“certainly we’re going to see it next week”

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The current weather forecast for Thursday at St Andrews

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The weather forecast for Friday to Sunday next week at St Andrews

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Jordan Spieth’s PGA Tour putting stats this year

Yesterday Jordan Spieth carded a 61 that could have been a 55 if you count his near misses. In doing so he went into the lead at the John Deere Classic, after languishing in 102nd place at the end of the first round. A video of his comments after the 61 is available on the pgatour web site.

It should send a chill down the rest of the field at the Open next week, as he expresses his happiness at staying out and practising in tough conditions as the officials grappled with on-off suspension of play. His thoughts are already on how that could help him at St Andrews.

This, from a man who’s already won the first two Majors of the year. This, from a man who’s shown he can putt and putt well. This, from a man who’s shown he can play links courses well. This, from a man who tends to sharpen his form just as a Major approaches. His three tournament finishes before the Masters were Valspar win via playoff, Valero 2nd, Shell Houston lose in playoff. His preparation for the US Open? Tied 2nd at Crowne Plaza, T30 at Byron Nelson and T3 at the Memorial. Ominous that he goes into round 4 today in the lead.

I was very impressed with Spieth at the Masters last year, how he dealt with losing, how he played in tournaments after that, particularly in the last few months of the year. I had the privilege of following him “live” at the Ryder Cup in September, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. By December my fascination with the man and what he stood for could not be contained, at which point I went public:

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As you would expect, I repeated it before and during the Masters and before and during the US Open. But this post is not about my predictive skills, they’re nothing to write home about.

This is about Jordan Spieth. He may win today, and he may not. I think and hope he will, as do millions of others. He may win the Open this coming week, and he may not. Winning three majors in a row is a hard thing. A very hard thing. But I think and hope he can do it.

Why does it matter so much to me?

It’s for an odd reason. But an important one.

For many years I’ve been told that “nice people don’t win”. That you have to have a really mean streak, a fatal flaw, in order to lead the world at anything. That genius is essentially evil.

Examples abound. Much of the time, in business, in sport, in politics, in show business, in every walk of life, we’re shown how our idols have feet of clay.

And before you know it, feet of clay become not just expected but demanded.

But I’m an idealist, and I keep looking for exceptions to the feet-of-clay rule. I treasure having met and shaken hands with Pele. I treasure having been able to watch Tendulkar in his heyday.

And I treasure watching Jordan Spieth go about his business:

His easy camaraderie with his fellow golfers: yesterday, his playing group passed by Danny Lee’s group, and he went to say hello, warmly, to the man most likely to make it hard for him to win today.

His humble relationship with his caddy, the deep friendship that shows there: after each of his Major triumphs, he quite clearly used words like “we won, we did this, we thought this”. He brought the “we” into singles golf in a way I have never seen before, making the caddy an integral component of his success. The Michael Greller story is in itself a wonderful story, and I hope to learn more.

The way he comports himself on the course, how he interacts with the people around him: so many high fives, so many fingertip touches, that easy smile. This is a young man who’s tasted success and failure and not let either get to him.

The incredible focus he has on what he does on the course: his muttered conversations with Michael as “they” misread a putt, and how quickly he annotates the books with that learning. His aim, almost an expectation, that every putt he hits should go in. The level of concentration he brings in to play. His utter joy when he succeeds, his somewhat calmer acceptance when he doesn’t.

As a child, I was very taken with Gundappa Viswanath, the cricketer. A man known to play each ball on its merits, whose attitude and equanimity on the field was amazing. Legend has it that after a great run of form, Vishy was, surprisingly, out first ball in a match. When asked why, he’s reputed to have replied “The ball deserved it”.

This world needs role models. Examples of people who can succeed without becoming unlivable-with in the process. Jordan Spieth is showing some real potential in this respect.

And that’s why I care so much about Jordan Spieth. Even if he loses today. Even if he never wins another Major.

Who he is, how he acts, what he stands for, matters, in a world of fallen idols.

Go Jordan Spieth!


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