CROMWELL, Conn. -- Daniel Berger and Michael Greller had far different points of view on Jordan Spieth's playoff-winning 61-foot bunker shot yesterday to win the Travelers Championship, but they had the same reaction to it.
Acceptance not only of the shot itself but of the fact it wasn't quite as unbelievable as it seemed because of the man who launched it and then seemingly willed it to bounce right when it had no reason to do so except that it's what Spieth needed it to do.
"Jordan does Jordan things, you know," said Berger, after Spieth's perfect sand shot beat him on the first playoff hole at TPC River Highlands.
Berger had charged from 5 back early in the round to tie Spieth at 12-under with a cold-blooded birdie of his own on 17.
"Jordan doing Jordan things," said Greller, Spieth's caddie and on-course psychologist, who reminded him just before he stepped into that bunker in front of the 18th green that "magic happens here."
That is the Travelers' history since the tournament moved here in 1991, but no finish was more magical than Spieth holing out from that bunker to win after having bounced his tee shot off a tree and back into the fairway but 227 yards from the hole. His second shot then hit the side of a hill some 20 yards short of the green and bounced back into the same bunker he'd nearly holed out from minutes earlier on 18.
Considering how Spieth had been putting all day, it was probably a safer haven than the green but no one would have imagined he would win a tournament he'd led wire to wire from that spot. Frankly, not even Spieth, the author of so many "Jordan doing Jordan thing" moments that it is now apparently a PGA Tour refrain from caddie to vanquished foe.
"I felt more comfortable in the bunker than I did from 4 feet," said Spieth, who had missed two critical putts from that distance on the backside to put himself in the vice he found himself in at the end of the day. I was in there in regulation. I knew it was the place to be. So on my approach shot I thought if it was not going to carry, that bunker's not bad. From 227 into that hole I was happy with where it was. I was just trying to get it up there around the hole.
"For it to actually kind of spin in, I went and jumped up and saw it kind of spinning towards the middle of the hole and I'm like, 'No way!' It hit, bounced right, went in and I lost my mind."
So did Greller, who launched the bunker rake into the air at the same moment Spieth flung his lob wedge wildly to the side and then ran up to his caddie and they launched into a low-rise chest bump.
As they reacted like the Fun Bunch in the end zone, Berger gave Spieth a thumbs up, a look of stoic resignation on his face. He then gave his long-time rival dating back to junior golf days a low five before walking back to stand over about a 60-foot putt he knew damn well he wasn't going to make to force a second playoff hole.
Berger may have already recorded one win and four top-three finishes this season, and be considered one of the Tour's young guns but no one has yet said, "Daniel does Daniel things." That is reserved for the 23-year-old Spieth, who joined Tiger Woods as the only golfers in PGA history to have won 10 times on Tour before the age of 24.
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This victory came the hard way and not simply because he holed out from that bunker to win. In fact, that kind of shot was necessary because Spieth's normally reliable putter was taunting and tormenting him all day.
While he led after every round and opened with two birdies yesterday, the rest of his final-round 70 was an even-par battle against himself more than with Berger or his playing partner, Boo Weekley.
"It was tough,'' said Spieth. "I give a lot of credit to Michael. I thought this was his most impressive performance he's ever had. I mean this whole week I haven't felt comfortable on the greens. I was competing but I was getting frustrated. I felt so uneasy on the greens. I voiced that. Even when I made some putts they didn't necessarily feel like great putts. It wasn't a normal kind of Jordan putting week.
"Michael kept me grounded. He said we're not letting this one slip away. We're going to finish like we have the last couple days. He reiterated that in different ways throughout the back nine, which was very important.''
It was especially important after Spieth bogeyed both 12 and 14 and barely avoided ending up driving his ball into the water on 13 and 15. As his frustrations mounted and his putter refused to help, he finally stared at his club face on 14 and hollered at it, "What are you doing?"
A good question to which Greller had only one good answer.
After Spieth missed a 4-foot par putt on 14 that cut his lead to a stroke with Berger closing in on him, the wheels appeared to be coming off. When his drive on 15 turned way left and only avoided water because of deep rough that slowed the ball's roll a foot from the red out of bounds line, he nearly slammed his driver into the ground.
It was at that juncture, with Spieth's bile rising, that Greller reminded him what was happening. What was happening was, difficult though it was for Spieth to see at that moment, exactly what was supposed to happen if you want to be where Spieth wants to be.
"My biggest role is getting him to believe in himself," said Greller, a former sixth-grade math teacher. "I was trying to make him feel as confident as I could. He was fighting his putter all week. I had to keep remembering to breathe, too, and then remind him, 'This is why you play golf. To be in the moment like this.'
"That can be stressful but you'd rather have that than be grinding to make the cut. I reminded him he's a closer. That's what I kept telling him.''
Michael Greller kept reminding Jordan Spieth of that until Spieth stepped into a bunker 61 feet from the hole with a trophy and $1.2 million on the line and reminded himself and the rest of the golf world that his caddie had a point.
This article is written by Ron Borges from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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