Jordan Spieth has had a pinch-me year. Right now, he’s in third place, behind Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott at the Tour Championship. He’s an anomaly.
Spieth turned professional instead of finishing college. He had no playing credentials anywhere. He was relying on talent.
His first attempt to play on the PGA Tour as a pro was earlier this season. He tried on Monday to qualify for the Farmers Insurance Open but came up two strokes short. However, the tournament elected to give him a sponsor’s exemption. He missed the cut.
But at the AT&T Pebble Beach, which he was able to get into, he finished in a tie for 22nd. Then he was second in Puerto Rico and seventh at Tampa. It looked like he was on his way. In July, he secured a two-year exemption as a PGA Tour winner at the John Deere Classic, which he won in a playoff with veteran Zach Johnson.
Now, Spieth is a Top 30 player. That guarantees him a spot in The Masters, The Players and the U.S. Open and the British Open next season. It’s quite a leap in eight months.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Spieth said about reaching the Tour Championship. “I didn’t think it would be a possibility this year at the beginning of the year, but now that I’m here, it’s time to maybe make—dig in and make something special happen.”
Spieth knows that winning the FedEx Cup is out of his reach.
“From this point, with Henrik ( Stenson) first and Adam (Scott) tied for second, it’s not the kind of scenario that would be perfect for me,” he added. “But I can make a run at the Tour Championship.”
With two days to go, he’s five behind Stenson. Five shots over 36 holes is not that much, and Spieth may be helped by his secret weapon: knowledge of Champions Bermuda, which is the grass on the greens at East Lake Golf Club.
“I grew up at a course called Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas,” he said. “They actually have two-and-a-half golf courses, and all are all Bermuda with these kinds of greens, and we grew up putting out there every day.”
He said it helps him be committed to the line on putts at East Lake GC.
“I’m not ever second guessing what the putt’s going to do. The only putts I truly feel like I struggle with out here are the ones where they’re really straight. So I’m just playing those firm, in the middle.”
Bermuda greens of any cultivar are not often used on the PGA Tour. Winter grasses in southern states are often overseeded rye, and summer grasses on greens in northern climates are typically bentgrass.
“I’m able to see the lines a lot easier,” he added citing the benefit practice on the surface brings him. “I feel like it’s been an advantage for me putting.”
In addition to having an edge the putting surfaces, there’s a chance Spieth won’t be nervous with anyone he plays with on the PGA Tour. When asked if he’d ever been intimidated meeting anyone, his answer was priceless. “First time I played golf with George W. Bush, probably,” he said, not like he was bragging. And first time indicates he played with the former President more than once. “I mean, other than him, no, probably not. I haven’t met that many cool people, though.”
Being reasonably dumbfounded by the answer from the 20-year-old, there was a failure to ask how many times he has played with President Bush, but count on members of the media to discover it shortly.
One thing is certain. If Spieth continues on his current trajectory, he’s going to be asked to play golf by everyone, including “all the cool people,” whether he wants to or not. Can Spieth survive Charles Barkley? Justin Timberlake? Ray Romano? And in about a week and half, Spieth’s going to have one-on-one time with the guy he described as the “coolest guy in golf,” Fred Couples, who is his captain for the Presidents Cup.
It’s a year of big, new firsts for Spieth, that’s for certain. But it’s not the last we have heard of him.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from theUSGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.