BY Art Thiel 10:02PM 06/19/2015

Thiel: Young Spieth looms large over U.S. Open

The 21-year-old Texan rose to the top of the U.S. Open at the halfway point, perhaps inspiring him to join in the growing critical commentary on the Chambers Bay course beneath his feet.

Jordan Spieth received a respite from the crowds at No. 6 green, where the terrain is so steep that no galleries are allowed, only officials and media. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

UNIVERSITY PLACE — Having won The Masters in April at 21, Jordan Spieth already established his bona fides as a contender for world’s best golfer. Now he is upping his pedigree by offering some course condemnation that’s become trendy among his elders.

He declared that No. 18 Friday was “the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life.”

True, it’s a short life. Yet he still shot 67, good enough to tie for the lead halfway through the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay (complete leader board), which flashed more teeth than Thursday. He joined a fellow Texan, Patrick Reed, at 135, but the five-under-par position was identical to the opening round, indicating the longest Open course in history (7,695 yards) and its sun-baked greens were taking a toll.

A Fox Sports TV microphone picked up Spieth’s scold, which on the golf course is public domain. But compared to the audible profanities of his more senior colleagues, notably Tiger Woods, Spieth’s choice of words is quaint. The man is going to have to add salt to his vocabulary.

“Whatever,” he said, dismissively. “If microphones are going to pick up, they’re going to pick it up. I’m not going to put a smile on and be happy with the way I played the hole. So I am who I am.”

Who he is, is the new face of golf. Spieth is succeeding Woods, who at 16 over is leaving Pierce County on his private jet back to Florida after another futile day in the weeds.

Woods was ranked No. 1 in the world as recently as 2013, but no one seems to remember that now. In the instant-gratification society, Spieth is fresh, implacable and relentless.

He’s had 11 top-10 finishes in his last 17 starts worldwide, which includes four wins. Should he prevail Sunday, he will become the first golfer to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year since Woods in 2002.

But that feat was not on his mind Friday after the 18th had been converted for the day from a manageable par-five to what he believed was an unmanageable four, part of the diabolical Chambers Bay plan to test the best. Spieth, apparently trying out his elevated status, felt free to offer an opinion.

“I think 18 as a par-4 doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Of course, at the moment when I didn’t hit the right shots, it’s going to make less sense.

“I think the hole doesn’t make sense because you can hit it down the left center of the fairway and still end up in the right bunker in trouble.”

Course criticism seemed to be a theme as the greens received the most sun since the players arrived last weekend. Reed, 26, was unhappy.

“The last hole I felt like I hit two quality golf shots and had to play Mickey Mouse on the green because the pin was ridiculous,” he said. “If you had to putt defensive because you’re putting downhill the whole time, you just never know. It’s definitely a challenge, and hopefully it will smooth out a little for tomorrow.”

Henrik Stenson, the first-round co-leader at 65 who slipped to a 74 and a tie for 12th, was more aggravated.

“It’s pretty much like putting on broccoli,” he said. “It’s borderline laughable at some of the greens and some of the pin positions, when we’re actually almost better off plugged in a bunker than being on the top of a ridge.

“The way it’s playing when it gets really dried out, because it’s such massive undulations, it gets virtually impossible to get it anywhere close. If you don’t get it close, then you’re more or less going to three-putt.”

But with more sun in the forecast, the broccoli will continue to dry. In the absence of an alternate course, the players will have to suck it up, a tactic that seems to suit Spieth well. He persevered with a patience beyond his years.

“It’s definitely something I’ve improved on,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s my trademark, but it’s something that maybe a few years (ago) may have gotten to me a little bit more.

“But my patience and realization that this golf course is going to test your nerve and it’s how you rebound from it, certainly kicked in there.”

Spieth could certainly falter, from where any of the 16 players under par could make a two-day run at him. But he is intimidated by nothing, including any fear of speaking out. Plus he has two other assets that may prove crucial in the first links course in the world that is situated on a steep seashore slope.

Young legs.


  • dingle

    I don’t understand the whining. Yeah, the greens are a little rough in the dry weather. And if you miss a bit on your drives…good luck.

    But it’s the same for everyone. You’re a professional, for crying out loud (or a really good amateur, but they’re not doing the complaining). Quit bitching and play the damn course. You sound like 10-year-old girls. If you screw up less than everyone else, you’ll walk away with a lot of cash. And unless you fall into that bunker on 18, you’re not too worried about concussion or other bodily harm.

    It’s not like this is Winged Foot.

    Jack Nicklaus had a great quote about playing US Opens: “Guys would say a course doesn’t suit their game. It’s not supposed to suit your game. You are supposed to suit your game to the golf course.”

    • Lodowick

      Yes, true. And yet it’s all entertaining, apart from Woods debacle. And if you don’t have Stenson’s complaint about broccoli you don’t get Art’s excellent repartee “the broccoli will continue to dry”. Too bad they’re not playing this tournament next weekend. Have you seen the weather prediction? Fans and players would find out what a ‘high pressure ridge’ is all about. The broccoli would be like glass. One tree. Not much shade.

      • art thiel

        These developments are a columnist’s dream.

    • art thiel

      You’re right of course, and the players know the truth. But I get that with large stakes, any course wrinkle that adds a stroke despite a good shot will piss them off.

      • Bayview Herb

        Some of the terminolgoly in baseball is swishing by my 60 year addiction to the sport. For instance, the circle Change. Now I’m comfortable with those terms that change with change. Burt to re-designate what has existed for eons is just confusion. These broadcasters fling these new terms at us like we should know them. Why should we. They never told us.

        • art thiel

          Always hard to introduce to a wide audience new terms. Viewers come from multiple generations. But I bet if you googled circle change, you’d have your answer.

          • Bayview Herb

            Somtimes they are repeats. For instance the single wing is now called the Wildcat. No new at all. John Brodie with the 49er’s was the last pro tream to use it. UCLA, the college team.

      • Bayview Herb

        The exiting thing about sports is that it isn’t science. It is very unpredictable and that makes us addicts.

        • art thiel

          That’s what reality TV tries, and fails, to emulate. Sports have always been thrilling because of the unknowable.

  • notaboomer

    please note that tiger beat cole hammer by 5 strokes.

    • art thiel

      No breaks from you, yes?

      • Bayview Herb

        Explain please.

        • art thiel

          My comment was to notaboomer, Herb, not you. Regarding Tiger, yes, he’s likely done as an elite golfer, but I think the swing change is an inevitable concession to age and injuries. Lots of guys go through that. I could see him as a top-25 again, given his persistence.

      • Bayview Herb

        Huh? I only contested you on the peremature burial of the new Seahawk. I thought it would be better it you reported the news rather than created it.

  • Bayview Herb

    I very much want Tiger to go out on top but I also think his Goblins were and are eating him up. Instead of trying to retain his previous swings that mada him a champion, he changes clubs and swing so often that nobody could succeed. RIP, Tiger. You are through.Save your gas money guy, ’cause that jet don’t run on reputation.

  • Bayview Herb

    I do remember a change up that was awesome thrown by Sandy Koufax called the Ephesus pitch. With a fastball motion, he would let the ball loose at the top where is resembles a slow pitch softball delivery. The batter would just stare at it when it hit the center of the plate.