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Spieth Breaks The Mold For His Age

Jersey City, New Jersey | Kevin Streelman remembers what he was doing when he was 20 years old. “I was in a fraternity (at Duke) and I was a mess,” Streelman said a few minutes after spending his Saturday afternoon at the Barclays playing alongside 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, the newest star in American golf. Spieth would be a junior at Texas now, getting ready for another Longhorns football season, had he not turned pro last December, deciding at age 19 he and his game were ready to take on the PGA Tour and beyond.
Instead, Spieth is in contention to win the FedEx Cup playoffs and he’s letting his rock-solid game convince U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples that he should use one of his at-large choices on the Tour rookie. (Note to Couples: Do it.) It’s easy in this age of instant information and constant commentary to over-state the arrival of whomever or whatever seems to be the latest and greatest. We live in the spectacular now. In Spieth’s case, it doesn’t require microanalysis to see similarities to where Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were at the same stage in their careers. Like them, Spieth has a game built on exceptional fundamental strengths and the blessing of an uncommon presence on the course. “You simply forget how old he is,” Streelman said. Spieth isn’t old enough to legally buy a beer but he deserves a toast. When he turned pro shortly before last Christmas, Spieth did so with no PGA Tour status, a few sponsor exemptions, a few endorsement deals and a ranking of 810th in the world. Seven top-10 finishes and one victory later, Spieth is ranked among the top 40 players in the world, having become the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years when he won the John Deere Classic. He would have been the youngest player ever with two victories had he beaten Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship. After the playoff loss, Spieth was disappointed but showed grace in defeat, praising Reed and extracting the positives for himself. It was as impressive as the 30-footer made to keep the playoff alive in Greensboro. “He’s always had a good dose of realism and humility. You can only shine the light on his family for that,” said Cameron McCormick, Spieth’s longtime swing coach.
At this point, it all feels a bit like a free ride to Spieth, who was playing Tour events earlier this year. “Being able to earn my card real quick allowed me to free up, which in turn allowed me to be a lot more comfortable. There was no reason to stress,” Spieth said. Between the ropes and on the game’s biggest stages, Spieth has found a home when he’s not back in Dallas, where he shares an apartment with a friend. If he has been surprised by anything this season, it has been his ability to find patience, a talent often lost on young twentysomethings. “All in all, it’s what’s been the most surprising to me, how quickly it went bad when I wasn’t patient,” Spieth said, ticking off building-block examples from Colonial, the AT&T National, the Greenbrier Classic and, finally, his victory at the John Deere Classic. “Each step of the way I learned a little bit more,” Spieth said. Streelman was in his sixth full season on Tour when he won for the first time. Spieth won in his 24th start. “He hits it really far, he’s a great putter and he keeps his cool about him, which are the three keys to staying out here so I expect him to have a very long career and make a ton of money and have a ton of wins,” Streelman said. On one level, Spieth is like any other 20-year-old. He has a longtime girlfriend, he likes to listen to music and play poker with his friends, he loves sports and he’s passionate about the Longhorns and the pro teams in Dallas. On the road, he likes to get out and do things, whether it was spending an evening in Manhattan last week, fly fishing at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia or finding a game to attend. On the professional level, he’s on a rocket ride.


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