok explained.
“So it plays just as hard as some par fives do this year and it's having that sort of mentality going into the hole, it makes it a lot easier."
“I was actually planning on laying up this week, but talking to him, he kind of convinced me into hitting driver. Made par today, so I guess it worked out.”
While it is certainly early days, this could just be the week both friends bust out of their so called “slumps”.