SOUTHPORT, England – For 22 minutes on Sunday at The Open time seemed to stand still.
After hitting his tee shot at the par-4 13th hole some 100 yards right of the fairway, Jordan Spieth took an unplayable lie, line-of-sight relief from between two equipment trucks on the Royal Birkdale practice tee and eventually scrambled for a bogey. The whole ordeal dropped Spieth one stroke behind Matt Kuchar, but gave the eventual champion a boost considering how poorly things could have gone.
“It was cool, well, it wasn’t cool, but we had been in situations enough that I knew and he knew to slow it down, we weren’t in any rush,” Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller said. “Find a way to get this back into play and find a way to grind out a bogey. If you make a double [bogey] you’re most likely only two back with five to go.”
For Greller, perhaps the most intense moment came as the duo tried to estimate the distance Spieth had to the 13th green.
“He thought it was about 270 [yards], I thought it was about 230,” Greller said. “That was a little alarming, but I thought short we could work with all day versus long.”
Spieth said he normally goes with his own yardage when he and Greller disagree over distances, but “on that one he seemed very confident,” Spieth said.
Spieth played his next four holes in 5 under par for a closing 69 and a three-stroke victory over Kuchar.
It was a particularly rewarding victory for Greller, who was visibly emotional when Spieth finished one stroke out of a playoff at the 2015 Open.
“I always said the one in ’15 [Open] at St. Andrews hurt more than even the ’15 [Masters] with what was at stake there, just knowing how meaningful The Open is,” Greller said. “I was fighting emotions all day out there and had to write things down to remind me to stay present, because I had to keep him present as well.”