PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | Jordan Spieth approaches the Players Championship with the feelings of a man who is slightly overdrawn at the bank and has been summoned to a meeting with the manager there. He knows his credit is strong but that big cheque, the one that has been expected for weeks, has yet to arrive.
He has played little golf since the Masters (and only 11 tournaments this year) and what he has played has been spotty, missing the cut with partner Ryan Palmer in the two-man Zurich Classic of New Orleans and being prevented from intense practising at home in Dallas last week by bad weather.
Then there is the small matter of the venue over which the Players is played, the famed Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass. “I don’t have a great history the last few years here,” Spieth, the fourth-ranked player in the world, said of the tournament regarded as the fifth most important in the world.
“I feel like I’m free-wheeling,” he said. “I love this place, the golf course, but if you’re not on … there are a lot of small places not to go to. This is not a place to go out and try and force birdies. I am going to approach it from a more patient viewpoint this year.”
One of Spieth’s most striking aspects on a golf course is how composed he seems to be, even though he says his parents would describe him “ … as not level-headed.”
Spieth’s calmness in a tight corner was best demonstrated at the 13th hole in last year’s final round of the Open Championship when it looked as though he was going to hit one bad shot after another. In fact, though, he followed a bad drive with a series of brilliant strokes, playing his remaining five holes in 5-under par. That was what won him the handsome old trophy when moments earlier all had appeared to be lost.
No one navigates the Stadium course over 72 holes without misadventures here and there. It’s not that on Pete Dye’s course you have these places where a birdie can turn into a bogey, a bogey into a double bogey, so much as how you deal with them that counts.
Spieth is better equipped than most to deal with these vicissitudes. He is old for his age – he will be 25 at the end of July – and has a wise head on his young shoulders.
“Experience has led me to remain level-headed and thoughtful … to make the best decision possible” Spieth said. “I’ve gotten a lot better at the rebound from the bad shot.”
That means the rest of the field had better look out.