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Is Jordan Spieth Co-leading the Open Championship Because of … Gum?

‘ShackHouse’ investigates the golfer’s new habit and his opening-round 65

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Jordan Spieth started the Open Championship on the right foot Thursday, shooting a 5-under 65 to finish Round 1 with a share of the lead. Geoff Shackelford followed Spieth around during his 2-under, bogey-free back nine and noticed the 23-year-old sporting a new habit: gum chewing. On the ShackHouse Round 1 review podcast, Shackelford and Joe House look into that new habit and what else contributed to Spieth’s great opening round.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Joe House: Watching [Jordan Spieth] on the [Open Championship] broadcast — he was kind of on the earlier side of this morning’s televised portion — he was very, you used the word "calm." He seemed very self-contained. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it.

Shackelford: Yeah. … That’s exactly what it was. I think it was the gum. I’m going with the gum-chewing.

House: [Laughing.] He didn’t say that in the press conference?

Shackelford: We asked him. Karen Crouse of The New York Times asked him about it. I had started writing my lead for Golfweek mentioning the gum, and I was not sure whether or not I wanted to ask [him about it] and thankfully she did. … And he told us the story. He had the same piece of gum in the press conference that he started the day with. Cameron McCormick gave it to him, his instructor. And it just was one of those things. He did note that Payne Stewart used to play that way. Then he tried to claim [the gum] didn’t really have an impact, but you watch: If he doesn’t chew gum the rest of the tournament, I’ll be shocked. [Laughing.] …

House: Well, his preparation for this tournament — and the same is true of [co-leader Brooks] Koepka, was different for Jordan than year’s past. He didn’t play the [John] Deere [Classic], and he didn’t play the Scottish [Open]. So he had a quiet [before the Open]. Koepka hasn’t played golf since the U.S. Open, as far as I’m aware.

Shackelford: That is correct. And he, in his press conference, revealed not only has he not played tournament golf since the U.S. Open, he hasn’t played much golf at all. So his [65] is kind of impressive.

House: Yeah, I would say that. So the thing with Spieth and taking the time off — that hasn’t, over the years, been the path to [becoming] an actual Champion Golfer of the Year at the end of the tournament. Did he talk at all about his approach to this year’s event?

Shackelford: In-depth, yeah. It was great. They brought him into the press building, which doesn’t happen too often anymore. In fact, they brought all three co-leaders in. … Maybe the players are more receptive to the British accent, when the press person asks. [Laughing.] But all three came in. All of course — especially [Matt] Kuchar and Spieth — were outstanding. And Spieth went on and on. I mean, every question he just gave these great answers. … Tim Rosaforte asked about [Spieth’s] little trip to Cabo and hanging out with Michael Phelps and [Michael Jordan]. He went on about some of the stuff he’s been learning from Michael Phelps, and really a lot of it is just diet and zeroing in on his workouts a little bit more aggressively and with a little bit more focus, he said. That’s what he credits his improved iron play to.

So there you go. He says he’s a little more flexible, and he says he gets through the ball better and more consistently. I have no reason to doubt it, but [there was] a lot of interesting stuff in his post-round [interview]. So you’ll see there’s a few articles out there …

House: I mean, I don’t care about the Cabo trip stuff. Go ahead and do you.

Shackelford: [Laughing] But the point was, he [said] it got his mind off golf for a couple days, and then he got the itch back. And he played down there, but he needed that — just a few days of vegging out and then getting the fire back.

House: Yeah, a little midseason refresher. It’s not like the — no offense to the great venues in between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship — but it’s not like any of those are must-attends. And he hit the [Travelers Championship] right after the [U.S. Open] and won the damn event. So, you know, he’s in form, I would say.