OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The thermometer reached 95 on Wednesday, the long walk on mountainous Caves Valley Golf Club was on the arduous side, and the pro-am round ahead of the BMW Championship lasted more than five hours.
And Jordan Spieth had a blast.
“A lot of times when you have an 18-hole pro-am, you don’t know who you’re going to play with, and you’re somewhat kind of, not regretting the day, but more just kind of, OK, we’ve got to go out there and play 18, it’s going to be a long day, how do we save energy, that kind of stuff,” Spieth said. “But with this situation I was very excited.”
It helped to be grouped with Michael Phelps.
The most decorated Olympian of all time, the swimmer winning 23 gold medals among the 28 he collected in all, enjoyed the day, as well. The Baltimore native, who calls himself a “tremendous nerd of the golf game,” said it is “kind of sad, but I obsess about this game.”
So who better to have a round with than Spieth, right?
Spieth and Phelps have been associated with Under Armour for years. Also in the group with Spieth and Phelps was Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour, whose headquarters are in Baltimore.
Spieth said his team “hammed and egged” it and had to yell “Fore,” more than a few times. But there were plenty of good shots, plenty of good laughs.
“When the pressure was most on, to no surprise Michael stepped up and hit his best shot of the day,” Spieth said. “Some of the shots he hit were not his best and then he’ll step up in that situation and put it to like eight feet and then knocked it right in the hole.”
Spieth and Phelps have done many photo shoots together through their years with Under Armour and built up a strong relationship. Phelps has been open about his mental health challenges, including depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. He has now determined to help others from all walks of life deal with similar issues.
“I pick his brain on the mental side of things now,” Spieth said. “He’s getting very involved in mental health, and it’s been something that I’ve actually worked on a lot in the last few years, and that’s been a space that probably should be talked about more within athletes, their experiences across different sports, too.
Jordan Spieth and Michael Phelps played together in the BMW Championship pro-am on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland. Photo by Julio Cortez/Associated Press
“I’ve been really fortunate that he’s lent an ear and bounced ideas off me. Without getting into details that are competitive advantages, I think he’s been a fantastic kind of friend, and we’ve been able to spend time down in Mexico separate from the brand, too, and get to know his family. To have a golf lover be the most decorated Olympian of all time, it’s really good for our sport, and it’s even better that I’m able to access it, as well.”
As for his current form, Spieth, thee three-time major winner who has emerged from a nearly three-year drought with nine top-10s in 17 starts so far this year, including his first win since the 2017 British Open coming in the Valero Texas Open, finished 73rd in the Northern Trust that ended Monday.
The 2015 winner of the FedEx Cup is seventh right now in the playoffs race heading into the BMW Championship. He’s ranked 12th in the world and eighth in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. The top 6 at the end of the BMW automatically make the team and captain Steve Stricker will make six discretionary picks following next week’s Tour Championship.
“I feel good,” said Spieth, who has done some photo shoots at Caves Valley but said he doesn’t have much course knowledge. “This will be nice playing consecutive tournaments. I haven’t done that since Colonial to Memorial, so it’s been a long time. I always feel that I play better as kind of a stretch goes on, knock some rust off, figure it out just hitting more shots, less kind of practice shots at home and more shots on course.”