NORTON, Mass. –– Different year, different day, different round, different score. Ah, but don’t be fooled. So much about Jordan Spieth’s trip around TPC Boston on Friday felt like the stroll he made the last time he was here, on Labor Day Monday a season ago.
Credit aggressive play and productive scoring.
But if the natural assumption is that Spieth’s 4-under 67 in Friday’s first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship was a carryover from his scintillating 62 that closed out last year’s tournament here at TPC Boston, think again. “We were more referencing last week’s final round,” said Michael Greller, Spieth’s caddie.
Indeed, Spieth through 54 holes of The Barclays had been stung by the fact that he hadn’t broken 70 in any of his previous 10 rounds. So when he closed with a 67 at Ridgewood Country Club to get into a share of 22nd place, “that gave us a little bit of steam (for this week),” Greller said.
Not that the momentum started with authority, mind you, because Spieth sprayed his tee shot into a hazard right at his opening hole, the par-4 10th, and made double. “But the big thing with him has been his resiliency lately,” Greller said.
Birdies at Nos. 12, 14 and 16 surely righted the ship, but what happened at the 18th did invoke memories of last year’s final round. Just as he closed out that scintillating 62 with an eagle at the par-5 18th, Spieth slammed a hybrid from 230 yards to 27 feet, slipped home the putt, and turned in 3-under 32.
Though the 21-year-old Spieth was a popular attraction with media folks afterward, he shrugged off his round. He had finished with just one birdie and eight pars on his second nine, so he clearly didn’t keep pace with Keegan Bradley (65) on a day when good scores were plentiful. Given that three days are still to come this year, Spieth was more than happy to reflect upon last year’s closing round that still resonates.
“Probably the best round I’ve ever played,” Spieth said.
Hard to argue with that, given all that was riding at the time. Spieth began the 2013 DBC thinking a good performance might just earn him a captain’s pick onto the Presidents Cup team. But sitting a whopping 11 strokes off of Sergio Garcia’s lead through 54 holes, Spieth wasn’t exactly in the hunt, though he was alongside Phil Mickelson for the fourth round and that in itself was huge.
“We had never played with Phil,” Greller said, “but we know Phil is so supportive of the younger players.”
On a murky day, with threats of stormy weather dancing all around, Mickelson shot 71 but spent more of an effort cheerleading for Spieth. At the par-4 15th, Lefty tossed down a 35-footer for birdie, but Spieth stepped in and drained his birdie from from just over 30 feet.
“Why are you stealing my thunder?” Mickelson asked, with a laugh.
The thunder was all Spieth’s from there on. He made a 30-footer for birdie at the 16th, stuffed it for a 6-footer at the 17th, then slammed his second shot onto the green and made an eagle at 18. Birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle. With a combination of power and precision, Spieth had roared into a share of fourth and sent Mickelson chasing after a corner room of the scoring area so he could sent a text.
It was to Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples and said, in essence: “Pick this kid.”
“Coming up 18 (walking to their tee shots), that was the first time that (Mickelson) mentioned the Presidents Cup,” Spieth said. “I remember saying to him, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘I think, go ahead and finish this round out. But I’m pretty sure you’re going to be looking good now. You’ve played a heck of a round.’ “
The round, of course, got better, thanks to that emphatic eagle at 18 and the rest is history. Spieth was one of Couples’ picks, as a rookie he played well alongside Steve Stricker, and the U.S. won yet another Presidents Cup.
While in many ways Spieth’s sophomore year could be considered quiet – after all, he hasn’t won and has but one top 10 since going T-2, T-12, T-4 at the Masters, RBC Heritage, and Players – the young man is very much in the thick of things in these FedEx Cup playoffs. Spieth comes into the Deutsche Bank Championship in a lofty position, ninth, and unlike a year ago when he was sweating out a Presidents Cup invite, he has already earned a position on this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Focused as he is on this week’s DBC and next week’s BMW Championship, Spieth said, “I want the Tour Championship (Sept. 11-14) and Ryder Cup (Sept. 26-28) to be the best two weeks of the year.”
If Friday’s effort at TPC Boston is any indication, Spieth could be headed in the right direction. “After I made the double (on 10, to start), I calmed myself down,” Spieth said. “To go bogey-free and get some birdies from there on, I’m very pleased.”