Jordan rules: U.S. Presidents Cup team excited to play with 20-year-old rookie Spieth

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September 24, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

Who wants to be Jordan Spieth's playing partner at The Presidents Cup? That's an easy one to answer. Just look at the 11 other names on the American roster.

They all want to be on Spieth's dance card.

At least, that's the way it seems after hearing his teammates gush about the possibility of being paired with the 20-year-old during one of the four-ball or foursome matches against the International team next week at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

"Who doesn't want to play with him?" Steve Stricker said. "I think everybody on our team wants to play with him."

Spieth, who started the year with no status on the PGA TOUR but ended up winning the John Deere Classic at age 19 -- the youngest winner on TOUR in 82 years -- to become eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs, continued to draw admiring glances to the very end of this season. He finished the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with a 6-under 64 to climb into a tie for second place behind FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson. Spieth finished the Playoffs seventh in points, the highest FedExCup result ever by a TOUR rookie.

Next week, he will become the youngest American to play in The Presidents Cup, having made the team as one of Fred Couples' two captain's picks.

When Couples first made his announcement that Spieth would be on the U.S. team, he said the pairings are generally dictated by the players themselves.

"The pairings fall into place pretty easy," said Couples, who has captained the U.S. team to victory in the last two Presidents Cups. "They tell me who they want to play with, and I go with that."

Unfortunately for Couples, it may not be that easy with Spieth, who'll be the most intriguing person named Jordan in the U.S. team room since 2009. That's when retired basketball legend Michael Jordan was one of Couples' assistant captains.

That Jordan dunked a basketball. This Jordan slam-dunks approach shots.

"Whoever plays with Jordan has got a real treat because he can make a lot of birdies," Phil Mickelson said. "He's exciting to play with."

"I'd love to play with him," Jason Dufner added. "He's playing great right now."

Indeed. In his last 10 starts on TOUR, he has that breakthrough win at the John Deere as well as four other top-10 finishes.

In his last 12 rounds in the FedExCup Playoffs, Spieth shot a cumulative 34 under. That includes a final-round 62 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, along with that 64 on Sunday at East Lake. He also threw in a 65, a 66, a couple of 67s and a couple of 68s.

"You always want to gravitate, in my opinion, towards a young guy playing with a lot of confidence," Webb Simpson said. "There is just not much fear there. The rounds he's played lately, he's put up quite a number of birdies.

"It's pretty easy to say why we'd all want to play with him."

Couples obviously won't go public with his pairings until next week, but he's certainly been mulling over a lot of possibilities.

"Freddy's been blowing up my phone with some options and what he thinks for some of the pairings," Tiger Woods said. "We've got some options going into it."

Given Spieth's youth, it's easy to speculate that Couples will pair him with a veteran player. The veteran could help keep Spieth calm (not that he may need it; Spieth plays with an even-keel demeanor not usually seen out of players who just turned 20) while Spieth could reciprocate with a youthful jolt of enthusiasm.

At last year's Ryder Cup, Mickelson teamed with Keegan Bradley to win three matches in impressive fashion.

"I can see him with an older guy maybe," Bradley said of Spieth. "That helped me a lot in the Ryder Cup playing with Phil, having an experienced guy with me."

But Mickelson -- who has played in every Presidents Cup -- suggested Stricker as a possible partner for Spieth.

"I would think there would be a good chance that they would spend some time together," Mickelson said.

Until the BMW Championship, Stricker and Spieth had very little contact. But before the tournament at Conway Farms, Stricker asked Spieth if he wanted to play a practice round the following week at East Lake. They actually played together on both Tuesday and Wednesday before the tournament.

It didn't take long for the 46-year-old Stricker to warm to Spieth.

"Looking forward to being a teammate of his," Stricker said. "He's a good kid."

Zach Johnson might also be a possibility. Johnson has the hottest hand of any U.S. player, with seven top-10 finishes in his last eight starts, including a win at the BMW Championship.

Johnson got a first-hand look at Spieth at the John Deere as one of his playoff victims. Since then, the two have stayed in contact, texting each other on occasion. They played the first two rounds together at the Wyndham Championship, and they were on the same flight from Chicago to Atlanta for the TOUR Championship.

"I'm extremely impressed," Johnson said of Spieth. "Phenom is a big word, but if he's not a phenom, he certainly is close.

"And he's a good kid."

From his perspective, Spieth is just happy to be on the team, and if he does have any specific players he wants to partner with, he's savvy enough not to make his feelings known in public.

"It's going to be just a great time, getting to have a partner," said Spieth, who also has been trading text messages with Couples. "I don't know who it's going to be yet."

Don't worry, kid. Just get ready to dance.

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