AUGUSTA, Ga. Jordan Spieth is 20. He’s too young to buy alcohol. He’s too young even to rent a car.
So he can hire somebody to drive him. Spieth is playing his first Masters. And after three rounds he’s tied for the lead with Bubba Watson, who won the tournament in 2012.
After Spieth signs his scorecard early Saturday evening, he answers questions from the media. He speaks as if he left middle school fully formed. He speaks as if he has neither time nor interest in being 20.
He sits straight. He looks questioners in the eye. He doesn’t stammer or stumble. He doesn’t raise his voice or lower it. Despite 82-degree heat Saturday, he appears to have no interest in sweating.
Spieth stays with his parents and brother in a rented Augusta house. He doesn’t return telephone calls to people who want to talk about the Masters. He doesn’t watch the Masters on TV. He doesn’t play video games. He stopped playing video games long before he reached Augusta.
Spieth is calm beneath his white cap, calm and courteous and five under par.
He calls the golfers who offered advice Mister. Jack Nicklaus is Mr. Nicklaus. Ben Crenshaw, like Spieth a Texan, is Mr. Crenshaw.
What’s the cutoff for calling a man mister?
“Anybody older than me,” Spieth says.
Bubba Watson is 35. They’ll play together Sunday. Will you call Watson mister?
“Yeah, Mr. Watson, for sure,” says Spieth. “Just because it will mess with him.”
Four strokes behind Mr. Watson when the day began, Spieth birdied 3 and bogeyed 4, birdied 6 and bogeyed 11. This was tense. The third round of the Masters, surrounded by accomplished adults, and he was contending.
So he birdied 14 and he birdied 15. He’s shot rounds of 71, 70 and 70.
Spieth talks to himself as he plays.
“I’m 20 and this is the Masters and this is a tournament I’ve always dreamt about and, like Mr. Crenshaw says, it brings out more emotion than ever in somebody,” he says.
The talk is Spieth’s concession to pressure. He makes positive statements so he’ll think positively, statements such as “we’re going to be all right” and “we’ll make bogey at worst” and “you take your birdies where you can get them.”
On 12, after he worried he hit the ball over the green, he dropped to the ground and prayed for it not to carry. The ball didn’t.
“When it landed I started laughing and looked back at Michael and said, ‘Don’t give me any crap for that because I wanted that one real bad.’ ”
Michael is his caddie, Michael Greller, who is as new to the big time as Spieth. Greller regularly quotes Carl Jackson, Crenshaw’s caddie. They had talked on the driving range and Greller remembers everything Jackson said. Greller quotes Jackson so frequently that Spieth is going to give him a T-shirt inscribed with CARL SAYS.
Spieth plays fast. Knock it in and move on and don’t think.
He thinks he can win.
Saturday “was a day to stay patient,” he says.
Sunday “is about seeing how I can control my game and emotions out on the golf course against guys that have even won here recently,” Spieth says. “So they have been in the position I haven’t. Doesn’t necessarily mean, I don’t think, that they have an advantage in any way.”
When Spieth was a kid he would pretend, as he stood on a Texas green, that if he made his putt he would win the Masters.
How did you do?
Spieth hopes to find out Sunday.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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