ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - Pressure? What pressure? That seemed to be the message Jordan Spieth wanted to send out as he prepared for his attempt to become the first player since 1953 to win the year’s first three majors.
Calm? Modest? Self-effacing? Witty? Grandfatherly, even? The 21-year-old American wonderkid was all of those as he gave an assured performance at a packed news conference on the eve of the 144th British Open at St Andrews.
Spieth is the new kid on the block, the name on everyone’s lips at the Home of Golf, but he played down the significance of the expectation that might bear down on him following his victories at the U.S. Masters and the U.S. Open.
“If I get into a position where guys are trying to get their first major, that pressure is different after you’ve already been there,” the world number two said on Wednesday.
“It’s certainly still there...but I think I can certainly draw on the first two majors,” added Spieth who is bidding to match the 1953 feat achieved by fellow countryman Ben Hogan.
”I don’t think of those other two majors as being in a row this year, I just think of them as tournaments I’ve won that are of the same calibre. Whether they were a year or three years ago, it doesn’t cross my mind when I draw on those feelings.
“When I step on the tee on Thursday I don’t look at this as trying to win three in a row, I look at this as trying to win The Open Championship at a very special place.”
When Spieth uses the words “very special” it is a term that could easily describe his impressive countenance.
For one so young, he never seems flustered and appears remarkably well-grounded. Perhaps that comes from some of the difficulties he has experienced in his family life.
“Being Ellie’s brother humbles me every day of my life,” he once said of his young special needs sister.
”I was her grandparent on grandparents day earlier in the year,“ added Spieth. ”Any time I‘m home I‘m spending time with Ellie.
”I take her to school, pick her up. I‘m fortunate that I live five minutes away and it’s easy when I‘m at home.
“I wouldn’t change the position I‘m at for anything, and I‘m embracing it, but certainly one of the hardships is less time seeing the people that you love and care about.”
Spieth gave his inquisitor a look of surprise when he was asked if he thought it might be a challenge to remain as well-grounded as he seems to be.
“Why is that? Why should I change?”, came the reply. “I don’t think that anything should change about a person based on their success and what they do, whatever it is.”
Spieth, who has won four times in total this year including Sunday’s John Deere Classic in Illinois, prompted laughter around the room when he was asked if he felt his presence on tournament leaderboards was beginning to unsettle fellow competitors.
”I don’t look like an intimidating person,“ he smiled. ”I don’t hit the ball the furthest which I think is one of the reasons Tiger (Woods) intimidated people.
”I can’t speak for what others think. I can’t imagine that because I don’t feel intimidated by anybody.
“I feel like if Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson, whoever it is, is up at the top of the leaderboard, I would be loving to embrace that challenge to knock them off.”
Editing by xxx