The answers are perfect, but they in no way feel scripted. That is what makes Jordan Spieth so special.
“I’m very excited with the way everything went emotionally at The Masters,” he said 24 hours before teeing off today in the Players Championship. “Being able to be in the final group and be in contention and leading on Sunday for a little while, I think I handled everything extremely well. I only take positives out of it, knowing now that if I’m in that position on a Sunday at any tournament I have experience.”
This wasn’t a canned answer. When The Masters came up three or four more times he never repeated himself and always answered the question that was asked. That makes Spieth a rare species in modern sports.
Ask a question of most athletes and you can see them tick through their mental app to come up with the right sound bite.
You say: So, they’ve had some problems with the greens this week. How do you think that might affect the outcome?
They hear: Golf course. And the processed response is: “This is a great golf course and a big event. Really happy to be here. Playing well. It won’t be a problem.”
You’ve been knocking on the door all year. Any added pressure to win?
“I’m just taking it one shot at a time. I’m hitting it well. Just keep putting myself in position.”
You’ve shanked at least one shot in your past seven rounds. Do you think you need to take some time off and get a few lessons?
“Just working through some things with my swing right now. Gaining confidence. I’m feeling good about the week.”
At least golfers are better than football players, whose answers aren’t in the same area code as the question asked.
Is the fact that you were stopped at 1 a.m. going 117 in a 45 with an open bottle of Tanqueray and a sheep in the passenger seat going to be a distraction before this big game?
“I just thank God, the coaches and my teammates. All credit goes to them. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Golfers will at least come close, although the roster of phrases has dwindled as the number of media consultants has increased.
That is what makes Spieth such a joy. For all the praise he receives for being polite and mature and well rounded – all true and worthwhile – it is that genuine nature that makes him stands out. He is a star because of how he plays. He will be a superstar because of how he cares.
“It’s awesome to be in the place I am right now, being able to play in tournaments like this, being able to play in majors against the best field in golf and try to work my way up the world rankings,” he said. “But the point is, the guys ahead of me all have major championships. The guys right next to me all have major championships. So, that’s humbling to me. … I believe that there is a long way to go.”
He’s right about that. It is a long road. But as athletes in general go, Spieth already has a big head start.