April 7-132014
2014 coverage by The Augusta Chronicle
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Jordan Spieth makes play for history

April 12, 2014 - 10:26 pm
By Scott Michaux |

Jordan Spieth has a very liberal policy regarding courtesy titles.

“Anybody older than me,” he said when asked whom he calls “mister.”

So, co-leader Bubba Wat­son can expect a healthy dose of “Mr. Watson” in the final pairing this afternoon, “just because it’ll mess with him.”

Does that make the 20-year-old Texan “Master Spieth”? We’ll find out.

The unnaturally poised and polished Masters rookie shot the lowest round of any player who started the third round in the top 10. Playing with reigning champion Adam Scott, Spieth shot 2-under 70, his third straight under-par round at Augusta National, putting him in a final-round pairing for the first time.

“That’s a dream come true, to just kind of see what it’s like,” Spieth said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a round where I’ve been nervous on every single swing, shot and putt. I’m sure that will happen (Sunday), but hopefully, I can channel it positively and stay grounded, stay cool and see what happens.”

Rookies, of course, are not supposed to win the Masters. Not one has done it since Fuzzy Zoeller shocked Ed Sneed and Tom Watson in the first sudden-death playoff 35 years ago.

Zoeller used veteran Au­gus­ta National caddie Jerry Beard to guide him through the course’s perils. Spieth’s caddie, Michael Gren­ner, is greener than Spieth, having spent 10 years teaching sixth grade.

“Maybe we’re too dumb to know what we’re doing,” said Grenner, 36.

Spieth and Grenner are new to Augusta, but they’re not dumb. Spieth is smart enough to listen to those who know better, picking the brains of six-time winner Jack Nicklaus at the Chairman’s Reception on Wednes­day night and two-time winner Ben Crenshaw during practice.

It’s the most seasoned Mas­ters veteran of them all whom Spieth keeps drawing on – “first and foremost” – for tips on the course. Carl Jackson, Crenshaw’s caddie, has been in 54 Masters, more than any player or caddie in tournament history. The Augusta native gave Spieth and Grenner invaluable advice earlier in the week.

“It’s funny, I told Michael I was going to buy a T-shirt for him that says, ‘Carl says …’ because he keeps saying that to me out there,” Spieth said.

Whatever Carl said is working. Spieth displayed patience no matter the challenges Saturday. With Scott struggling beside him and 2012 winner Bubba Watson dealing with “issues” behind him, Spieth just kept working the course like a wily veteran. He accepted the bogeys when necessary and took advantage when the course allowed.

“Today was a day to stay patient and try and get myself a later tee time even than today, and that goal was accomplished,” Spieth said. “And (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.

“So they have been in the position I haven’t. Doesn’t necessarily mean, I don’t think, that they have an advantage in any way. I think that I’m very confident in the way things are going and really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Said Grenner: “He’s always had an inner calmness you don’t see in 20-year-olds. I really don’t know where it comes from. It’s a product of his swing coach, his parents, the whole community around him.”

On the golf course, Spieth is a compilation of quirks. He talks to himself constantly, sometimes scolding and other times encouraging. He’s like a self-contained sports psychologist and swing coach rolled into one.

“There’s a lot of monologue and dialogue,” Grenner said. “He just needs to be heard sometimes.”

Said Spieth: “Really, a lot of it is just kind of guiding myself, trying to pump myself up and be really positive, which is abnormal. I mean, typically I’m quiet, or if I’m talking, I’m talking to Michael, saying, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ ”

On Saturday, he talked to his ball, too. Spieth was convinced his tee shot on the par-3 12th was going long and into potential trouble. So he dropped to his knees and pleaded with the ball to get down. It landed gently on the green and left everyone around him laughing.

“I’m 20, and this is the Masters, and this is a tournament I’ve always dreamt about,” Spieth said. “And, like Mr. Crenshaw has always said, it brings out more emotion than ever in somebody.”

To stay in the moment, Spieth has stayed off his phone and away from the TV. He’s not letting the outside world interfere with his inner calm. He’s already had two late tee times this week, so the long wait until he meets Mr. Watson on the first tee at 2:40 p.m. shouldn’t be a problem.

In his only career win, when he was 19, Spieth beat 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson in a playoff on John­son’s home turf. What’s to keep him from beating a green-jacketed Bulldog in Georgia?

“I can control my own destiny,” Spieth said.

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