Being Jordan Spieth. What is that like? To the point, what was it like being him Sunday at Royal Birkdale?
Pay $20, sign a waiver and crawl inside that head of his, connected to his thoughts and emotions. Those nauseating nerves waiting to be announced on the first tee. The thrill of that first tee shot, the feeling of perfection punctuated with a club twirl. Then the disgust of discovery.
Four hours – a little more since things went sideways – of adrenaline and fear and panic and exhilaration and anxiety and, oh Lord, the anxiety.
And that was just four holes in.
It was easy to see Spieth was waging war with himself. Verbal fits (This is crap!). Animated gesticulations (hands on his head). Finicky movements (backing off 3-footers). But that was only on the surface; this was an iceberg of tumult, the greater portion hidden from view.
Afterwards, after he won, Spieth laid bare his battle, as winning allows one to be more revealing. He was worried about his reputation among his peers if he blew another major, those murmurs in the locker room and on the range. He was cognizant of the pain that would ensue. He knew the media’s questions would cut open old wounds.
All these worries racing through his head as he walked from green to tee, from tee to wherever his ball finished, from wherever that was to, eventually, the green, and back again, all this while trying to win a major championship and complete the third leg of the career Grand Slam, and become the first player to get to this point since the greatest player of all-time did so.
And while trying to figure out what’s wrong with his swing and how to make a putt.
That would be well worth a Jackson, to experience the chaotic confines of that mind. All number of thoughts, emotions and memories colliding in a finite space.
Had to be a wild trip. But could you hang on for the full ride? Push eject because 13 made you too queasy and you would have missed the most thrill part.
One time. Just one time, what would it be like to feel as Spieth did when he made that eagle putt at 15? When the adrenaline comes rushing through like an unbound river. To feel it as he did. To be immersed in it, but not overwhelmed.
The flood doesn’t sweep Spieth away, rather it clears a once claustrophobic mind, washing away all the doubt and insecurities.
Spieth has the capacity to make this journey.
Place it on a mental-strength scale. Spieth can stare over the edge of Fragility and then, without notice, race in dizzying fashion to the other extreme and stand steadfast along Superiority.
If only it was this easy outside the ropes.
Spieth absorbs that around him, like watching Matt Kuchar console a crying son whose father has just lost The Open. He internalizes it and recalls his father comforting him after he lost the Masters.
That awareness can be detrimental, as evidenced by that which caused him so much angst in Birkdale’s final round. The worry of perception, the need to constantly prove oneself. The concern over what Jeff thinks. Who is Jeff? Who knows? But when Jeff gets on social media and cracks on Spieth, he’s been known to take it personally.
Sometimes Spieth forgets that critiques and barbs are Lilliputian weaponry. He’s a giant.
The slings and arrows will be plentiful over the next two decades. So, too, will be the praise. Both will come and go and come again.
And just as he did on Open Sunday, Spieth will have to navigate the hills and valleys.
It’d be nice to be inside his head the next time he’s in contention to win a major championship, perhaps in a few weeks at Quail Hollow.
Of course, such a thing is not for the faint of heart. That’s why you sign the waiver.