Jordan Spieth is a hell of a nice lad, humble and self-deprecating. He and the sadly absent Rory McIlroy between them utterly demolish the idea that you can’t be a nice guy and still be a winner.
Yet the 21-year-old Texan’s approach to the 144th Open Championship is and you can’t put it any other way slightly arrogant.
Perhaps, as only the fifth man to arrive at the Open with the first two legs of the modern Grand Slam in his back pocket, he has a right to be. Why, especially given the way he mapped out the Masters and US Open victories in starkly contrasting venues, should he listen to anyone’s advice?
“In my view I’ve seen a tendency for us to overanalyse,” he said yesterday. “So we’ve been trying to dissect it (the Old Course) on our own.
“I think we’ve plotted our way already. I think we could overanalyse this course, but I think simple is better.”
Various authorities have warned Jordan that his lack of experience on the Old Course one round, and not a competitive one needed addressing, particularly after arriving on Monday night after he played and won the John Deere Classic in the US. Tiger Woods suggested experienced practice partners would be required, Paul McGinley said they would be essential.
So who have been Jordan’s practice partners so far? On Tuesday, Ryan Palmer and American amateur Ollie Schniederjans. Yesterday he planned to play with Australian Matt Jones. Sum total of competitive Old Course experience amongst that trio: zero.
In his hasty practice round on arrival on Monday Spieth met Tiger Woods on the 16th green and they spoke for 10 minutes. You’d have thought that Jordan would have set up with Tiger, who has been through the book and back again on the Old Course having won here twice.
But no. Even the conversation was, said Jordan yesterday, “very briefly about the course, mostly just catching up.”
The last and only man to attempt this first three legs of the Slam with this lack of experience of links conditions was, of course, the last man to be successful: Spieth’s fellow Texan Ben Hogan.
Yet Hogan could hardly have prepared more intensively, spending a week before his championship getting accustomed to the bounces, the winds the slower greens. And that was in 1953.
Jordan will have played just 46 holes of practice when he tees it up on Thursday morning, and none of it in anything like the winds that are predicted for Friday and the weekend.
All his would be enough to get the hackles of St Andrews aficionados rising in fury, even more so given the reports that Jordan was preparing using a simulator, but he disabused us of that.
“In no way would I say that’s what I’ve done to prepare for this Open,” he laughed. “I have a simulator at home and I thought it’d be fun to play the Old Course and see some of the lines.
“You can’t get it to 68 degrees with a wind blowing out of the air conditioner. Here was where the real preparation started.”
Perhaps the advice Jordan’s taken was Phil Mickelson’s, who said last week that “it doesn’t take forever” to learn the Old Course quirks and you could do it in a couple of days. All well and good, but Phil’s record – no top tens in four attempts – would suggest he hasn’t got a grip of it yet.
Anyway, inside two and a half days Spieth and his trusted team of caddie Michael Greller and coach Cameron McCormick have been doing a meticulous job on their gameplan. McCormick gathered every pin position from the last three St Andrews Opens so nothing will surprise them.
It can’t be enough, clearly, as Jordan admits. “I think there will be certain spots I’ll hit it to that I wish were better, but that’ll probably happen for everybody,” he reasoned.
“It’ll be about how I can bring this Open Championship down to being just another event. It’s extremely special to have the chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done, that doesn’t happen often.
“But that won’t be in my head on Thursday. I’m not thinking about trying to win three in a row, I’m thinking about trying to win an Open Championship at a very special place.
“That’s the hardest thing, to forget where I am because this is the Open Championship at St Andrews with the past champions and who wins here, that’s elite company.”
Can he join that company? Spieth’s been a phenomenally quick learner and is ahead of schedule on everything he’s done in his career, in many of the great places of the game. Is St Andrews so special and unique to be any different?