Home advantage may not give Masters champ the edge
Spieth's caddie may live nearby, but what does that really matter, asks Ewan Murray
So is Jordan Spieth back? Or had he simply never been away? The golden boy of United States golf confirmed every theory that he will be a major player for a considerable time yet with his wire-to-wire, imperious, flawless showing at the Masters.
The immediate aftermath of chat show appearances and less impressive results was only natural. Spieth didn't linger for long at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and missed the cut before Rickie Fowler triumphed at The Players. When at Sawgrass, Spieth was clearly uncomfortable with technical aspects within his swing.
What happened next serves as a warning to the remainder of this week's US Open field. Spieth tied second at Colonial in late May, didn't card more than 69 the following week at the AT&T Byron Nelson - including one round of 64 - and was in a share of third by the time last weekend's Memorial Tournament concluded. While not identical, this form is similar to Spieth's Masters build-up. For one so young, he is seeking to be the epitome of how to build a season around major championship golf.
As much as can be the case for an event being held on a course which has only been existence for eight years, Spieth can call on an element of local knowledge. And Chambers Bay, for all its supposedly freakish nuances, won't faze this nerveless 21-year-old.
Spieth's caddie, Michael Greller, worked briefly at Chambers Bay before working full-time with the current holder of the Green Jacket. For a course few players know anything about, let alone caddies, this should be a help. Not that Greller and Spieth are of a mind to admit as much. "Sleeping in my own bed and home cooked meals are a bigger advantage than knowledge of the course," insisted Greller.
Spieth has followed possibly tactical suit. "To be honest, you know, the only advantage is that he's seen the course more than any of the other caddies have," Spieth said. "A lot of the players have already seen it more than I have. He has a US Amateur Championship from there that he can look back on. The course has changed since then, but that's as difficult as the course has played.
"But I'm interested to see. I don't really know. According to Michael, he's going to help me on certain things. But it's not like a major advantage, necessarily. It is going to be cool to have some of his friends and family out there. It will be a cool experience for us. And he's definitely going to come to the plate with more than the other guys can bring."
Greller's story is possibly more fascinating than that of Spieth. At 16 years older than his boss, he was a maths teacher before taking to the caddie business on what was initially only a year's sabbatical.
Spieth has already assessed what will be required at Chambers Bay. "I think it's going to be about a lot of speed control," he explained. "I think it's going to be a lot of judging the undulation. It's going to be different short game shots, almost like you're playing an Open Championship.
"You need to learn whether you're going to putt it off of these slopes. It's going to be really tight and kind of dry, so you are going to need to practice flying some ridges with spin, if you have a hybrid shot. I need a shot I can trust from the runoff areas. The greens are massive, so controlling your speed on these longer putts, you're not going to be able to feed it into a lot of these pins."
All of which is far easier said than done, clearly. The task of Spieth and Fowler is to end what has become a European dominance of the US Open in recent times. Four from the last five winners of the year's second major have been European, in itself a curious statistic. Martin Kaymer, who cantered to victory at Pinehurst No 2 a year ago, said he regarded the venue as simply "a European course with better weather."
Kaymer's credentials this time around aren't as strong as Justin Rose, the 2013 champion. The Englishman insisted he had "another gear" to find after defeat in a playoff at Memorial on Sunday. Rose's excellent year probably hasn't been afforded the praise it deserves.
Rory McIlroy's own, fine touch was interrupted by missed cuts in flagship European Tour events at Wentworth and Royal County Down. The world number one's issue may be simple; namely an inability to say no. Five tournaments in as many weeks, on either side of the Atlantic, always looked like a stiff test. McIlroy will return, inevitably refreshed, at Chambers Bay.
Sunday Indo Sport