Masters co-leader Jordan Spieth’s game speaks volumes
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist April 12, 2014 8:58PM
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:49AM
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The kid isn’t oblivious. He knows where he is, how old he is, the weight of the moment, the meaning of it all.
Still, the thought bubble above his head seems to be, ‘‘And?’’
It must be great to be like this, to squint at what you’re not supposed to do and say you don’t see it that way. That’s how it is for Jordan Spieth, who finds himself tied for the Masters lead heading into the final round Sunday.
He might be 20, but he’s 50 in dogleg years.
‘‘Sunday is about seeing how I can control my game and emotions out on the golf course against guys that have even won here recently,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve been in position; I haven’t. It doesn’t necessarily mean I think that they have an advantage in any way. I’m very confident in the way things are going, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.’’
By players who ‘‘have even won here recently,’’ Spieth means 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, who will be his playing partner. Both stand at 5 under, though they seem to be on different ground heading into the final round.
At one point Saturday, Watson had a five-stroke lead. But he fumbled it away with errant irons and atrocious putting. The drives he bombed down fairways were a crying shame of a waste.
Spieth might not have been the picture of cool on every hole, but he played like a veteran from start to finish on a very stressful day, even though he’s making his Masters debut.
‘‘It was incredible,’’ said Michael Greller, Spieth’s caddie. ‘‘This is all a new experience for both of us. It feels a little bit like last year [on the PGA Tour]. It’s just all brand-new experiences. It feels like we’re playing with house money. I think we’re too dumb to know where we’re at.’’
Greller is a former sixth-grade teacher. And although it’s tempting to say he traded 30 grade-schoolers for one, it’s not like that.
‘‘He’s always been like that since I first met him at the U.S. Junior [Amateur],’’ Greller said. ‘‘He’s just kind of had an inner calmness that you don’t see in a 20-year-old.’’
Spieth got an invitation to Augusta National by winning the John Deere Classic last year. There is nothing fluky about his success here. He seems to be built perfectly for this. Fluid swing? Check. Confidence? Check. Noble bearing? Well, about that.
When his tee shot on the par-3 12th hole wasn’t going where he wanted it to, Spieth approached it like a tent revival.
‘‘I guess I naturally fell to the ground and prayed for it to sit down,’’ he said.
‘‘I started laughing and looked back at [Greller] and said, ‘Don’t give me any crap for that because I wanted that one really bad,’ ’’ he said.
It was the kid’s day. It might be the kid’s tournament. Think that’s overstating things? Think again. He’s ridiculously talented and composed. You can’t teach that combination.
Fred Couples is 54 and knows Augusta National the way he knows his Social Security number. He also knows Spieth can win this thing.
‘‘He’s a qualified player at the age of 20,’’ said Couples, who is tied for 10th. ‘‘When you’re that kind of player, you can play well anywhere. He’s such a great putter. He hits the ball long and high. But for a 20-year-old, he’s pretty savvy. Not much bothers him.’’
If Spieth wins, he’ll be the youngest player to win the Masters. Tiger Woods was five months older when he won it for the first time in 1997.
It figures to be a brutal test. Spieth described Augusta National’s greens Saturday as ‘‘crazy fast’’ and ‘‘wicked fast.’’ He can expect more evil Sunday.
‘‘It’s why I’ll lose some more hair as we go on this week,’’ he said.
Sure you will, kid.
Age doesn’t appear to be a factor with Spieth, unless he walks into a bar. Other than that? We’re about to find out.
He has thought about this moment for a long time. Or as long a time as a 20-year-old can.
‘‘You just dream of what it would mean and how cool it’d be and all those putts I hit when I was real young with my friends, [pretending] to win the Masters,’’ he said. ‘‘I would love the opportunity to test it.’’
This time, it’s not a dream; it’s real. Now, how will he handle that reality?