Sunday 15 September 2019

Spieth insists he can still improve after stellar year

Jordan Spieth believes there is still plenty of room for improvement
Jordan Spieth believes there is still plenty of room for improvement

Oliver Brown

Jordan Spieth struck fear into his rivals by predicting that he could surpass a season in which he won two Major titles and earned tens of millions by playing even better in 2016.

The statement was delivered with all the preternatural poise that has become his signature. "The more specific you get with it, the more you find out there are ways that you can improve in every single category," he said.

There is an eerie omniscience about Spieth, as if he has worked out the slightest potential weakness before anybody else has the chance. Listening to him, one sensed that a gnarled tour veteran of decades' experience had been transplanted into a 22-year-old's body. Channelling the same homespun charm that he displayed throughout his Masters and US Open triumphs, he spoke with staggering precocity.


Take his attitude to superstardom. Asked whether he craved an escape to normality, given his mother Christine's revelation that he has never put any trophies on show at his house in Dallas, Spieth said: "I've never wanted just to display stuff. That's what we try to win, and when we win we get satisfaction.

"Then, we go on to the next goal, the next trophy. I feel uncomfortable if it's all out in the open. Achieving those goals and having the trophies in your possession, that's what important. People know that I won. I just keep it in my room and go for the next one."

Spieth's bedroom is, according to his own description, a museum of golf: a Green Jacket in the closet, a US Open trophy in the corner, and a bronze of Jack Nicklaus that he owns as the PGA Tour's player of the year.

It is not that Spieth is blind to the impact of his accomplishments. One of his leading sponsors, telecommunications giant AT&T, has built a mosaic of young Jordan that comprises more than 24,000 golf balls on a tee. When he arrived at Pudong International Airport for this week's HSBC Champions at Sheshan, he noticed posters depicting him, flanked by Rory McIlroy - who remains hopeful of playing despite a bout of food poisoning - and Bubba Watson, in superhero guise. Watson was the magician, McIlroy the fire, and Spieth, the iceman.

"It's a dream come true for me, it really is," Spieth reflected. "To have young juniors walking in our group in the pro-am for 12 holes in the pouring rain, it's something that I didn't see in my wildest imaginings. To see it take shape is spectacular, but with it comes responsibility. We have to continue to have years like this to keep it that way. If you don't play well, you're not going to see yourself in the airport in Shanghai."

One notices quickly about Spieth that he is prone to referring to "we" rather than "I". It is another of his traits that he still regards golf, the ultimate individual sport, as a collective enterprise. Everything he achieves is framed with a gratitude to 'Team Jordan', including his caddie Michael Greller, his childhood coach Cameron McCormick, and his sister Ellie, whose struggles with an intellectual disability are a constant inspiration. Spieth recalled his appearance here 12 months ago and wondered at how seismically his life had shifted.

Then, he was the burgeoning talent with just one professional victory. Now, he is a phenomenon with eight titles, having played the four Majors in a combined 54-under par, beating Tiger Woods' scoring record in 2000 by one.

Technically, this event starts the start of Spieth's 2016 season, but he is content to digest 2015 a while longer, having allowed himself a two-week break. The last time he had lasted a fortnight without picking up a club, he acknowledged, he was 12. Such is the pace of his progress, he claims - albeit with a mischievous grin - to regard 24 as "middle-aged". More so than ever, the future is Spieth's to seize. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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