Team Spieth: The three coaches who have helped the major champion

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Cameron McCormick – Performance Coach

The man who’s coached him for nine years describes Spieth’s technique, intelligence and tactical prowess.

How did you start working with Jordan?
It was through a mutual association. A client of mine who was director of the Texas Golf Association put his father and me in touch and we had a big phone conversation and set up an initial meeting when he was just shy of his 13th birthday. From there it’s turned into the relationship you see today. Our first meeting was much more, “show me your skills Jordan” than “Jordan, this is what you need to do.” And me being sensitive to a 12-year-old athlete who was playing some fine golf in the middle of his competitive season, what I didn’t want to do was break him down and destroy what he had, which was solid proficiency. What I wanted to do was illustrate that there’s a long-term outlook to becoming great. That’s what he identified with. He said he wanted to be great at golf, he wanted to win major championships, he wanted ultimately to be the best player in the world. That’s what I illustrated in the first session and beyond and it’s just evolved into a long-term, holistic and comprehensive coaching relationship. 

Are you more than the swing coach?
I’m a coach who works on the player’s skill and often that means backing into solutions to improve skills and score. I’m responsible for scoring to a large extent. It’s challenging Jordan physically, psychologically, and even beyond that to a strategic and tactical standpoint as well.

How would you describe what you’ve worked on with him to this point?
I don’t know that I can necessarily identify any one element we’ve worked on. We’ve tried to build something that is unique to him in the sense that it capitalises on what he can do as an individual, yet giving him the necessary skills to compete at the level he’s competing at, which started with youth golf, international golf, amateur and collegiate golf and now professional golf. There’s a need to hit it higher, create more shots and hit it further so we’ve worked on all the necessary elements that go into moving your body and moving your club that would then produce those skills. My romantic answer would be swing plane and grip, but there’s nothing we don’t cover in conversation to make sure that it’s fitting well into this Rubik’s Cube of a plan. Every athlete is unique, but there are similarities across the board. But really, the ball doesn’t care who’s standing in front of it; their gender, their age. All it cares about are the instructions it receives at impact. We work hard on providing the ball with the correct set of instructions.

Coach

Jordan talked of needing to hoist his irons higher at 2013 US Open. He then won his first PGA Tour event three weeks later.
That’s a term we use often; hoisting, creating a more abrupt, vertical launch off the clubface. That comes by virtue of a range of different elements, not one specific thing. But over that time we’ve worked on hitting it higher and further, and the work we’ve done in the gym with fitness coach Damon Goddard along with the maintenance work he does on the road when Damon’s not around to facilitate this.

Apparently Jordan really likes to push the envelope in the gym. Is that an attitude he takes to the range as well?
A lot of times we back into looking at the golf swing by creating a solution to a specific problem in order to challenge his mind. I think that’s an important distinction. There are a lot of instructors but I play the role of the coach. Jordan is always looking for a challenge, and looking to go one better than he did last time. Jordan himself is always setting the bar that little bit further ahead to challenge himself. Damon and I as coaches like to do that generally and when you have an athlete that’s pushing just as much, if not more, then the coach has got to raise the bar. As long as the information that’s being conveyed to the athlete is correct you’ve got an environment where success is inevitable.

What has been the key to his incredible form over the last year?
It’s a combination of a number of elements. It’s confidence in what he’s doing, the movement and how the ball’s responding, it’s confidence in putting ability, but there is also an attitude change. That’s a shift away from trying to play perfect golf and a shift into the knowledge that he’s good at golf and good enough to get it done most times when he plays unless he gives it away by trying too hard. Dating back all the way into junior golf, my expression as he was about to go and play a tournament was, “Jordan, just let it come out. It’s in there, so don’t get in the way of letting it come out.” For a kid that has always wanted to raise the bar and always wanted to actualise his goals as soon as he possibly can, that’s probably been the toughest shift in his mindset. But nonetheless, it’s a critical shift that’s allowed the pieces to fall into place and for him to flourish in the way he has this year.

What’s your assessment of his game at this time?
If you get off-track, all it takes is alignment and a few things at impact to be fractions out for the outcome to be something completely different than what is needed, so there’s always a moving target in trying to evaluate how good he is technically. But I would say he’s a solid A most of the time. When he’s off he’s somewhere in the B range, but there’s nothing that needs to be re-engineered to win more events. It’s doing the same things and doing them well for a long period of time.

How do you work on the mental side of the game?
When he shows signs of frustration, we talk through coaching strategies, where it’s coming from and how to create solutions to it that might translate into usable tools on the golf course.

How much do you contribute to the tactical side of Jordan’s game?
We talk through a gameplan before a round and come up with the best solutions for a situation – as best you can without knowing the conditions or the hole locations for the day. Then we have a debriefing session after the round. There was a time when we talked about every shot, or the majority throughout the course of a tournament. And now there are times when mostly we talk about tee shots. Most often it’s him bouncing ideas off Michael Greller (his caddie) and me and it’s through the conversation that he’s become such a highly intelligent, tactical player. But the biggest balance is Jordan’s tolerance for risk with the opportunity for good scoring. He likes to take risks. Michael and I are more conservative voices. But ultimately Jordan in his own mind balances the conservative approach versus the aggressive approach and comes up with his own solution for scoring.

 

NEXT: Fitness guru Damon Goddard >

 

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