Jordan Spieth aims to continue winning ways at Riviera

Jordan Spieth paused for a second, pondering the pure silliness of the question.

“What’s the best thing you drank from that beautiful crystal trophy?” he was asked.

“Actually, nothing,” said the squeaky clean winner of last week’s tournament at Pebble Beach. “I don’t drink alcohol.”

“I just brought it to the room and then went out to dinner here with [pro-am partner and country singer] Jake [Owen]  once we got in, and then last night had a shoe launch. I just plan on bringing it home.”

Spieth also has another byproduct of winning — catching up on returning congratulatory texts.

“I still haven’t been able to go through all of them and get back to everybody, which is something I need to improve at doing.  … One of them that I haven’t gotten back to yet is (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady, which was cool. I texted him right after the Super Bowl, obviously, saying that was really inspiring what he was able to do.”

Not many 23 year olds can say they haven’t found the time to text Tom Brady back.

Then again, there aren’t many 23 year olds that have won 12 tournaments as a professional, including two majors.

Spieth burst on to the golf scene, seemingly filling a void left by the oft-injured Tiger Woods, two years ago when he won the Masters in a wire-to-wire performance. He followed that up with a win in the U.S. Open and people were hinting at a Grand Slam. He came pretty close to extending his major streak to three in the British Open but finished fourth, one shot out of a playoff.

But last year, by the standards he set the year before, was a flop. He won only two tournaments and blew a five-stroke lead heading into the back nine at the Masters.

This year has started better. He’s played four tournaments, finishing in the top 10 in all of them.

If he were to win the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club it would be a personal first — winning two weeks in a row.

“When you’re playing well, you’re playing well,” Spieth said. “It’s very advantageous to be playing right after a win. Why not? You should have the most confidence of anyone in the field, which I believe I do.”

It’s not to say Spieth is totally immune to the spoils of winning a tournament.

“Each new year you want to kind of start it off and get something done like that [winning] early,” Spieth said. “It’s also very cool walking through and the guys on the Tour saying congrats and the caddies saying congrats and the equipment guys and everyone. It’s a good feeling on the range.

“And then by the time you get to Tuesday afternoon, it’s forgotten and it’s time to go for the next one. … And what’s better than one win is two in a row.”

The Tour is currently in the midst of a youth movement. The last seven winners have been in their 20s.

Jason Day, 29 and ranked No. 1 in the world, tried to explain this new world order where 30 is the new 50. He said he believes the answer is in the infrastructure.

 “It seems like every time I talk to Justin (Thomas), Jordan or Hideki (Matsuyama) and those guys,” Day said, “you see Hideki’s got a little entourage, the same guys with him every single week. … So once you have that team and you feel comfortable and confident in that team, you know all you have to do is go out and execute because you know you have the right backing.”

Spieth concurs and speaks of his team more like family members than employees.

“I’m very reliant on [caddy] Michael [Greller] for positive energy, positive voice, somebody to obviously do the work to get the numbers and what we’re hitting,” Spieth said. “I believe he’s the best at what he does and I trust him obviously with our livelihood as far as our competing to win a tournament.

“And I’ve got my coach Cameron [McCormick] here who is responsible for my development as a player on and off the course the last 10 years. … His golf IQ is as high as anybody I’ve ever met and he’s somebody I can certainly trust to give me and the right advice, whether it’s been mentally or within my game.”

When he tees off on Thursday, it will be the sixth tournament he’s played at Riviera. He played twice as an amateur, received a sponsor’s exemption one year and then qualified the past three years.

“This is a golf course where it is really nice to have some course knowledge,” Spieth said. “You see a lot of veteran golfers win and golfers who have won before win here again. … It looks like we might catch some rough weather at least Friday on, so I need to stay patient just like last week.”

Bad weather interrupted play last week, but it’s likely to be nothing like the three inches of rain expected on Friday. The wet greens will actually lead to lower scores as the pros can stop the ball more easily. That tends to favor the more skilled players.

And, the way he’s playing right now, Spieth is looking in pretty good shape.

 

john.cherwa@latimes.com

@jcherwa

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