Jordan Spieth Rounding into Form Just in Time for Playoffs, Ryder Cup

September 1, 2016

NORTON, Mass. — Jordan Spieth took a selfie in front of Tom Brady’s locker last night and texted it to him. “Where’s the security?” Brady replied.

Phil Mickelson won a closest-to-the-pin contest to a flagstick planted on the middle of the field at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Mickelson hit a 78-yard shot to four feet. And FYI, there were no lefthanded clubs so Phil hit the shot as a righty.

“Phil hit it to four feet right handed on his second try, which made all of us feel really bad,” Spieth said, “because he sure let us know about it.”

It was all good fun Wednesday night as the United States Ryder Cup squad began its official team-bonding month. The matches are at the end of this month at Hazeltine National in suburban Minneapolis. The eight players who already qualified for the team on points were there, along with captain Davis Love and some of the vice captains.

The team ate dinner in the ground-level luxury boxes in one of the end zones, Spieth said. The wedge contest was played from a platform behind the end zone. Vice captain Tom Lehman set it up with the help of one of the stadium sponsors he’d played with in a father-son event.

“They wanted to do something special for the guys on the team and they sure did,” Spieth said. “It was really inspirational.”

Mike Eruzione, hero of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, gave a talk along with a highlight video.

“I only knew it as the movie, ‘Miracle On Ice,’ which is one of the two movies that I cry at every time,” Spieth said.

The other one? “Probably ‘Remember the Titans,’ certainly,” he said. Well, at least it wasn’t the 2012 Ryder Cup highlight video from Medinah, where the Americans lost the Cup after taking a 10-6 lead into the singles matches.

In other Ryder Cup hijinks, the team members made Brooks Koepka, the only Ryder Cup rookie currently on the squad, lug around the bucket of balls for closest-to-the-pin contest.

“He just took it with a smile on his face,” Spieth said. “That won’t be the last thing he has to do, which is funny, because he’s older than me.”

It never hurts your gallery support to back the local NFL franchise, but Spieth said it’s not an act; he’s been a Patriots fan since he was a youngster. As long as they’re not playing his team, the Dallas Cowboys. So it’s been extra special for him to develop a relationship with Brady, the team’s famous quarterback and fellow UnderArmour endorser.

And no, Spieth did not touch anything in Brady’s locker. “He knows the position of everything there, he’s got it pretty well made up,” Spieth said. “He’s sent some pretty good vibes throughout his career so I don’t want to mess with anything there. The Cowboys are my team, he knows that and calls me out on it but if we’re not playing the Pats, I root for them.”

If the Ryder Cup is the main event, this month’s undercard is still pretty strong. The Deutsche Bank Championship is the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, where the 100-player field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship, and then the final 30 go to Atlanta’s East Lake for the Tour Championship.

Spieth may be more excited about how he’s playing now than at any time this year. A swing glitch has been identified and, he hopes, corrected.

“Things seem to be falling in place,” he said. “My swing seems to be getting into a position that it was in last year. It took three or four months where I kind of had a little re-routing the club in the backswing that I’ve been trying to get rid of. It was actually a play opposite of my natural swing, which is something I’ve been trying to simplify. The ball is starting on line again and I feel pretty good about this going forward.

“I told you at the Masters this year I wasn’t confident about the way I was hitting it, I was just getting it around. Breeding that confidence leads into everything for me in the way I’m striking it because I believe in my putting. If I keep on this process of momentum I’ve built over my ballstriking over the past month, maybe I’ll get that chance (at Augusta) again.”

Spieth finished 13th at the PGA Championship and 10th last week at The Barclays, his first appearance since the year’s last major. He ranks fifth on the FedEx Cup points list and on the tour’s money list. He is No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

“I gave myself a lot of chances last week, given how difficult Bethpage was,” Spieth said. “I’m confident coming back to TPC Boston where I’ve had some pretty special memories going back to 2013. I’m looking to build momentum. Last week was really what I was looking for.”