Spi­eth cad­die is car­ry­ing ex­tra ex­per­tise

Greller en­joys a bout of celebrity around Cham­bers Bay, U.S. Open course with which he’s fa­mil­iar.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Tod Leonard

UNIVER­SITY PLACE, Wash. — Jor­dan Spi­eth was talk­ing about fame, about media com­mit­ments, about get­ting taken down a peg or two by your bud­dies when they fear your head will be­come big­ger than your hat size.

That comes with the ter­ri­tory when you’re the 21-year-old cham­pion of the Mas­ters.

Ex­cept Spi­eth wasn’t talk­ing about him­self. The sub­ject was the in­or­di­nate amount of at­ten­tion his cad­die, Michael Greller, is get­ting this week be­fore a sin­gle shot is struck in the 115th U.S. Open.

At Cham­bers Bay’s mas­sive prac­tice area on Mon­day, Spi­eth putted while it was Greller who was bathed in shout-outs. The day started with the 37-year-old for­mer school­teacher open­ing the lo­cal pa­per to find a large cen­ter­piece photo and story about his cad­die ca­reer, which spans all of 21⁄ full-time

2 sea­sons on the PGA Tour.

“Is that whole au­to­graph line for you this week?” some­one in Spi­eth’s en­tourage nee­dled Greller.

“We’re giv­ing him some smack for it, and he’s tak­ing it from his cad­die bud­dies too,” Spi­eth said, adding, “It’s re­ally cool.”

It takes an ex­tra­or­di­nary story for a cad­die to over­shadow the young, wildly pop­u­lar golfer who cap­tured ev­ery­one’s fancy in April with a decisive first ma­jor vic­tory at Au­gusta Na­tional. Fate and cir­cum­stance have put Greller in that po­si­tion.

On a Cham­bers Bay course un­known to most pros, for whom lo­cal knowl­edge would seem as pre­cious as sun­shine in the North­west, Greller can be con­sid­ered an ex­pert. The Michigan na­tive was a fifth-grade math teacher, liv­ing down the road from Cham­bers, in 2007 when he at­tended a meet­ing for po­ten­tial cad­dies as the course pre­pared to open.

Se­ri­ous about the craft and more earnest than the usual col­lege kid out there, he would end up loop­ing in the sum­mer for the usual tourists and good lo­cal sticks, all the while pon­der­ing a big­ger stake in golf. Through some con­nec­tions, Greller got the bag of Justin Thomas — now on the PGA Tour — for the 2010 U.S. Am­a­teur at Cham­bers, where the two reached the round of 32. Thomas then re­com- mended Greller to Spi­eth when he needed a cad­die for the 2012 U.S. Open.

Then, with Greller by his side, Spi­eth fin­ished as the low am­a­teur at the Open at the Olympic Club in San Fran­cisco, and the two have been to­gether ever since. They are close enough that Spi­eth skipped a World Golf Cham­pi­onships event in 2013 to at­tend Greller’s wed­ding at — where else? — Cham­bers Bay.

Ap­proach­able, with a gift for long-winded an­swers, Greller al­lowed for a num­ber of tele­vi­sion and print in­ter­views through Sun­day, but by Mon­day he was po­litely beg­ging off en­gage­ments. Was there a gag or­der put on by his boss?

“He wants to kind of stay un­der the radar,” Spi­eth said. “I have noth­ing against him — I trust any­thing he’d say. … But I think this week he’s got so much on his plate, he’s go­ing to throw it away and fo­cus.”

Spi­eth called the linksstyle Cham­bers Bay “in­ven­tive,” and there are go­ing to be nu­mer­ous ways to at­tack each hole. You might think it would be Greller’s green read­ing that would be of ut­most value, but Spi­eth said he does much of that on his own, and the fes­cue sur­faces are so much faster than nor­mal any­way.

The help will come from off the tee, Spi­eth rea­soned. There are some un-Open­like, mas­sive fair­ways here, but just bomb­ing it any­where won’t be the right strat­egy to set up smart ap­proaches.

“Sight lines and un­der­stand­ing when things get firm,” Spi­eth said. “He’s go­ing to know where it would run off to a lit­tle bit bet­ter.”

In the two months since he won the Mas­ters, Spi­eth has played six times, suf­fer­ing the ex­pected let­down — he missed the cut in the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship — while bounc­ing back to tie for sec­ond at Colo­nial and third at the Me­mo­rial. On each of those Sun­days, he closed with a 65. He’s No. 1 in the tour’s FedEx Cup stand­ings.

“There are cer­tainly a lot of goals left for the year,” Spi­eth said. “It’s never crossed my mind to let it kind of sink in that it’s been a great year. If I didn’t do any­thing the rest of the year, I’d be pretty frus­trated at the sec­ond half.”

Spi­eth read­ily talks of want­ing to achieve the sin­gle-sea­son Grand Slam, which still hasn’t been ac­com­plished in the mod­ern era.

He’s the only golfer with a chance this year, and don’t doubt that he re­minds him­self of that of­ten.

Just last week, Spi­eth said, he ca­su­ally pulled on the Mas­ters green jacket at home.

“I think I was just kind of watch­ing TV and wanted to slip it on,” he said with a big grin. “Just kind of felt like it. Why wouldn’t you put it on?”

A hero in his own liv­ing room.

Jay LaPrete As­so­ci­ated Press

JOR­DAN SPI­ETH, right, the lone golfer with a shot at a Grand Slam this year, with cad­die Michael Greller.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.