Jordan Spieth had an unusual partner for yesterday’s pro-am at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
He’s the owner of a record 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them made of gold.
“It was a lot of fun,” Spieth said of his afternoon alongside Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. “He loves golf.”
And Spieth relishes these opportunities.
Though Phelps had met Spieth before – both have endorsement deals with Under Armour, and Phelps spoke to the US Ryder Cup team last September – this was the first time the 23-year-old two-time major winner had a chance to spend any meaningful time with the Olympic champion.
Most of their banter consisted of friendly jabs, though Spieth didn’t let the opportunity pass without picking the brain of arguably the greatest athlete in history.
The night before, Spieth and caddie Michael Greller, among others, had dinner at Phelps’ house 20 minutes away. A day later, Spieth was prodding Phelps about the similarities between walking into the massive, 20,000-seat stadium that surrounds the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale and entering an arena for a big swimming meet.
Spieth has been fortunate to have had similar conversations with big names from other sports, including NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tony Romo as well as basketball superstar Steph Curry.
“There is a lot that I can learn [on] the mental side of things,” Spieth said. “These guys have mastered it.
“I was just asking [Michael], walking up there, and he said, ‘It’s different.’ He gets so in the zone, he has his hood on and headphones on, he’s looking down and he doesn’t notice anybody when he goes into the pool, which is similar to what we experience, for the most part. But 16 here is a different animal, too. All of a sudden, now it’s stacked up. Now you feel like you’re hitting a shot in a football stadium. For me, it’s as nerve-wracking a shot as I see during the year, for sure.”
Phelps was interested in Spieth, too. During last year’s Masters, Phelps watched on television as Spieth collapsed down the stretch, blowing a five-shot lead with nine holes to go.
What impressed Phelps was how the Texan handled the immediate aftermath. After Spieth quadruple-bogeyed the par-3 12th, he bounced back with birdies on two of the next three holes to give himself a chance before ultimately finishing three strokes behind winner Danny Willett.
“It was the coolest thing,” Phelps said. “It was like watching a piece of art.”
From Spieth’s perspective, he’s just thankful for the opportunity to learn from a legend. “It was great spending time with them,” Spieth said of Phelps and his family. “He’s offered to continue to advise or help or just really any time I want to reach out, which is just incredibly kind to have that kind of opportunity. It’s humbling for me and I certainly should take advantage of it.”