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Spieth Impresses Watsons
In last week's Masters, Jordan Spieth got the attention of eventual champion Bubba Watson. And this week, the 20-year-old Texan is making a big impression on Tom Watson (no relation) to Bubba in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head.
Spieth's budding relationship with Tom Watson and Watson's growing familiarity with Spieth is important: The senior player is also the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, and he's evaluating possible team members in advance of the biennial competition this September.
Spieth played in the final group with Bubba on Sunday at the Masters. The two entered the final round tied for the 54-hole lead and most of the world's attention was on them. The duo didn't disappoint.
On the last day of his inaugural trip to Augusta National for a Masters, Spieth electrified the crowd with a birdie at the difficult par-3 fourth by holing out from a bunker to take a momentary two-shot lead. He also birdied the tough par-3 sixth and was playing far beyond his age.
But Bubba Watson matched both birdies, keeping his deficit to just two shots before Spieth stumbled with bogeys at the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth, which Bubba birdied and helped set sail the long-hitting lefty to his second green jacket in three years.
Before the start of the final round, Bubba was asked about playing alongside Spieth during the pressure-cooker of the Masters. It was obvious that Bubba has a soft spot for the Dallas youngster. "You know what, we're pretty good friends. Our caddies are pretty good friends, we play a lot of golf and stuff.
"It's going to be fun. It will be interesting, but it will be fun. Me trying to win, him trying to win, but some good buddies. So hopefully one of us wins, if not me, hopefully him."
Tom Watson, the venerable 64-year-old and longtime member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, has been eying Spieth ever since he burst onto the PGA Tour as a teenager full-time last year. In 23 events in 2013, Spieth recorded nine top-10 finishes and his first career victory - in the John Deere Classic - earning $3,879,820 and being named the Tour's Rookie of the Year.
In 12 starts in 2014, Spieth has nine top-25 finishes and only two missed cuts, already pocketing $2,621,223 and racking up 1,115 FedEx Cup points, good for sixth in the season-long points' race.
After his round with Spieth on Thursday, in which Spieth opened with a 2-under 69 - three shots behind the leaders, Watson observed, "He didn't play his best today, but he got the ball up and down. When you're not playing your best, you have to rely on other parts of your game to score, and that's imperative.
"You take a round of golf where you're not playing well and you keep close, things happen; your swing gets better, you get more confident with it and you hit more shots. That's when you make the run and win golf tournaments."
As for Spieth's remarkable composure under pressure, Watson added, "He's a mature young man, and I give credit to his parents for that, the way he was brought up. I guess that's a real tribute to them. I like him. I like the way he approaches the game. As I said, today wasn't his best day, but he got out of the round with a darn good score on a tough golf course with some wind. That's what it takes."
Also in the Spieth-Watson group - the same pairing in Friday's second round - is Davis Love III, a five-time winner of the Heritage. It's obvious Spieth has respect for both of his playing partners. "Very cool," he said of the threesome
"Two legends of the game. Two American legends of golf. I'm humbled to play with those guys and the success that they've had and the way they've handled things on and off the course. I only hope one day I can do it half as good as they have."
So far so good in accomplishing that goal for Jordan Spieth.