JORDAN Spieth might never have boarded his first flight so readily to the Emirates Australian Open but for the Aussie swing coach who bombarded him with how good the courses were in his homeland and fed his keen sense of golf history.
Australian golf owes a debt of gratitude to Victorian Cameron McCormick who subtly planted the seeds for the superstar American to come for the first time in 2014 before a natural love for visits to Sydney kicked in.
Headliners like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, the late Payne Stewart and Ben Crenshaw have each adorned the national Open once or twice over the past 40 years, yet two-time champion Spieth is returning for a fourth visit this week.
It is rare commitment and best of all Spieth always brings his A-game to The Australian Golf Club where this week will be a magnetic duel with former world No. 1 Jason Day.
“I’ve talked to Jordan so much about Australia and its amazing golf courses over the years that he could not help but be intrigued about coming here,” said the Dallas-based McCormick, who has been Spieth’s coach since he was 12.
“I hope I had something to do with him experiencing the Australian lifestyle and I feel proud of it.
“Now, it’s like he loves to come.
“The tournament is not getting a top player on a holiday because we’re talking about a kid who loves golf history.
“With those names, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and others, on the trophy it’s definitely not just another event for Jordan. He doesn’t come here for second.”
McCormick gave an insight into Spieth lapping up Australia away from the spotlight with restaurant visits on Sydney Harbour, tackling a rip at Bondi Beach and slipping away for some bucket list golf.
“I’ve got to say the funniest afternoon on the 2015 trip was Jordan and (caddie) Michael (Greller) bodysurfing at Bondi and being shocked at the extent of the rip when slightly outside the flags,” McCormick said with a chuckle.
On that same visit, McCormick got to show off the Melbourne sandbelt gems he played in his youth when Spieth joined him for off-the-grid visits to play Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne and Capital.
There was the Masters and US Open champion pulling his own trolley, enjoying a beer and chatting happily to local members in the grounded fashion that has made him such a favourite with galleries.
Spieth’s epic British Open victory at Royal Birkdale this year was another insight into the Spieth make-up.
No one will quickly forget Spieth cutting his drive badly on the 13th into deep foliage and the drawn-out 20 minutes it took for him to process his best option was to walk back nearly 50m to play a short from the practice range.
“From a young age, one of Jordan’s strongest traits has been to think practically and logically. The look of calm on his face on the 13th at the Open told me he’d be OK … and he was in one of the epic finishes anyone has got to witness,” McCormick said.
Whatever tight corners that Spieth finds himself in at The Australian, he’ll have a club, a line to the pin and an idea of how to pull it off because he makes freak shots seem normal.
While all eyes will be on Spieth and Day, McCormick wants fans to appreciate another of his stable in the field.
Amateur “Koala” Karl Vilips, just 16, will play his first pro event after winning four world junior championships in the US where his early life in Perth and Sydney has taken him.
“He’s one of the best young amateurs in the world and he does the work to be,” McCormick said.
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