Aided by gum and Trackman, Jordan Spieth fires 65 at British Open

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Aided by gum and Trackman, Jordan Spieth fires 65 at British Open

PGA Tour

Aided by gum and Trackman, Jordan Spieth fires 65 at British Open

SOUTHPORT, England – Perhaps it was the gum. Or maybe this is just as Jordan Spieth suggested earlier in the week: he now knows “how things go” at The British Open.

Opening with a 5-under 65 at Royal Birkdale on Thursday, Spieth exuded a calm confidence that bodes well for the remainder of a week that is about to get more turbulent.

Working a piece of mint gum given to him by longtime instructor Cameron McCormick, Spieth kept the play-by-play with caddie Michael Greller decidedly even-keeled. While hitting just five fairways looks bad on paper, the misses were generally in the proper spots and compensated by the crisp iron play that has made him a PGA Tour leader in strokes gained: approach shots.

Spieth credits improved gym work with his consistent iron play.

“It’s just, I think, a little bit of being more physically fit that is helping me be more consistent in what we’ve always been trying to work on, which is just staying patient and getting around my body,” Spieth said.

Just seven days short of his 24th birthday, Spieth revealed a first from McCormick: pre-round Trackman.

“Cameron brought it out today to see how much the 55-degree weather was affecting my speeds versus 90 at home, which is what we were doing last week,” Spieth said. “And I was hitting it 10-to-15 yards shorter without any wind factored in. And then the wind was affecting it another 20-to-30 yards on the range, pretty much through the bag. Long irons it affects it a little bit less.

“But because I knew how far balls were carrying from our session this morning, I was able to know how far that ball would carry and then I can trust that. And that’s the most important thing. Because you feel like you’re hitting so much club. You feel like you’re going to fly the world. And then it goes on the front green and I’m 60 feet away. I mis-hit it, it was a good club to get close to the hole.

“But I thought that was really well done by Cameron, because I didn’t even ask him to, he just brought it out and said, ‘Let’s figure this out, so you know at least when you’re coming into the wind what true effect it’s having.’ And it’s more an effect than anywhere I’ve experienced in the States.”

Conditions will be a bigger part of Spieth’s second round when he tees off at 9:48 a.m. Eastern time Friday. He plans to watch the Sky Sports broadcast to pick up insights, something he did even with Thursday’s 4:47 a.m. Eastern tee time with Henrik Stenson (69) and Si Woo Kim (70).

“I knew before I stepped on the tee today I knew that if I was behind the hole on No. 1, everybody was missing them out to the right, I’d probably read a little less break. You get to learn stuff like that,” Spieth said.

“You can also understand how good par is. And then obviously conditions change a bit. It’s forecasted something like 50 percent until early afternoon and then it goes up to 70 or 80 percent. But I think everybody is going to have tough conditions tomorrow. And if it gets harder and harder, then I know how to adjust off of what we thought the morning wave was doing, as far as what we’re thinking.”

While social media bickered about a black Under Armour vest Spieth wore until the sun peaked out at the 17th hole, it was his gentler on-course energy that stood out. When he drove into the crowds on the 13th and 16th holes, Spieth made sure to ask if anyone had been hit. The Texan didn’t lose his cool as he watched a marshal step on his ball at 13, forcing a drop and less appealing lie for the approach.

Whether it’s the classier English galleries or his overall comfort level with links conditions, Spieth glided around Birkdale with such ease that he gave himself “nine across the board for everything.”

He also declared the 16 of 18 greens-in-regulation day in his top-five major rounds. As for the gum? He was still working it after multiple TV interviews and during extended questioning inside the media center.

“Payne Stewart used to do it and it served him well,” Spieth said. “But I think mint has some sort of effect on nerves. But I was still feeling them a bit out there. So I don’t think it’s beneficial at all.”

Maybe not, but it’s a good bet Cameron McCormick brings Trackman and a stick of gum to Royal Birkdale on Friday.

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