ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Jordan Spieth this week is staying at the oh-so-convenient Rusacks hotel, which overlooks the opening and closing holes of the Old Course. For Spieth, the short commute to the 150th Open Championship isn’t the only perk of bunking at the Rusacks; the building also has an ice machine, which the 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year knows is a precious commodity around these parts.
“Ice is hard to get into a Coca-Cola over here,” Spieth joked Saturday evening after posting a third-round 68 that moved him to eight under for the championship, in a tie for 11th. “I’m very lucky that they have access to a big ice machine, and they bring [me] bags of ice.”
Spieth isn’t mixing Moscow Mules at his minibar. He has been using the ice to fix himself chilled baths, which help to rejuvenate his tired, aching legs. Cold therapy, he said, is “the most beneficial thing I’ve found.”
“I feel like I get fresh legs the next day,” he said. “I try to get physio work on them and do that. I do that and NormaTec boots – you know, those compression pants that people wear. I do those every night on the road and ice bath. If I don’t do them, I actually feel my legs are tired the next morning. When I do, I don’t notice it.”
Spieth said the baths also help him sleep better.
Just as you never know what you might get from Spieth from one round to the next, the same holds true of his press conferences. He’s typically some combination of honest, insightful, expansive and, sometimes, a little scattered. To put it in golf terms, you don’t know if you’re going to get a flop shot or a bump-and-run. Spieth’s Saturday-evening session at St. Andrews was no exception.
Here are 5 other fun nuggets he dropped before repairing to his room for an in icy plunge:
1. Longest. Wait. Ever.
On the Old Course’s par-4 7th Saturday, Spieth blasted a 371-yard drive that left him 4 feet for eagle. Then, as has so often been the case this week for the field on a rambling links that crisscrosses over itself, Spieth waited to play his shot…and waited…and waited.
“It was probably 25, 30 minutes from when I teed off to when I had my putt,” he said.
That’s enough time to watch an episode of your favorite sitcom — with commercials!
“I just hate that,” he said of the delay. When the time finally did come to settle in over his putt, Spieth said, “I just overthought it and missed it.”
Disappointing birdies are rare. But this one fully qualified.
2. Why players are leaving so many putts short
The variances of the Old Course’s green speeds have been giving players fits, Spieth said.
But he didn’t mean that as a setup knock. It’s a necessary evil.
“Some greens are green, and some are really brown now,” Spieth said. “The 7th and the 9th are just a totally different surface. One of them is super-green and kind of grabs the ball, and then the 9th is, like, watch out, it’s glass.
“It makes sense on those holes, though, because, on 7, if it was glass, it wouldn’t be fair. But on the 9th, if it was green, it would be too easy. I think they’ve done a great job of where that is. Like, 17 is super-green behind it, but if it was brown, it would be unplayable.”
The vicious pin positions have also contributed to players’ putting woes, Spieth said. Take the 16th green in the third round, where the hole was cut atop a knob no bigger than your dining room table. Nightmare stuff.
“A lot of the pin locations are in these tiny little tucked corners where, if you hit it more than 5 feet by, it goes 50 feet away,” Spieth said. “Guys are leaving them way short not for the same reason they were leaving them short last week. It’s because you almost have to.
“If you’re more than 30 feet away, it’s difficult to judge a bit with the wind. You’ve got a lot of ridge-riders where, if you hit it too firm, it takes that knob, but they’re not fast enough to be able to ride onto the fault line and get to the hole. It gets challenging if you don’t hit it on the flat spots of the greens. Does that answer that? That was a lot.”
It was, yeah, but keep it coming, Jordo!
3. Why he’s not doing that curious pre-swing “rehearsal” as much as he has been
If you’ve watched Spieth in recent months, you’ve seen his odd pre-swing rehearsal, in which, as my colleague Luke Kerr-Dineen has explained, “he gets into his setup position, makes a full backswing and transition move, then resumes his setup. A few seconds later, he starts his actual swing.”
This week and last (at the Scottish Open), Spieth has largely ditched the move, if not entirely.
“I’m trying to go away from it, but I haven’t really swung the club very well this week at all,” he said. “Even the rehearsals I’m doing behind the ball aren’t quite hitting the spots I want to.”
And here he expounded, opening yet another channel into Spieth’s busy mind.
“That happens,” he said. “I go two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. Just from Round 1 it hasn’t really been on. I don’t think doing a rehearsal over the ball would help.
“I find myself doing a better job being shot focused if I’m not doing the rehearsal versus swing focused with the rehearsal. Having said that, I won with doing the rehearsal every swing. It can be done. It’s more I’d rather not and just kind of be reactive. Here and there, I think I’ll go back to different versions of it.
Your head spinning yet? Ours is, too.
4. How to sleep on a 54-hole lead
“I’ve been fortunate to have quite a number of them,” Spieth began. “It’s always a little uneasy. If you can take your mind off of it going to bed, watch a show or a movie and stay off your phone.”
And then? Well, yeah, go to sleep!
What you want to avoid, Spieth said, is waking up in the wee hours and thinking about the challenge that awaits. If you don’t sleep well, he added, try again in the morning.
“You’ve got time from 8 [a.m.] until noon if you need to go back to sleep,” he said. “Over here, it’s more so the fact that you tee off so late. It’s almost frustrating that the tee times are so late over here.”
On Sunday, co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland will set off at 2:50 pm local time, which, to be fair, is actually 65 minutes earlier than the final pairing of Cameron Young and Cameron Smith teed off Saturday.
5. Can Spieth win Sunday?
Spieth has worked — like, serious work – to do Sunday if he wants to put a scare into the leaders. At eight under through three rounds, he’s eight back of McIlroy and Hovland.
“Even if I shoot 8 [under on Sunday], I still think I lose by more than three,” he said. “I would need to finish my round and have some kind of crazy monsoon tomorrow to have a chance.”
The forecast in St. Andrews calls for light rain and a moderate breeze, but alas no monsoon.