Walking cautiously past a group of photographers gathered on the far edge of the Congressional Country Club driving range earlier this week, Jordan Spieth turned his head to locate the source of the commotion.
There was Tiger Woods, working his way through his bag, taking his first swings in public since undergoing neck surgery almost three months ago.
“Oh, everybody’s hanging out here,” Spieth deadpanned. “That’s weird.”
What Spieth didn’t consider — or, perhaps, didn’t notice — was the group of fans hanging off the green metal barrier minutes earlier, all clamoring for him.
Launched into the winners’ circle for the first time last July, when he entered the John Deere Classic as a special temporary tour member and won it in a playoff, Spieth has achieved considerable success.
He has, this season, finished in the top 10 in six of his 18 events, including a runner-up finish at the Masters in April, and enters the Quicken Loans National at Congressional this week ranked sixth in FedEx Cup points and ninth in the official world golf rankings.
Most notably, he has handled his triumphs with a significant measure of modesty, with several players praising his respect for the game and the way he has handled his growing notoriety.
Even President Barack Obama chided Spieth during a program Tuesday at the White House honoring last year’s Presidents Cup teams, teasing that the catering staff “might card him later at the reception.”
“For a person to have come out of college and done this well this fast, and been as consistent — normally when you’re young, you come out and you have your weeks from here to there, and you may have two, three good weeks a year, maybe more. It just seems like he’s having one every week.”
Breakout season at age 19
A two-time winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur — the first player to do so since Woods nearly 20 years earlier — Spieth enrolled at the University of Texas in 2011, helping the Longhorns win the NCAA championship before turning professional midway through his sophomore year.
After a pair of top-10 finishes on the second-tier Web.com Tour early in 2013, Spieth received a sponsor’s exemption into the Farmers Insurance Open, where he shot 1-over par and missed the cut by two strokes.
His season quickly picked up. After tying for 22nd at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am two weeks later, Spieth put together a pair of top-10 finishes, qualifying him for unlimited sponsors’ exemptions for the rest of the season.