Jordan Spieth, with former UP teacher by his side, tied for lead at Masters

Staff writerApril 12, 2014 

GOLF-MASTERS/

U.S. golfer Jordan Spieth, right, shakes hands with his caddie Michael Greller, a former University Place teacher, after finishing the third round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2014. Spieth is tied with Bubba Watson for the tournament lead at 5-under 211.

MIKE SEGAR — REUTERS

— There is a guy named Jordan Spieth, who is an incredibly composed and cocksure 20-year-old PGA Tour golfer.

And there is THIS Jordan Spieth who has shown up during the week of his first Masters as an animated chit-chat who twirls around like a fancy pirate.

It’s all the swashbuckling he's done this week during rounds – pirouetting after drives off the tee, going down on one knee and yelling at iron shots he thinks are mishit or misjudged.

Of course, waiting out the theatrics is Michael Greller, his incredibly forbearing caddie – and also a former sixth-grade teacher from University Place.

“There is a lot of monologue, and there is a lot of dialogue, too,” Greller said. “I taught sixth grade for 10 years, so I am a very patient person.”

Added Spieth: “I’m 20. This is the Masters, and this is the tournament I’ve always dreamt about. Like (Ben) Crenshaw has always said, it brings out more emotion than ever in somebody.”

Here they are, both Masters rookies. And through three rounds of the 78th Masters, they are tied in this thing together atop the leaderboard with Bubba Watson at Augusta National Golf Club.

On a fast and unforgiving layout, Spieth easily posted the best round among the golfers in the final groups Saturday – a 2-under-par 70 – to tie Watson (74) at 5-under 211.

Spieth is the youngest 54-hole leader in tournament history.

The leaderboard is tightly bunched. Matt Kuchar shot 68 and made a significant move Saturday. He and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt (71) trail the co-leaders by one stroke at 212.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez fired the week’s best round – a 66 – and sits at 213, as does Rickie Fowler (67).

Seattle’s Fred Couples (73) struggled early, rallied late and is still in the championship hunt at 215, tied for 10th.

But all the talk late Saturday was about Spieth, the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur winner at Gold Mountain Golf Complex in Bremerton. That is where he and Greller first met.

Last season, when Spieth earned full-time PGA Tour status, Greller was his right-hand man for all the significant achievements, including a win at the John Deere Classic in July, and a berth on the U.S. Presidents Cup squad in October.

As Masters’ first-timers, they have both soaked up as much knowledge about how to play Augusta National Golf Club as possible. Spieth has sought counsel from a pair of legends in Crenshaw, whom he lives close to in Dallas, as well as 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus.

And Greller has received a constant stream of pointers on specific shots for certain holes from Carl Jackson, who is Crenshaw’s caddie and has worked the Masters for more than five decades.

“It’s funny, I told Michael I was going to buy a T-shirt for him that says, ‘Carl says,’ because he keeps saying that to me out there,” Spieth said.

They’ve struck a balance between being patient – he has only made seven bogeys all week – and being assertive. Spieth was treading behind the leaders Saturday when he made his final surge on the back nine.

He hit his approach at the 14th hole off a slope that trickled behind the hole, and close. He made a tap-in birdie to get to 4-under for the tournament.

And from the trees just right of the 15th-hole fairway, he punched out close to the green, then hit a wedge approach just right of the hole on a slippery back plateau.

And Spieth coaxed in the 10-foot birdie putt to reach 5-under.

“(Greller) has been on his game this week,” Spieth said. “I completely trust him with where the smart shots are.”

Honestly, it has been Watson who has let the entire field back in this tournament. After making eagle at the par-5 second hole to get to 8-under, the 2012 Masters champion struggled around the greens, both with chipping and putting.

The Florida native bogeyed the final three par-3 holes, including No. 16 to fall back into a tie with Spieth.

“It was a rough day,” Watson said. “A couple of my balls went long, a couple balls went short. … If I don’t three-putt, then obviously I am winning instead of (being) tied for the lead.”

Watson will have his hands full with the Spieth-Greller duo in the final pairing. The two golfers tee off at 2:40 p.m. local time.

“This is all a new experience for the both of us,” Greller said. “It feels a little bit like last year honestly … like we are playing with house money. And I think we are just too dumb maybe to know where we are at.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442
Todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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