Let's say it wasn't a regular pro-am round for Jordan Spieth on Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He had the owner of a record 28 Olympic medals (23 of them made of gold), the most decorated Olympian of all time and a man who needs no introductions, Michael Phelps, as his partner.
“It was a lot of fun,” Spieth said of his afternoon alongside Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. “He loves golf.”
And Spieth relishes these opportunities.
Though this wasn't the first time the two were meeting - as both are Under Armour sponsored athletes, and Phelps gave a speech to the US Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine in 2016-this was the first time that Jordan had an opportunity to spend some valuable time with the Olympian.
They looked like they were bantering around and throwing friendly jabs at each other while Spieth used the rare opportunity to pick the brain of arguably the greatest athlete in sports history.
Phelps hosted a dinner at his house the night before and Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller were present among others. A day later, Spieth was trying to gauge the similarities between walking into the 20,000 seater 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale and entering an arena for a big swimming meet.
Spieth has been lucky to have had similar conversations with big names from other sports including quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tony Romo as well as two time MVP basketball player Stephen Curry.
“There is a lot that I can learn [on] the mental side of things,” Spieth said. “These guys have mastered it.
“I was just asking [Michael], walking up there, and he said, ‘It’s different.’ He gets so in the zone, he has his hood on and headphones on, he's looking down and he doesn’t notice anybody when he goes into the pool, which is similar to what we experience, for the most part. But 16 here is a different animal, too. All of a sudden, now it’s stacked up. Now you feel like you’re hitting a shot in a football stadium. For me, it’s as nerve-wracking a shot as I see during the year, for sure.”
"But 16 here is a different animal, too. All of a sudden, now it's stacked up. You feel like you're hitting a shot in a football stadium. He said, 'Yeah, I'll be much more nervous here than I would in an Olympics. So it wasn't much in-depth mental state. It was more just, Hey, I'm interested, where's you heart get pumping?"
It wasn't just one-way traffic as expected. During last year's Masters, Phelps watched on television as Spieth blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to go at the Masters.
Phelps was impressed with how Jordan handled the situation.
After Spieth hit two balls in the water on the par-3 12th on his way to a quadruple-bogey, he rebounded with two birdies in the next three holes to give himself a chance before finishing three strokes adrift and settling for second place behind winner, Danny Willett.
“It was the coolest thing,” Phelps said. “It was like watching a piece of art. His response was so great. For someone so young, to have such a good head on his shoulders. He’s a competitor. He wants to be the best, and you see it. He can be so hard on himself. I can relate to that.”
From Spieth’s perspective, he’s just thankful for the opportunity to learn from a legend. “It was great spending time with them,” Spieth said of Phelps and his family. “He’s offered to continue to advise or help or just really any time I want to reach out, which is just incredibly kind to have that kind of opportunity. It’s humbling for me and I certainly should take advantage of it.”
Spieth returns this week to competition after taking two weeks off following back-to-back third-place finishes at the SBS Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii.
"State of the game is pretty good," Spieth said. "In Hawaii, struck the ball extremely well. Tee to green, improved on what I was trying to improve on from all of 2016 and really back into 2015, same kind of move I was trying to do."Published 02 Feb 2017, 16:50 IST