Jordan Spieth, back in New Jersey, comes full circle as world No. 1
By Doug Ferguson
EDISON, N.J. (AP) – The words were big and bold coming out of Trump National. Only this time, it wasn't The Donald doing the talking.
It was a 15-year-old from Texas.
Jordan Spieth had just won the U.S. Junior Amateur on Trump's course in Bedminster for the biggest trophy of his young career. In an interview with a Pennsylvania newspaper, Spieth was talking about his future when he said, "I want to win the Masters."
He told this story at Liberty National to a group of kids from The First Tee. Spieth told them how he fell in love with golf on his own, and that his parents encouraged him to set goals. It was that win in New Jersey when Spieth knew he wanted to play golf for a living. He set the bar high.
"I wanted to win the Masters and be the best player in the world," he said.
Six years later, Spieth is back in New Jersey with a green jacket and the No. 1 world ranking.
One of them he gets to keep until going back to Augusta National in April. The other could be gone in a week depending on how he plays.
The 22-year-old Spieth is not the youngest player to reach No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986. Tiger Woods was 21 when he got there for the first time, and it only took Woods 21 tournaments over 10 months to do it. His first reign lasted all of one week.
Rory McIlroy, who is not playing the FedExCup playoffs opener at The Barclays, could get back to No. 1 if Spieth misses the cut or finishes out of the top 60.
Spieth is in a peculiar spot.
The majors are over, and no one played them better this year. He won the Masters and the U.S. Open, missed the British Open playoff by one shot and finished second at the PGA Championship with a score that would have been good enough in all but two of the previous 57 years the PGA Championship has been stroke play.
The FedExCup would be the appropriate ending to a remarkable season, but even a guy who spent only three semesters at the University of Texas can work out the math. He can win the next three tournaments and still lose out on the $10 million bonus if he doesn't win the Tour Championship.
At some point in the short offseason, Spieth will reflect on a year that saw him chase the Grand Slam and reach the top of golf. But when he gets to that point, could he celebrate being No. 1 if he's actually No. 2?
"I would recognize that I reached that pinnacle, so it can be done again," he said. "Hopefully, when I look back I'm still in that position. I hope for Rory to play well. I just hope I edge him by a short two. But it's tricky. I don't know what I would think if I lost it. Would you be upset? I started the year at ninth, so to gain that amount of points means that going forward, if I continue on the path, I'm only going to go up. Right?"
That would work.
It just won't be easy.
Before going out to see Plainfield Country Club for the first time – Spieth was starting his freshman year at Texas the last time The Barclays was played here four years ago – he spoke Tuesday about the finishing kick.
"We've sat back over the last week and said, `How can we get that same kind of momentum to where we can try and peak for the Tour Championship?'" he said.
It's not even over after that. Spieth has the Presidents Cup in South Korea, possibly a trip to Shanghai for the HSBC Champions, and he is defending two titles at the end of the year in Sydney (Australian Open) and The Bahamas (Hero World Challenge) in back-to-back weeks.
For now, he found time to celebrate one achievement, even for just a brief moment.
Spieth threw out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game last week. It was the first time he was publicly introduced as "the No. 1 golfer in the world."
"Right when it was announced over the loudspeaker, it hit me," he said. "I was mid-stride over the third base line when I was going out there. I remember that moment, which meant it was pretty special to me."
The pressure never ends.
Spieth wore a jersey with "1" on the back and was surprised that Josh Hamilton with his bum knee wanted to catch him.
"They said, `Whatever you do, don't bounce it. But also, please don't throw it too high because he's going to react.' And I'm like, `What the hell am I supposed to do here?' This is not good," Spieth said. "I threw a couple in the batting cage to get to where I thought it was a decent tempo. So I didn't all-out wail it. I was guiding it. I'm just glad it found somewhere he didn't have to move."
Spieth referred to his pitch as "my lefty Jamie Moyer circle change."
That a 22-year-old could reference the oldest pitcher (49) to win a Major League Baseball game was peculiar. Except for one thing.
"My dad pitched against him in high school," Spieth said.
Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.