Jordan Spieth set to play a pivotal role in America’s Ryder Cup team with a little help from Olympic legend and golf fanatic Michael Phelps
- Texan is expected to play a key role at Whistling Straits following his comeback
- Spieth began the year ranked 92nd in the world and a long way from Ryder Cup
- The 28-year-old reached out to Michael Phelps after a shocking slump in form
Jordan Spieth would not have had a prayer of making America’s Ryder Cup team if the contest had been staged as planned last year. Now, following his remarkable comeback this season, he is expected to play a key role alongside long-time buddy Justin Thomas at Whistling Straits.
The Texan has several people to thank for his welcome revival, including one who has largely gone under the radar to this point. A man who just happens to be arguably the greatest Olympian of all time.
After retiring from swimming with 23 Olympic golds and 28 medals in all, we became accustomed to seeing golf fanatic Michael Phelps at big events. You could not miss him behind the 16th tee at the 2019 Masters, cheering manically as Tiger Woods claimed his fifth green jacket.
Jordan Spieth (right) with Olympic legend and golf fanatic Michael Phelps (left)
As the two biggest athletes sponsored by Under Armour, Spieth and Phelps had known each other on a casual basis for some time. When the former plummeted during a three-year downward spiral, it was Phelps who reached out.
‘With some of the golfers, you try to give them as much space while letting them know you’re there to help in any way,’ said Phelps. ‘I texted Jordan and we started having some conversations. We’ve become closer and closer.’
After looking the next Woods with three major victories before the age of 24, Spieth’s decline was sad to see. Phelps knew he could not help on the technical side but there is plenty of mental similarities between the loneliness in a pool and on a golf course.
‘I started picking his brain on the mental side of things and it’s gone on from there,’ said Spieth. ‘He’s very involved in mental health and I feel very fortunate that he’s lent me an ear.’
Texan is expected to play a key role at Whistling Straits following his remarkable comeback
Phelps said: ‘We spend so much time as athletes working on the physical side of sport, it’s really cool to see him take the time to mentally prepare away from the course. That’s what we’ve talked about a lot. Just figure out how much more you can control.’
Spieth began the year in 92nd place in the world rankings and a long way from making it to the Ryder Cup this month. But a couple of top tens on the West Coast of America were followed by his first win in four years at the Valero Texas Open in April.
He finished third at the Masters the following week and put in a brilliant performance at the Open at Royal St George’s in July, where he looked close to his best in a duel against winner Collin Morikawa.
Spieth began the year in 92nd place in the world rankings and a long way from the Ryder Cup
It was not enough to earn Spieth one of six guaranteed spots in America’s team. But it was more than enough to make him a certainty for a wild card when captain Steve Stricker names his six picks on Wednesday. Spieth makes no bones about Phelps’s pivotal role — to the extent he does not want to share their secrets.
‘I don’t want to get into the details that are competitive advantages,’ said Spieth. ‘But he’s been the most fantastic kind of friend. It’s great for our sport that the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time is so passionate about it. Even better for me that I’m able to access it as well.’
As for Phelps, who plays off a handicap of 12, he said: ‘In any sport, you don’t see too many people start diving and then come back to compete with the best of the best. To struggle for years on the course, it’s hard. I’m not a pro but I know something about that. It’s been incredible to watch his comeback.’