After perfect Presidents Cup, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas face Tiger and Rory
December 05, 2022
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth's friendship leads to Presidents Cup success
A decade ago, as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were finishing up decorated college careers and testing the waters in pro golf, Tiger Woods was, well, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy had captured a pair of majors in eight-shot routes that were reminiscent of the sort of the dominance Woods had displayed in earlier days.
Fast forward to today and Spieth and Thomas are set to face Woods, the 82-time TOUR winner who’s currently battling plantar fasciitis, and McIlroy, the reigning FedExCup champion and world No. 1. The four players will square off in The Match, a 12-hole contest under the lights at Pelican Golf Club in Belleaire, Florida on Saturday, Dec. 10 (TNT, 6 p.m.).
“If you told me and Justin back in 2012, when we were in school, that we’d be playing a match against those two, we’d say things have gone pretty well,” said Spieth, who went 5-0-0 at the Presidents Cup in September, racking up all but one of those points with Thomas as a teammate. “We’d be pretty excited to play with those guys. I don’t want to lose sight of that.”
A 𝙙𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙣𝙩 week at Quail Hollow.@JordanSpieth and @JustinThomas34 are the third duo in Presidents Cup history to go undefeated in the first four rounds.#PresidentsCup || #USTeam pic.twitter.com/QMGFOe8zGx— Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) September 24, 2022
This will be the seventh iteration of The Match, and the third time Woods will be a participant. It will mark the debut for the other three, although Thomas was an on-course commentator in 2020. All four players have been world No. 1, and all four have won the FedExCup, McIlroy (three) and Woods (two) having done so a combined five times.
Thomas and Spieth have been a successful pairing in the Presidents and Ryder Cup since 2018, combining to go 8-2-0. They could be the favorites because of Woods’ injured right foot, which kept him out of the Hero World Challenge, a tournament he hosts, in the Bahamas last week. Although he said he has been told to stay off his feet, Woods anticipated he’ll be a go for The Match because he can ride a cart.
“I can hit the golf ball and hit whatever shot you want,” Woods said. “I just can't walk.”
Any team would be in for a fight against Spieth and Thomas, who have combined for 28 PGA TOUR wins and five majors. They often rent houses and eat together on the road and have momentum after going 4-0-0 at the recent Presidents Cup and 1-1-0 at the 2021 Ryder Cup, both of which were won by their U.S. Team. They were even 3-1-0 in the United States’ loss at the 2018 Ryder Cup, when nearly nothing went right for the Americans outside Paris.
“One, he’s an unbelievable player,” Spieth said of Thomas, whom first met while he and Thomas represented the United States as 14-year-olds in a junior tournament in France, “so it really helps to have someone that talented who’s on your side. That’s the No. 1 key. The other thing is knowing what to say, or when to say nothing, which is sometimes better.”
In fact, all four players enjoy an easy familiarity.
Thomas and Woods went 2-0-0 at the 2019 Presidents Cup, where Woods was the playing captain, and McIlroy has seldom been more prominent than he was this year, when he came from behind to win an unprecedented third FedExCup before capturing THE CJ CUP in South Carolina to recapture the No. 1 ranking. Spieth, a Dallas resident, is the lone participant in The Match who doesn’t make his home in south Florida.
“I think we all are obviously very close,” Thomas said, “and we have an opportunity to just honestly go out like we would us four, go play a practice round and have some kind of match. I'm sure it will be very entertaining. It's just going to be fun for us.
“Even if it wasn't on TV,” he continued, “us four would have a blast going out and playing 12 holes together, let alone under the lights at what sounds like a really cool golf course.”
Spieth figures The Match will feature plenty of friendly banter. Woods describes Thomas as the little brother he never had. Spieth said he and Thomas always tend to “keep it light in between shots.” Spieth said he watched Thomas try his hand as an on-course commentator for The Match in 2020, when there were few live sporting events on TV as America grappled with the first waves of the pandemic. Spieth was curious how Woods would play and remembers Tom Brady’s hole-out from the fairway.
This time around, he will be on the other side of the television screen.
“It’ll feel like a dream foursome,” Spieth said, “or a Wolf game at home, or a match you’d love to set up for the Tuesday of the Masters. I don’t think it’ll be like a normal round. It’s about having fun, the banter. If you play well, you play well, but it’s about being entertainers for the night.”