Jordan Spieth: Anatomy of a Presidents Cup Pick

U.S. President Cup Captain, Fred Couples, made a little news Wednesday when he picked 20-year-old PGA Tour Rookie, Jordan Spieth, as the 12th and final man on the 2013 team. With Spieth 22nd on the points list, it looked like a stretch pick. But when you look at the body of work this young man has put together this year, not so much.

To begin with, he left the University of Texas a year early to follow his dream. He had been taking advantage of sponsor exemptions for the previous three years as an amateur and making three of five cuts including the U.S. Open in 2012. And he went one for one on the Tour.

He started 2013 with no status, missed the cut in La Jolla and T22 at Pebble. Given that you have to play three courses well at Pebble, that was a good finish.

Then he went down to Central and South America to play the’s Panama and Columbia tournaments.

Something happened there because he went straight from Columbia to the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open which was opposite the WGC event at Doral in Miami. With all the Tour’s big guns in Miami, Spieth managed a T2. Looking back however, it was far from a hollow victory; there were a number of young players who ended up having great years and solid Tour members who didn’t get into Miami.

But that said, that was the one that finally gave him the confidence that he belonged:

But I just had a lot of people that believed in me which kind of helped increase the belief in myself, just kind of came out a little uncomfortable honestly.  I don’t really know how to explain it, why I felt uncomfortable, feeling stressed starting out; a lot of the guys, the veterans, were helpful to me starting out on Tour and I think that was a key in kind of settling in and kind of playing my game.

He went on to post seven more top 10 finishes beginning the very next week in Tampa:

3/17 – Tampa – T7 – A lot of big names in this one getting tuned up for Bay Hill the following week. Kevin Streelman notched his first win.

Yeah, shoot, it’s unbelievable.  Coming from Bogotá, Colombia, I thought I was going to be playing the and now it looks like I’ll be using some starts on the PGA Tour this year.  To go four weeks, four different countries and play well, it’s a big confidence boost.

4/21 – Harbour Town – T9 – The week after the Masters, a lot of the big guns looking for a “fun” week. The top 3 were Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson and Luke Donald tied with Kevin Streelman.

Yeah, it’s been extremely successful year.  I think the goal at the beginning of the year was to earn my card for next year, and to be able to play on the Tour this year is a dream come true.  And you’ve got to play well for the rest of the season, but it’s nice to have a lot more starts [he had proved at this point that he deserved unlimited sponsor exemptions].

[And he went on to prove that he had raw talent.] I saw the course for the first time yesterday.  Never played the Junior Heritage or any event prior to this.  So I had heard about it.  I’ve heard it’s ridiculously narrow.  You have to have all the ball flights; can’t let one stray.  And it’s true.

5/26 – Colonial – T7 – Another great turnout to pay tribute to the great Ben Hogan. Boo Weekley got his career back on track with a win, followed by Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

6/30 – Tiger’s AT&T National at Congressional – 6th – Who doesn’t come to Tiger’s event? Bill Haas won, but Spieth beat the likes of Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott.

It was a little different scenario.  I was in a position where I slept on a lead.  It was cool.  I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the experience. Although today started off well and ended a little bit on a downer as far as playing the back side 1 over, all in all, started the week, couldn’t ask for anything more.  It was awesome.

7/14 – John Deere – P1 – Finally broke through for his win to become completely exempt on Tour. He beat Zach Johnson in a playoff, was retroactively awarded all of his FedExCup points and, as the last man in, climbed aboard the charter that night to the British Open where he finished T44.

I had a plan.  I guess the plan got exceeded.  I wanted to just earn my Tour card for next year this year somehow [with the demise of the Q-School, without having to play on the Tour for a year].  And now to be able to have it for a couple of years and to be able to have an exemption to Augusta, I mean, all the stuff that comes with it, be able to play in the playoffs.

8/18 – Greensboro – P2 – By the time he got to the Wyndham, the last chance tournament of 2013, he had gone from no status to 16th on the FedExCup standings, which went to 8th after his ferocious, two-hole playoff loss to Patrick Reed, the last man in the regular season to earn his Tour card for next year and get into the playoffs. But it took a long putt from Spieth on 18 to get into that playoff.

I just stayed positive the whole time and, you know, put a great stroke on it, hit it right on my line and from whatever it was, 40 feet, you got to catch some luck for it to roll that true the whole way and it did.

9/2 -Boston – T4 – And finally, full of the confidence that such a year would bring, he shot a sizzling 9-under 62 in the final round to finish 4th. As impressive as Henrik Stenson’s steady, 5-under victory round was, Spieth had the low round of the day by four shots.

[Agreeing that it was the best he’d ever played on the PGA Tour,] Yeah, definitely.  It was actually a rough range session this morning.  Went to the first hole, just wanted to stay smooth.  Obviously very excited with the finish, being able to close it out with two birdies and an eagle.  Even happier to be done and sit back and see how things unfold.

He was paired with Phil Mickelson in that final round and Phil was so impressed with Spieth’s play that he texted Fred Couples, “Dude, you’ve got to pick this guy.”

And that’s exactly what Fred Couples did.

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