Bryan Curtis of Grantland descends upon last week's WGC Bridgestone to explore the affinity the modern golf media has for Jordan Spieth.
If you're a Spieth or golf fan it's well worth the few minutes of your time as Curtis elicits some fun takes on the relationship between modern golfers and press. I'll be curious what you all think of the conclusion he reaches about the integrity of Spieth's "artifice."
But first a few points worth noting, starting with this on golf writers having been spoiled by the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus, and turned cynical by Woods.
While Spieth loves drowning the press in detail, Woods is a vicious self-censor. “I remember in 1998, when Tiger was going through his first swing change,” said Golf Digest’s Ron Sirak. “It was at the Bay Hill tournament, and we were in the interview room. I asked him what he was working on, and Tiger’s knee-jerk reaction was, ‘It’s too complicated.’ I said, ‘I’ve been around the game 30 years. Give it a shot.’”
Getting the high hat from Tiger was one thing. He was a generational star. But golf writers noticed a side effect: Young players were not only copying Woods’s swing but his manners. “Tiger was such a grim figure, so dominant, that I think to some extent he just gave permission to everybody to be kind of a dick,” said Jaime Diaz. “A lot of players were. They thought to be a good player you had to be.”
There is also this, which I would agree with my colleague Myers on...
It’s also a strange moral universe that says a Tiger fist pump is a sin against Ben Hogan, but dropping your club after a bad shot or lecturing your ball in midair (both Spieth faves) are lovable eccentricities. “The Tiger stuff bothers me because anything he does, especially now that he’s down, gets portrayed in a negative light,” said Alex Myers. “Anything that a Rory or a Jordan does on their way up — when they’re young, when everybody likes them — they’re being charming.”
Now for the ending, which, I hope you'll read in the context of the piece. Curtis is a Texan and is injecting his experience into matters. That's fine, but I was a bit surprised he took the Texas-style upbringing described as strictly artificial.
A Nice Young Texan is trained, almost from birth, to yes-sir and no-ma’am. To establish eye contact. To call everybody “Mister” (a courtesy Spieth once extended even to Bubba Watson). To comb his hair and tuck in his shirt and not wear anything that isn’t “classy.” The sum of these niceties is to uphold a regional code of conduct — and, mostly, to please strangers. A Nice Young Texan knows no greater reward than hearing his mom’s friend say in a stage whisper, “Your son is such a nice young man.”
After Friday’s second round in Akron, Doug Ferguson asked Spieth, “Why don’t you play golf left-handed?”
“To give everybody else a chance,” Spieth said, finishing the joke.
As if on cue, Spieth added: “Don’t quote me on that.” For if there’s anything a Nice Young Texan doesn’t want, it’s for his niceness to be revealed as a front. The integrity of the artifice — if that’s the right term — is everything.
During the ascendance of Jordan Spieth, a question has floated through the mind of nearly every golf writer: Could Spieth really be this abominably nice? Is it all a show? He isn’t acting, unless it’s Method acting. What Spieth gets out of his love affair with the golf media is no less than a fulfillment of his birthright.