Standing near the 18th green here on Friday afternoon, Steven Spieth revealed an important secret about his older brother. So listen up.
You might think that Jordan Spieth is perfect — or pretty much close to it. You may think that he is unflappable and poised and ready to make history here at the 79th Masters.
How else do you explain Spieth, age 21, heading to Saturday at 14-under par after shooting a second-round 66 on Friday afternoon? How else do you explain Spieth, in his second ever Masters, piecing together a 5-stroke lead over second-place Charley Hoffman and leaving Augusta National in tatters with two days of near flawless golf?
You may think a lot of things about Spieth, who now sits two days away from history after setting the 36-hole scoring record at this fabled course.
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But before we get to the golf, Steven Spieth would like to talk about the one challenge that his older brother is still ducking: A simple basketball game.
“I tell everybody this,” Steven Spieth said, moments after his brother had strolled off the 18th green to a standing ovation.
Steven Spieth, two years younger than Jordan, is a sophomore basketball player at Brown, a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged close to 10 points per game this past season. He grew up alongside his brother, playing every sport the family could find, from basketball to baseball to golf. The Spieth family, especially parents Shawn and Chris, believed in a balanced childhood. So the two brothers would often find themselves in heated games of one on one.
The last basketball game between the two brothers, according to Steven, came nearly nine years ago. Jordan Spieth, who is described by his younger brother as a solid “sixth or seventh man” type, squeaked out a victory. But just barely. The two brothers haven’t played since.
“Because he won’t ... play me again,” Steven Spieth said. “It was sixth, seventh grade. He won. He backed me into the post. It was back when I was probably a little taller than him, but a lot skinnier. He backed me into the post, and won’t play me since.”
This is good to know, of course, because if you watched the first two rounds of the Masters, Jordan Spieth is really starting to look too good to be true. After shooting a blistering 64 Thursday, 1 stroke off the course record, Spieth backed it up with another sensational performance Friday. In two days, he has racked up 15 birdies against one bogey. And his decision-making has been pretty much perfect.
Take, for instance, the 15th hole on Friday, a 530-yard par-5 that requires a second shot over water. For a moment, Spieth imagined pulling out a hybrid and going for the green in two. But sensing the moment, he decided to lay up. He knocked his third shot stiff, and finished out his sixth and final birdie of the day.
“Right decision,” Spieth said.
“I think he’s been really calm all week,” Steven Spieth said.
The casual golf fan is still learning about Spieth this week, which is only natural. At 21 years old, he is just four years removed from his high school graduation at Dallas Jesuit and three years from his freshman year at the University of Texas. Spieth turned professional in 2012, and when he finished second at the Masters last year it looked like his arrival was slightly ahead of schedule. Not that this was any big surprise to his parents.
“Every age level, he wanted to play with the higher group,” said Chris Spieth, his mother. “When he was 9 and 10 and he was playing in this little North Texas Junior PGA, they carried their clubs for nine holes. He goes: ‘I’m not going out there for nine holes. Put me in the upper age group.’”
In the moments after Friday’s round, a pack of reporters descended on the Spieth extended family, standing near a roped-off area by the Augusta Clubhouse. The scene, of course, was eerily reminiscent of last year, when Spieth stormed the Masters at age 20. So one year later, Chris said, the Spieth family decided to keep the routine the same. The family is staying in the same house here in Augusta, with Shawn, Chris, Steven, Jordan’s high school sweetheart Annie and Chris’ father all sleeping under one roof. Spieth’s high school buddies are here again, too, staying at a nearby house. The evenings follow the same schedule.
There are ping-pong battles, basketball on television, and very little golf chatter.
“We don’t turn on the Golf Channel until he goes to sleep,” Steven says.
On Friday afternoon, Spieth made it clear. After two near perfect days at the Masters, the house rules will remain.
“This is just the halfway point,” Spieth said. “Anybody in this field that’s playing well is capable of possibly shooting 14‑under the last two rounds, and I’ve got to be able to counter that.”
So much golf remains, of course, and Spieth repeated this multiple times. Anything can happen on Saturday and Sunday. But watching Spieth walk off the 18th green on Friday, it was easy to look toward the future. The crowd was cheering. Spieth looked confident and in command. And a few feet away stood Steven Spieth, watching the scene unfold. Someday, maybe his brother will meet him on the basketball court again. On Friday, this was good enough.
“You dream of walking up 18 with that kind of ovation,” Spieth said. “You also dream of it happening on Sunday. So, it was really cool to have the experience today and it’s certainly a goal to have that again in a couple of days.”