With three words, Jordan Spieth delivered a British Open moment as memorable as the 50-foot eagle putt that prompted his famous line.
“Go get that.”
He was telling Michael Greller to get his ball from the cup as Spieth stood to the side of the 15th green, still soaking up the significance of such a long eagle putt that restored his lead with three holes to play.
And there’s a story behind it.
The reaction, while entirely spontaneous, might not have happened except for Spieth being in the makeshift gym all week at Royal Birkdale.
“I had been watching replays of the Open in the gym,” Spieth said. “There was a TV in there, and they were playing old Opens. For whatever reason, it intrigued me earlier in the week that the guys, when they made putts, they never went and picked their ball out of the hole. The caddie went and got it on long putts. And I guess that stuck in my head: ‘You don’t have to pick the ball out of the hole. Michael can go get it.’”
There was more to the moment, of course.
Two holes earlier, Spieth missed the 13th fairway so far to the right that it hit a spectator in the head and caromed into the dunes. When he found it, he realized the driving range was not out of bounds, took a drop, had to take relief from the equipment truck and sent Greller toward the green to scout out the shot. The whole process took some 20 minutes as Matt Kuchar waited at the green.
On the 15th hole, Kuchar was in a bunker in two and blasted out to about 6 feet, and then Spieth made his 50-foot eagle putt.
“Michael, when I looked over, he’s laughing,” Spieth said. “For whatever reason, I didn’t want to walk all the way up there. It was pretty far away. He started to walk toward the bag, but I was already walking toward the bag and I was really intense at that point. ‘Michael, go get that!’
“It was half being serious, like: ‘Go get it quickly because Kuch still needs to putt and we don’t need to drag this on. I’ve already been in his way too much the last couple of holes. Let’s not do that anymore.’ And it was half intense — ‘Pick that ball out of the hole.’”
Either way, Greller went and got it. Spieth added two birdies and his name was etched into the silver claret jug.
Some of the best mail during the holidays is a simple white envelope from Augusta National, officially extending invitations to those who have met criteria for the Masters (and for past major champions no longer exempt who will be honorary invitees).
At the end of the year, 80 players already were eligible and expected to compete, a list that includes (for now) Tiger Woods.
That’s two fewer than at this time a year ago, increasing the odds that the Masters again will meet its target of having fewer than 100 players at Augusta National the first full week in April. Having a small field is important to the club. The Masters has not had more than 100 players since 1966.
One spot awarded next month is reserved for the Latin American Amateur champion. No more than 13 spots will be available for winners of PGA Tour events (except for the new Dominican Republic event held opposite the Match Play). One of those is at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where all but seven players at Kapalua already are exempt.
There also is one more chance for players to qualify by being among the top 50 in the world on March 25.
TALE OF TWO YEARS
Kevin Chappell won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Texas Open, sending him to Kapalua for the first time.
But was it his best year? Better than last year?
“Good question,” Chappell said. “I won this year, but I didn’t have as many chances.”
A year ago, Chappell was runner-up three times, losing in a playoff at the Tour Championship (won by Rory McIlroy) and to a birdie-par finish by Jason Day at Bay Hill. He had seven top 10s, was No. 8 in the FedEx Cup and finished the year at No. 32 in the world.
The Texas Open was his only serious chance to win this year. He finished at No. 27 in the FedEx Cup and ends the year at No. 34.
Chappell attributed the difference to some back issues and untimely illnesses that kept him from getting any momentum.
What made this year memorable was playing on his first Presidents Cup team. He earned the 10th and final spot by 0.073 points over Charley Hoffman, and went 1-1-1 in a resounding victory at Liberty National.
And he won’t be waiting until the January to get started on a new year. He leaves for Maui right after Christmas.