It’s hard to believe Jordan Spieth is still in his 20s, given his first of three Majors at the 2015 Masters, through 13 PGA Tour wins and three Ryder Cup appearances. In recent years the Dallas-born big hitter, 29, may not have emulated his early-career success, yet he remains renowned for his ability to find solutions to the toughest problems on the course.
RSNG.com gets behind the mindset of the miracle shot maker.
RSNG What does winning mean to you?
JORDAN SPIETH, GOLFER “Winning to me is simply about fulfilling dreams, and in the simplest sense, there is no point having a dream unless you are going to follow through with it to the best of your ability.
“Going back to my first major win at the 2015 Masters, quite simply that was my ultimate dream – to walk up the 18th in the lead, to feel that emotion as the crowd closes in on you. It was my dream as a kid and the reality was everything I thought it would be – the fan becomes the hero.”
RSNG Would you say being so young helped you in that situation, in the sense that you had the raw fearlessness that so many new players possess?
JORDAN SPIETH “I think when you progress through the amateur circuit you’re used to winning, so you do transfer that over. There’s positivity to your game and everyone around you tells you how great you are!
“As time goes on you play more, experience more, and of course it’s so much harder, so I think you do lose a bit of that brittleness as your career progresses.”
RSNG You’ve always been one of those players who is very capable of holding your nerve on the big shots. How do you achieve that?
JORDAN SPIETH “I think mostly it’s a case of trying to deal with your surroundings. It seems quite serene when you are teeing off in front of a big crowd, but actually if you’re of a frame of mind where you require absolute focus, then the smallest thing will throw you off.
“Golf is almost scarily quiet when the action is going down. Tennis is probably the only other sport I can think of that’s like that.
“Mentally golfers are quite fragile and all it takes is one guy who takes a picture at that moment, or shouts when you’re pulling back. It can just be something that breaks the silence, it’s actually quite scary.”
I remember thinking I am literally closing my eyes and taking a swing right now
RSNG Was there a time when you realized you could block out the nerves better than others?
JORDAN SPIETH “I think the first time I really confronted serious nerves would have been the first Ryder Cup I played at Gleneagles, in Scotland, in 2014. I remember stepping out in the morning, and I was wearing like four layers but really could have gone out there wearing nothing because I was so juiced.
“In the lead-up, we had done a lot of petitioning to our captain, Tom Watson, to allow myself and Patrick Reed to go off early because we were statistically a phenomenal team that year. He didn't really buy it – we were the two rookies on the team, and he thought it was probably not a good idea to throw us out first.
“Anyway we were quite persistent – we knew this was our format and we were going to thrive out there. Anyway I remember finally getting out to the first tee and I took out the three-wood. It was the most nervous I've ever been. I remember standing over it thinking, ‘Man, I don't know what I am doing – I am literally closing my eyes and taking a swing right now!’
“Anyway I ripped this thing and looked up and it’s going down the middle of the fairway, and I was like ‘That was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had’. It was a different level from anything I'd experienced before, and I took that one shot, that one experience through to the rest of that Ryder Cup, and the rest of my career.”
RSNG What do you think would have happened if you’d shanked it?
JORDAN SPIETH “I’m sure there would have been another moment further on where I could have redeemed myself. My point is it’s all about stepping up and doing it, particularly when you are putting yourself in that moment where you have campaigned and pushed and even bullied your way to the front of the queue.
“When you get there, it doesn’t matter if your heart ends up in your mouth – you’ve just got to follow through with all the conviction in the physical commitment that you had in the lead-up to the shot when you played it through in your mind 10 or 15 times.”
In golf if you control yourself you control the situation
RSNG Do you control your nerves in a different way now?
JORDAN SPIETH “It’s not so much control, it’s actually using nerves to fuel your play. I've always approached nerves as something really positive – if you're feeling nervous it means that you're in the right situation. You're in the situation you want to be in, and you're obviously prepared for it.
“The only thing that will take you down is a lack of work ethic. That’s not something I’ve ever struggled with, so when I feel those nerves I am prepared as much or more than the person across from me, and therefore I know I'm in a better position to do what I need to do. Nerves that come out of a lack of preparation are a different thing, and you will know, as a golfer, the difference.
“At the end of the day, this is a sport that is based on repetition. As golfers we go through the same routine and there is a real advantage in that. It’s not like we are playing a reactive sport – like in football where you are being hit with shots, or someone’s throwing a pitch to me or I’m being chased down.
“There are more difficult sports where it comes to predictability – so in many ways in golf, if you control yourself, you control the situation.”
RSNG Do you still use that Ryder Cup moment to inspire you?
JORDAN SPIETH “I do, in fact I told Annie [his wife] about that moment and for my birthday one year she got a painting done based on a photo of me teeing off in 2014 at Gleneagles. It’s really cool because I reflect on that moment, and it always means a lot to me.”
WHAT NEXT? Want more wisdom from Jordan Spieth? He shares his biggest lessons from his rise, fall and rise in this interview with RSNG.com.
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