Jordan Spieth: From No Status to Making the Presidents Cup

Most avid golf fans know about Jordan Spieth’s meteoric accomplishments this year. Faced with completing his final year at Texas at the price of having to play on the Web.com Tour for a year before he could get to the PGA Tour, he dropped out of school and went for it.

A very talented amateur player, he already had a taste of sponsor exemptions into tournaments in 2012; he knew he could obtain them and he knew what it would be like once he got out there.

By meteoric accomplishments, I mean starting with no status on the PGA Tour and ending up a Captain’s pick to this year’s President Cup, something no one has ever done before. His play was so stellar at the end of the year with so much on the line, that Captain Fred Couples went all the way down to No. 22 on the points list to pick him. This is what that looks like in a world where everyone who is eligible to play, plays: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22. 

There are three other Presidents Cup rookies on the team: Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley. But Snedeker won the Tour Championship last year and Dufner and Bradley both won a PGA Championship.

Given where he started with no status, what Spieth accomplished might have been as difficult as what his three fellow Rookies did. His first goal was to be able to take unlimited exemptions:

So after — I would say after Tampa, so after Puerto Rico it adjusted to try and play really well to earn special temporary status, and then after that my goal — I still had to make some money to earn my Tour card.  I knew that the FedExCup Playoffs weren’t going to work out for me, so I knew I’d have less events than some of those guys, so it was about adjusting my positioning.

Then after knocking on the door a couple more times, I kind of sat back and said, you know what, we can win.  We can win this year.

So then after [his victory at] the John Deere, then it was, okay, maybe we’re thinking about — I’m now in the Playoffs, so now my schedule adjusts to where I’d like to have an opportunity to play in the Tour Championship, and then from there I guess the Presidents Cup came onto my mind, and that was the most significant goal that was on my mind the whole year was trying to make that team.

So I would say [changing my goals for the year] just happened a couple times, just changing from not playing the Web.com Tour but playing the PGA Tour, and then from there adjusting to the win, and then scheduling and how I would be as fresh as I could be once the Playoffs started, especially these next three out of four weeks.

What he didn’t mention in there was his playoff loss in the Wyndham Championship to a miracle shot by Patrick Reed and two weeks later finishing T4 in the Deutsche Bank Championship by shooting a final round 62.

That moved him to 10th on the FedExCup points list. So now his goals get bigger still:

Yeah, I’m focused on the next two weeks right now.  Yeah, I mean, obviously anybody would say at the beginning of the year that if they could play their best in any tournament outside of a major, or even including the majors, it would be playing for your country.  So I want to — that tournament is on my mind, to play my best golf I’ve ever played.

But right now my focus is on this week.  A goal of mine is to finish whatever I have to finish to try and control my own destiny next week. [If any of the top 5 players in next week’s Tour Championship win, they automatically win the FedExCup and the $10 Million that goes with it. This week determines who the final 30 players are who will get into the tournament.]  I think that’s a big story line for this tournament is how can players work their way into the top 5, and I got fourth last week and dropped a spot, so I’m not sure exactly what I have to do.

Yeah, getting into a position of remaining in the top 10, having a solid week, obviously I’m trying to win the golf tournament.  But I think a good solid week would be a great move towards next week and trying to beat 30 players.  The odds going in are better than any other event I’ve ever played.  That would be pretty cool.

The Wednesday after the Deutsche Bank Championship, the final Presidents Cup teams would be named. Spieth had some conversations and texts with Fred Couples before the picks, so he knew that he was definitely in the mix. But when the call finally came, Couples was so elliptical in the conversation, Spieth didn’t know if he was being asked or not:

But yeah, it’s been a pretty fun week off.  Cool phone call, one of the best ones I’ve ever received, and awesome to kind of have that — that was a big goal of mine when I started to realize it might be possible about a month ago, and ever since then been grinding to try and get that call.

It was pretty cool, and looking forward to maybe playing some rounds with guys on the team and seeing how we can best shape the pairings.

The details of the call were classic Fred Couples:

He had texted me actually the Monday right after I finished my round, and he was just saying, great playing this year, great playing today, really happy for you, and I’ll give you a call tomorrow.  And I kind of knew at that time by the way that he worded it that it was probably going to happen.

You know, I was actually visiting my girlfriend when I got the call that next night, Tuesday night, and talked to him for a while.  He really — I still wasn’t positive if that meant I was on the team or not, so he called me, and I answered and said, How you doing?  What’s going on?  He said, So who are your boys on this team that you want to be paired with, because there’s been a lot of interest, and I just want to know.  I’m like, does that mean I’m on the team or who else are you picking or what’s going on?

It was pretty funny, just kind of went straight to the point.  I told him, I’m not sure, I’m interested to find out the next couple weeks who the pairings are going to be.

So this all has the makings of us being able to witness a great thing in the making, something nobody else has ever done. That part is pretty much already “fait accompli,” but what if Spieth actually won this week’s BMW Championship or, dare I say it, next week’s Tour Championship?

It’s been that kind of year.

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