In the lead-up to golf tournaments, it’s customary to see some shots on TV of the game’s big names warming up on the range or the practice green. But what, exactly, are they doing when they’re off-screen? What does a top pro’s warmup really look like? What does it have in common with your own warmup – and what can you learn from it? I headed to Playa del Carmen, Mexico to track Jordan Spieth’s every move in advance of the Mayakoba Golf Classic’s first round. Here’s how Spieth prepped for his 12 p.m. tee time.
10:30 a.m. Jordan Spieth walks purposefully out of the clubhouse toward the practice green with caddie Michael Greller alongside.
10:31. Spieth grabs four golf balls from his bag and finds a straight six-footer, hitting putts one-handed until he’s satisfied that he’s got a putt with no break.
10:33. Spieth drops an alignment stick by his ball and starts hitting six-footers alongside it. He adjusts the stick as he goes, making sure it’s on the correct line. This is a casual activity; he’s trading chatter with Wesley Bryan as he continues rolling shorties.
10:36. Greller looks on, first from face-on, then from behind, down the line, more attentively.
10:38. One note: Spieth is looking at the ball while he putts, every time.
10:41. Spieth moves in and starts hitting 3-footers, winding in a circle around the hole. He makes ‘em all. Greller moves the balls back as Spieth completes his first circle. Four more putts from four feet, then four from five feet, circling the hole. He finally misses one. He keeps moving to a six foot circle, then to seven and eight feet. What’s impressive is that he’s taking time over each putt. He lines up the line on his ProV1 with his aiming point, gives a slight forward press, and goes.
10:51. Now it’s back to the six-footers, straight.
10:53. After making a couple more six-footers, Spieth heads above the hole. He starts at 10 feet and rolls a series of downhill putts. Ten feet, then 12, then 15, then 20 along the same line.
Then changes holes. Now it’s 18, 20, 22, 25. Then 30, 35. There’s something in the 35-footer that bothers him, so he calls for all four balls and hits four from there.
10:56. Satisfied, he heads back closer in for uphill putts.
10:57. Similar to the downhill approach, now putting uphill. Ten, 12, 15, 18 feet. Then back to 20, 22, 24, 26. Then back to 30, 35, 40, 42 (all approximate, of course). At this point he’s crossing through other golfers’ lines, but that’s no worries. This is Jordan Spieth, after all. One spectator is particularly ticked. “That’s Jordan Spieth right there,” she yells to her husband, a bit like she’d found a rare animal at the zoo.
11:00. Straight six-footers again. He makes a couple and then Bryan calls him over to show him something in his phone. “That’s brilliant, isn’t it?” Bryan asks Spieth, who seems to sort of agree.
11:01. To the chipping area! Starts with a 20-yard pitch, and holes it. No reaction. He fires a series of low, spinny skippers toward the closest pin.
11:04. Now he’s hitting longer pitches to back pins, more in the 30-35 yard range. He switches shots, opening the face to hit higher pitches that sit soft when they land.
11:07. Now from the rough. He hits a variety of chip shots from different lies to different pins, never more than two of the same type of shot in a row.
11:09. He heads into the bunker. The entire wedge session feels more free-form than the putting did; he essentially seems to be getting a general feel for every short-game shot El Camaleon has to offer.
11.11. After 30 minutes of putting and 10 minutes of chipping, it’s time to head to the range! He sets up near the right edge of the range, sandwiched by Patton Kizzire and Jamie Lovemark.
11:13. Spieth starts with wedges, first 40 yards and gradually hitting it further over the course of seven minutes until he gets up to a full swing. He picks a target each time and plays the shot with intention.
11:23. He tosses the wedge aside in favor of a short iron, something like an eight- or nine-iron, and hits a handful of those shots.
11:25. Now it’s mid-irons. Still deliberate and intentional on each shot – though not slow. Just measured in pace. Spieth has Greller tape a swing on his phone for his review. He did this once with wedges, then again with mid-irons, then a third time with long irons.
11:29. Time for those long irons. New targets still.
11:32. Hybrids. He seems to be swinging pretty aggressively. If anything this is harder than I expect he’ll be swinging on the course.
11:34. Now he pulls the 3-wood – and the alignment stick. Sets the latter down by his feet and rips a handful of 3-woods off a tee.
11:37. Now it’s time for driver. You may think of Spieth as being a short hitter, but here’s the thing: He rips the ball. He swings it harder and actually looks overall bigger and stronger in person than he looks on television (this is decidedly not true with everyone).
11:40. Spieth mixes up some water with some sort of electrolyte or energy powder and takes a swig as he prepares to leave the range.
11:41. Due to low fan volume, Mayakoba is fairly lax on player security. Several kids mob Spieth and he signs a handful of autographs on his way back toward the practice green.
11:44 He makes another stop on the green to hit a few more putts from different spots. He pulls three balls from his bag and hits ‘em all: sidehill, uphill, short, medium, long. He dials in on his final few putts, each short ones.
11:47. He leaves the green and heads back inside the clubhouse, which is about a two-minute walk from the first tee.
11:51. Greller comes out of the clubhouse and heads toward the tee.
11:57. Spieth finally emerges. He’s walking somewhat quickly, but doesn’t seem nervous at all about cutting his tee time so close.
11:58. Spieth arrives at the tee, where he’s awaited by Patton Kizzire and Pat Perez. It’s all very friendly, but efficient, on-script. Shakes hands, IDs golf ball. Then stands off to the side.
12:00. Kizzire ropes one. Then Perez, too.
12:01. Spieth tees it up and lets it fly down the middle. He’s off.