Spieth on defensive at TPC Deere Run

Jordan Spieth authored one of the most memorable shots on the PGA Tour last year, holing out for birdie from a bunker on the 72nd hole in the John Deere Classic, which he won in a playoff over Zach Johnson and David Hearn of Canada.

So when he went back to TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., for media day a few weeks ago, tournament officials took him back out to No. 18 to see if he could duplicate the shot.

Would you believe, another slam dunk?

“Recreating the bunker shot @jdclassic during media day… Anyone gonna believe it was the first try?” Spieth wrote on Twitter.

Thing is, Spieth had a feeling he might make the one that counted.

“I got up to the bunker and looked at it and said, if there’s ever a bunker shot that you need to make, this is about the easiest one that I think I could have,” said Spieth, who was a 19-year-old PGA Tour rookie at the time. He will defend his title this week.

“I mean, it’s just sitting so perfectly. Somebody had already been there. It was raked, raked perfectly. It was just kind of teed up, and I just had just a little downslope to the hole, which you want. Just popped it out, and I struck it a little closer to the ball than I wanted, just a little bit.

“I remember looking up and just saying, just hit the pin, find the hole, and it just did it.”

Spieth became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since Ralph Guldahl captured the Santa Monica Open in 1931.

Not only that, but he earned a two-year exemption on the circuit, a spot in the Masters and one in the Open Championship the following week at Muirfield. A few hours later, he was on the plane that John Deere charters to take players from its tournament to the third major of the year.

Spieth’s head was spinning, but somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, it all started to sink in.

“It must have been halfway through the plane ride,” recalled Spieth, who left the University of Texas in December 2012 with no pro playing status. “I definitely just kind of thought what it could mean to me. … (Before winning,) I was maybe going to play Reno to try and make the PGA Championship. I was trying to move up on that money list. And I remember being on the plane ride saying, ‘I’m going to this major and now I’m in the PGA.’

“So knowing that I could play in those last two (majors) of the year along with World Ranking points, moving up to where I could play in the World Golf Championships, and then I was thinking about the (PGA Tour) playoffs. I mean, I had temporary status (before winning), and what that means is I’m not eligible to play in the playoffs, I’m just eligible to make enough money to earn my Tour card for the next year.

“And winning got me full PGA Tour status for a couple years along with (giving) me all the points that I had already kind of hypothetically accumulated over the year and put me, I think, 11th on the list, so put me up there really, really high with a great start going into the playoffs. It gave me four extra tournaments I didn’t think I was going to have, and ultimately I went to the Tour Championship with a chance to win the FedEx Cup on Sunday.”

Spieth wound up as the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year, and Fred Couples made him a captain’s pick for the United States President Cup team for the matches at Muirfield Village.

The most impressive thing is that on the golf course, Spieth doesn’t act his age.

“I think he can be great,” Tiger Woods said recently of the player some believe will eventually assume Woods’ mantle as the best in the game. “He’s got plenty of power and confidence, and you can see how well he’s been playing.

“We played in a Presidents Cup practice round one of the days, and I was and still am a big believer in what he can do in the game. He’s got all the tools, and it’s just a matter of gaining experience. He’s only, what, 20, so just give him time.”

Spieth has not won since that bit of magic at the John Deere, although it appeared he was going to capture the Wyndham Championship last August before Patrick Reed pulled off a miracle shot of his own to win in a playoff.

However, the kid has been in the hunt often this season with six top-10 results and 15 in the top 20 in his 19 starts, including runner-up finishes in the Masters and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“I missed out on opportunities to win the golf tournament that I dreamt about, and I had the lead,” said Spieth, who wound up three strokes behind Bubba Watson in the Masters. “And I know it was my first try, and I know that that’s not normal to maybe be in that position on your first try, but I had an opportunity to win a golf tournament and didn’t quite pull it off.

“I stay grounded because I’m not winning. I’ve won once out of almost 40 tries now going back to amateur days, and those percentages aren’t very good.”

However, his time is coming and might be here very soon.

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