AUGUSTA, Ga. – Welcome to heaven on earth, Jordan Spieth.
That’s how the 20-year-old Spieth, a Masters rookie described Augusta National Golf Club, a course he grew up watching on television, studying at home and dreaming of winning on some day.
“Whether that’s a few days from now or years in the future, hopefully one day I can have that green jacket,” he said, “but this is just an incredible atmosphere.”
To Spieth, his Tuesday practice round felt like the back nine of a tournament. He won the John Deere Classic in July in dramatic fashion to punch his ticket to his first Masters, and made his first visit to play Augusta National in October. Spieth said he couldn’t wipe a smile off his face the entire time. He slept in one of the cabins near the 10th hole, toured the champions’ locker room, and ate at the clubhouse. Oh, and then he played 27 holes, shooting 69 or 70, he said.
“Until you see it in person, you don’t really get a true grasp of it,” he said. “You can almost see down to Amen Corner, the bend at Amen Corner from up here (the 10th tee) when no TV cameras and no people are there. That was pretty amazing to me.”
He came back and played another 27 holes in March during the weekend of the Honda Classic, and arrived on Saturday to prepare for the tournament. His prep included picking the brain of two-time Masters champion and fellow Texas Longhorn Ben Crenshaw. Spieth hesitated to divulge too much of Crenshaw’s insight but did offer this:
“It’s certain shots on 11, like Ben Hogan always said, ‘If you hit the green, you’ve pulled it,’ kind of thing,” Spieth said. “There’s certain holes that you just have to play smart and accept the fact that you’re not going to be on the green even, unless you get a good bounce.
“Mr. Crenshaw talked to me a lot about just the pull on the greens and just how you really need to watch out, keep an eye on where that 11th green, 12th green (pin), where they are located, not for the break of the greens but for the speed. That’s kind of the most important thing he said on the greens out here is really understanding the speed of the putts, whether it’s a 4‑footer or a 40‑footer, because then when you understand how quick or slow it’s going to be, then you can pick your line instead of like a lot of courses, you’re just – it’s just outside right and firm; there’s no such thing here.”
Spieth isn’t the only one to benefit from Crenshaw’s knowledge of Augusta. His caddie, Michael Greller, has had lengthy phone calls with Crenshaw’s longtime bagman Carl Jackson.
What a difference a year makes. Spieth was at home a year ago, preparing to go to Hilton Head and watched the back nine on Sunday.
“It was kind of tough to watch because I was a professional and I wasn’t here,” he said. “I was just, you know, trying to figure out how I can get myself here this year.”
From starting the season without status on even the Web.com Tour to making the Presidents Cup team, Spieth compiled one of the most remarkable rookie years in recent memory. He picked up where he left off, recording a runner-up finish at the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a T-4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am and reaching the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
“I don’t walk into these kind of tournaments feeling like a rookie anymore and I think that helps me,” he said at the Valspar Championship.
Nor does Spieth buy into the belief that a first-timer can’t win the Masters.
“I don’t see that it’s a big deal at all,” Spieth said. “I think if I get my game ready, then it’s all possible.”
That would truly be heaven on earth for Spieth.