RIDGELAND, S.C. – During an off week spent at home in Dallas, Jordan Spieth experienced something he wasn’t used to – being the worst person in a foursome.
This wasn’t golf – that would be near impossible for the three-time major winner and former World No. 1 – but a doubles pickleball match with partner Scottie Scheffler in the Celebrity Battle of the Paddle exhibition in Frisco, Texas on Thursday. The PGA stars took on former Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki and John Isner, one of the top American tennis players during the Professional Pickleball Association’s PPA Tour Round Up.
“It was a really weird feeling going in front of a big crowd knowing you were the worst on the court, and I didn’t like that at all,” said Spieth, noting that Scheffler plays pickleball, a combination of tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton, nearly every day and he had played less than 10 times. “I’m fine in front of a crowd if I know that I’ve practiced and I’m good at what I’m going to do. But I wouldn’t say like I’m bad, but when you’re the worst of the ones that are going to be on there and there’s like 500 people there, you’re like this kind of stinks, I don’t really enjoy this.”
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In case he didn’t make it clear, Spieth shared a conversation he had with caddie Michael Greller and a no-to subtle dig at his caddie’s golf abilities.
“So I asked Michael, is that what it’s like when you’re hitting shots at like 17 at Sawgrass or 16 at Phoenix? I’m like, is this kind of how it feels? He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ He’s like, ‘That’s why I’ll either hit it really close or I’ll miss the green.’”
The good news is, Spieth’s golf game has been trending in the right direction as he prepares to make his season debut at the CJ Cup in South Carolina at Congaree Golf Club. When he last competed, Spieth was a perfect 5-0 in leading Team USA to victory at the Presidents Cup, including his first victory in singles at either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. (He was previously a combined 0-6-1.) Spieth, who won an hour’s drive away in April at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island and enters the week at No. 13 in the world, said he has found more joy in the actual work involved in improving than he has in the past while conceding there is more work to be done to achieve the lofty goals he still has for his career.
“I had some inconsistencies this year. Sorry, this last season. I didn’t have a great putting season by any means, but I also felt that ball-striking was a little more inconsistent than the previous year, and I knew why and I just needed a few weeks at home to try and figure it out. I kind of got to work right after East Lake and really tried to nail a lot in pre-Presidents Cup,” he explained. “Then kind of the week leading in, I really started to kind of have things click a bit.”
He continued: “In the last couple years, I’ve really enjoyed the process, really enjoyed the work more than ever. Now I’m more enjoying my day-to-day work in getting to a place of freedom, getting to the feels where I’m like, man, I’m going to get there and then I’m going to stripe it all day. It’s that kind of excitement that I’m kind of finding in the ground that’s in the work, that’s probably what I see the biggest difference from even rookie year to when I was struggling to more recently. I’m appreciating the work and trying to maximize the time that I have when I am working and enjoying that process more than I would say the end benefit of winning a tournament or winning matches.”
Spieth said he plans to play a limited schedule this fall – he has committed to the Hero World Challenge and PNC Championship, both unofficial events in December – and chose to play the CJ Cup in order to try to jumpstart his 2022-23 season.
“I don’t want to start really behind like I have last two years come Kapalua (Sentry Tournament of Champions, the first event in January),” he said, “so it would be really nice to get off to a good start and have a strong finish here because I think this is probably the only FedEx Cup event that I’m able to play this fall.”