TROON, SCOTLAND | Jordan Spieth’s brilliance is not confined to what he can do on the golf course.
In explaining his decision to bypass the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month, Spieth spent nearly 30 minutes talking to golf’s world media about how he came to what he called the most difficult decision in his life.
He handled a difficult situation with just the right touch, explaining the mixed feelings he has about not going, understanding the impact of his decision on top of the decisions by Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and others to also skip golf’s return to the Games for the first in 112 years.
“Why was it so hard? Because I’m a huge believer in Olympic golf,” Spieth said. “I’m a huge believer in playing for your country, showing I absolutely look forward to Summer and Winter Olympics. It’s the most exciting sporting event for me to watch on TV and to have a chance to be a part of it is something I definitely look forward to trying to do.
“This year I just had to try to weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year, and just at the time that I had to make the decision, I just felt this was the right move for me. Not everybody’s going to understand. Nobody’s going to understand what it’s like in my shoes.
“A lot of golfers are trying to decide for themselves. Mine came down to just a very personal decision that, again, I don’t expect anybody to understand, but trust that I believe I’m making the right decision for myself for my future and for those around me.”
Spieth knows that he is the face of American golf and his decision resonates as much or more than any of the other high-profile players who have made the same decision. Leaders of the International Golf Federation, which worked for more than a decade to get golf back into the Olympics, are understandably disappointed about the thudding impact of the top players’ decisions.
He wrestled with the decision, asking the advice of multiple people and talking it over with those closest to him. He was sitting with Rickie Fowler when Fowler recently tweeted that he will play in Rio, but Spieth came to a different decision.
“I just tried to gather a lot of information, but ultimately the information I fully made this decision through were through talking with my team,” he said. “Then it was 90 percent me, 9 percent the team, and 1 percent of anything else that came our way.
“Whenever I talked to our team, the responses I got were, ‘We are 100 percent behind you either way, but you need to make this decision 100 percent yourself.’”
Spieth said he made his final decision Sunday and he cited health concerns as his reason for not going to Rio. He left the specifics intentionally vague but made a point of saying he has never cited the Zika virus as a reason for not going.
“I didn’t cite that. Please don’t do that for me,” Spieth said in answer to a media question.
Security issues also are a concern. PGA Tour security officials have briefed players about what to expect in Rio, which is wracked by domestic issues, including concerns about inadequate police protection during the Games.
“Of course people are going to be skeptical.” Spieth said. “People are going to be skeptical if I was playing. People are skeptical of the people that are playing, too. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.
“I’m not worrying about anybody else except myself, and, again, I don’t expect people to fully understand it. They don’t know what I know about myself and my future and my goals.”
By not playing in the Olympics, Spieth is free to defend his title at the John Deere Classic the same week but he will not do so, saying “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
With the Open Championship beginning Thursday, Spieth would have preferred not to have the distraction of dealing with his Olympics decision this week. It won’t go away quickly, however.
“It will loom over me throughout the Olympic games, for sure,” he said. “I will be, I’m sure at times pretty upset that I’m not down there.
“I thought about all this ahead of time. When I watch the opening ceremonies, that’s going to be a big bummer. Then when I watch these guys competing on the golf course. I’ll be texting with Rickie, obviously, throughout as a good friend of mine. I thought about all of this ahead of time and still made the decision I did because it was the right move for me.”