AUGUSTA, Ga. - Chris Spieth was chasing after the motorized scooter carrying her father when she suddenly stopped below the Augusta National clubhouse to explain why her son is more grounded than his score at the Masters. Jordan Spieth, it turns out, is the record-breaking product of a selfless upbringing in a home that celebrates givers, not takers.
Jordan's 14-year-old sister was born with a neurological disorder that places her on the autism spectrum, and their mother wants people to know that Ellie has shaped her brother far more than any swing coach ever could.
"Jordan wouldn't be where he's at today if he didn't grow up with Ellie," Chris Spieth said. The former basketball player at Moravian College glanced in the direction of the giant scoreboard that showed her 21-year-old son at 14-under 130, only the greatest 36-hole score in Masters history.
Chris mentioned her older son, Steven, an Ivy Leaguer who starts on the Brown basketball team, before returning to the fact that Jordan was tearing up Augusta National in his second Masters, 18 years after Tiger Woods tore up the place in his third.
"Ellie always thought her brothers won at everything," she said, "so there's no way they were allowed to be down around her. No way. Jordan realizes this isn't real life at the Masters. Trying to sit around and have dinner when his sister doesn't want to eat when everybody else is eating and has a fit, that's real life."
That's why Jordan Spieth, last year's runner-up to Bubba Watson, isn't just the most impressive 36-hole leader this tournament has known; he might be the most likable. Ernie Els, whose son Ben has autism, called Spieth "the most balanced kid I've seen" and "the nicest kid in the world." If this or any website surveyed tour players on which peer they would definitely help in a parking-lot fight, Spieth would be the anti-Bubba, among the heavy favorites to win.
On his own website, Spieth is quoted as saying, "Being Ellie's brother humbles me every day of my life." Their father, Shawn, a former Lehigh baseball player, spoke Friday of how Ellie grounds her siblings and parents, keeps everyone in the moment, and inspires them to appreciate everything they have. Ellie is spending the Masters in the Dallas-area home of family friends who are teachers and counselors at her special-needs school, a feel-good experience Shawn likened to summer camp.
The Spieths and Ellie traded video messages after Jordan shot 64 on Thursday, and hoped to make a FaceTime visit after Jordan shot his 66 on Friday.
"She's the funniest member of our family," Jordan said. "I really love when she's able to be out there, love spending time with her. It's humbling to see her and her friends and the struggles they go through each day that we take for granted -- their kind of lack of patience or understanding, where it seems easy for us and it's not for them.
"But at the same time, they are the happiest people in the world, and when I say they, I speak to special-needs kids. And my experience with her and in her class and with her friends, it's fantastic. I love being part of it and helping support it."
Ellie made the trip to last year's U.S. Open at Pinehurst; the Spieths have a lot of relatives living in North Carolina, Chris said, providing the necessary support system. Ellie is expected to make appearances at the Byron Nelson and Colonial, two events all but played in the Spieths' backyard.
But for now, the family is focused on the tournament young Jordan dreamed of winning while putting on the makeshift green in his front yard. "This one is to win the Masters," he would tell Steven, who was there in Friday's gallery with his parents and grandfather.
At 10, Jordan was good enough to beat his old man, a 7-handicap in his prime. At 12, Jordan was confident enough to assure his coach that he'd someday win a green jacket and become the best player in the world.
The Spieth boys would hit wedge shots over neighbors' trees onto their pseudo-green that was 6 feet in diameter, the one Jordan created with a lawn mower he was barely tall enough to use. "They'd go across the street to a neighbor's perfectly manicured lawn, and I'd get upset," Chris said. "The neighborhood kids would come down and they were told that they could only hit plastic balls, that Jordan was the only one who could hit real balls because everyone else might hit the windows."
Shawn reported that only two windows were casualties of golf balls flying this way and that, and hey, all these years later, it sure looks like the cost of replacing them was a price worth paying.
Jordan Spieth has one bogey and 15 birdies in his two rounds so far, and could break Phil Mickelson's Masters record of 25 birdies set in 2001. He could beat Woods' four-round Masters record of 18-under 270, and obliterate the best totals posted here by Jack Nicklaus (12 under), Arnold Palmer (12 under) and Gary Player (11 under). He could do all this while talking to his ball more than Mark Fidrych ever did (you can look it up).
Augusta National's elders once tried to Tiger-proof their course; they'd better come up with their own version of the Jordan Rules, and sooner rather than later. But even if Jordan's score remains up there in the clouds, his feet will remain firmly planted on the ground. His family will make sure of it.
"This is a little surreal; it's almost like you're not watching one of your own," Chris Spieth said. "I'm not nearly as nervous as I was last year, when I was an absolute mess on that last day, because Jordan is so confident, and in his own mind he now believes he's one of the top players in the world.
"But we're going to keep it normal for him. Jordan's got his three best friends from high school and his girlfriend here, and they'll play pingpong and pool tonight. He doesn't want to watch the highlights, so we tell his girlfriend to go take one for the team and go inside and sit with Jordan and watch the Mavericks game or something because we want to watch Golf Channel outside."
Soon enough, Chris was saying she needed to track down her father on that motorized scooter. He was planning to drive to North Carolina for a grandchild's Eagle Scout ceremony, and then to return to Augusta on Sunday, hoping that another grandchild finds his way to a ceremony of a different kind.
That's the Spieth way. Everybody is treated equally, green jacket or no green jacket.
Before she was done talking about her children on National Siblings Day -- otherwise known as Mother's Day at the Masters -- Chris wanted to add that Jordan's high school education at Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas, and the school's emphasis on volunteer work and service to those in need, made a significant impact on him. But Jordan's story always comes back to Ellie, the faraway fan who means the world to the golfer who will carry a 5-stroke lead into Round 3.
"The Masters is the same to Ellie," her mother said, "as the tournament we took her to last week in Houston."
And Jordan Spieth is humble because of it. Humble and hungry, an unbeatable combination at the Masters.