Golf
Alex Malcolm, ESPN 22d

Jordan Spieth's game in good order despite absence

Golf, Fantasy Golf

SYDNEY, Australia -- Don't expect any jumping chest bump celebrations from Jordan Spieth this week at the Australian Open.

He thinks his new caddie can't handle it.

Spieth has travelled to Australia without his ever-present bag man, Michael Greller. The pair have combined for all 14 of Spieth's professional wins worldwide but Greller has stayed home following the birth of his first son. Hence Spieth's long-time swing coach and mentor, Cameron McCormick, is on his bag this week at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

"I think if I did the chest pump to Cam he'd go flying," Spieth said on Wednesday. "Michael's got a little more stable base than Cam does.

"It will be a good experience for myself and Cameron to get in some on-course reps and how I'm talking, how the swing holds up."

"I think it will be really good for us going forward."

"Mike is really upset not to be here. He's been texting me daily to send him pictures."

Spieth had the unusual scenario on the range on Wednesday afternoon of his agent Jay Danzi cleaning his clubs in a business shirt and chinos while McCormick kept a close eye on his swing. Danzi has previously caddied for Spieth at the 2016 Singapore Open when Greller was injured.

Spieth said his trademark lengthy pre-shot discussions with Greller won't take place with McCormick.

"Cam's more of just shut up and hit it, quit taking so long," Spieth said.

"He's more reaction, take the club. I'm not sure yet. It will be fun. It will be fun talking through clubs with him. Cam has the highest golf IQ of anybody I've ever talked to. I've learned so much from him over the last 10-11 years and so to be able to kind of have him helping make those decisions is going to be really cool too. I'm very much looking forward to it. The last time Cameron caddied for me at Chambers Day in the US Amateur it was a tough go for us, so we have a little bit of redemption."

This is Spieth's first competitive outing since the Presidents Cup, and his game looked in good order in trying conditions on Wednesday, with persistent rain putting McCormick's caddie skills to the test.

"I feel pretty good," Spieth said. "Not much was changed over the off season; my ball striking was phenomenal last year, it was the best that I've ever struck the ball for an entire season.

"I'm trying to improve just a little bit on my driving accuracy and a little bit on the green. From four to 15 feet I just didn't make as many as I had the previous two years, so just some emphasis on some putting work. But I took a lot of time off, I rested a lot and started to gear it up as we get into this week."

Spieth holed three birdie putts from that range on Wednesday, including two in the last three holes after two precision wedges, the type that saw him lead the PGA Tour in approach strokes gained this past season after ranking 87th in 2016.

Spieth loves starting his season in Australia: In three straight starts at the Australian Open, he has two wins and a tied second. He can become the eighth man to win the Stonehaven Cup three or more times -- a list headlined by none other than Gary Player (seven), Jack Nicklaus (six) and Greg Norman (five).

His staggering final-round 63 at this venue in 2014 to win his first Australian Open propelled him to his remarkable 2015 season, while his win at last year's Australian Open at Royal Sydney helped to launch a season that yielded three wins including the Open Championship at Birkdale.

"I saw what it did after 2014," Spieth said. "To be able to travel across the globe and see that your game travels and then to get to kind of a world-class field at this point in the year where I can give myself an off-season after the Presidents or Ryder Cup; it's a great time of the year for me to gear things back up and a fantastic event that I've had success at, and I've seen it propel into the next season.

"Any time you can travel to a different country, because within the States the longest I ever travel is three hours, so to go more than that and to have success, I can look at last year and say, hey, I travelled to the Open Championship and I felt comfortable travelling across the pond just a little bit more, because I'd done it a few more times. Certainly I think it benefits in that case too."

This will be a flying visit down under having arrived on Tuesday before heading straight to the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge next week, but Spieth and his skeleton crew will take some beating once again in Sydney.

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