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Gene Frenette: Rising star Jordan Spieth right at home in spotlight at Players Championship

Posted: May 10, 2014 - 10:23pm  |  Updated: May 11, 2014 - 4:28pm
Jordan Spieth looks at the gallery as walks to the green on hole #17 followed by Martin Kaymer during third round action.  Bob.Self@jacksonville.com
Bob.Self@jacksonville.com
Jordan Spieth looks at the gallery as walks to the green on hole #17 followed by Martin Kaymer during third round action.

The Players - Latest Coverage

Matt About Jax at The Players

On a Mother’s Day when Adam Scott has a chance to overtake Tiger Woods for the No. 1 world ranking, and Martin Kaymer has a chance for a wire-to-wire victory at The Players Championship, most eyes will likely gravitate to a 20-year-old rising star with an opportunity to make his own history.

It’s getting harder and harder not to watch the transcendent Jordan Spieth. The anticipation is that golf’s youngest of young guns will have that breakthrough triumph on a big stage that eluded him at the Masters four weeks ago, and Sunday could be it.

But in order for Spieth to put a defining stamp on his ever-increasing celebrity, the Players co-leader at 12 under is going to have to conquer a handful of proven international challengers. That list includes Germany’s Kaymer (12 under) and the most polarizing foreign figure in the game, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who’s tied for third with Australian John Senden at 9 under.

Related: Classroom skills carry over to golf course for Jordan Spieth's caddie

“I’m going to have to shoot a few under, no doubt about it,” said Spieth, who shot 1-under 71 on Saturday and remains the only player in the field to play bogey-free through three rounds.

Whatever Spieth shoots Sunday, you can bet he will draw the biggest gallery at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course, especially with Tiger on the mend, Phil Mickelson a cut victim and Rory McIlroy (3 under) nowhere near contention.

That was pretty evident to Kaymer, who felt the power of Spieth’s burgeoning popularity all day Saturday, especially on the closing hole. When it looked like the Texas native might bogey for the first time, he made a 13-foot par putt from just off the green, and Kaymer followed by missing a par putt that dropped him into a two-way atop the leaderboard.

The reaction to both putts from the crowd was a continuation of a round that took on more of a Ryder Cup-like feel, with a German and an American being three or four shots clear of the field most of the day. There was a considerable roar when Spieth’s putt dropped, then some cheers when Kaymer’s putt went left of the hole.

“To be honest with you, with how great of a guy Martin is, I wish it didn’t feel as much like a Ryder Cup, and that’s really kind of what it felt like out there,” Spieth said. “I think that’s only going to help me to have momentum with the crowd behind me.

“Everyone has been very respectful to Martin, but they’ve definitely been partial [to Spieth], which I guess is what [Mickelson] deals with on a daily basis and quite a few other guys.”

Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Championship winner and a former No. 1-ranked player, is fully prepared for Spieth to be embraced in the same manner during their final-round pairing. The spotlight on him is so big right now, Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, attracted as big a media crowd after the round as Kaymer.

“[Spieth] is one of the best players out here right now, so I think he deserves as much attention as possible because he’s a young player, very mature, and I hope a long career ahead of him,” Kaymer said. “And for me, if there’s less attention on me right now, I’ll take it.”

While an opening 67 and 66 in his first Players appearance were remarkable, Spieth should earn equally high marks for making the most Saturday out of a mediocre ball-striking round.

“If you told me I was going to hit it like that, before the day started, I would have signed for 1 under and said thank you and walked away,” Spieth said.

He could have gotten rattled by birdie putts that hung on the lip at No. 2, and bounced out at No. 10. Instead, he keeps demonstrating the poise of a player who’s been on the PGA Tour for a decade or more.

Except for glaring back toward nobody in particular on the seventh hole — after a can or bottle hit the ground during his tee shot — Spieth was unfazed as he put himself back on another Sunday leaderboard.

Between his scrambling around the greens, and a bogey-free streak that has reached 68, dating to Spieth’s last tournament, nothing he does surprises his caddie anymore.

“He sees windows in shots,” Greller said. “He really visualizes things like nobody I’ve ever met.”

And what about that par save on No. 18? “Stole one there,” Greller added.

More and more, Jordan Spieth is stealing the spotlight every time he tees it up.

 

gene.frenette@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4540

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Max mutt
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Max mutt 05/11/14 - 10:03 pm
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Premium Member

An unbelievably good mature

An unbelievably good mature player.
Hard to imagine someone eclipsing a young Tiger Woods but he is doing it.

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