A former sixth-grade math teacher, Michael Greller is strong in numbers.
Jordan Spieth leaned more on his caddie’s words at the British Open.
“This is as much mine as it is his,” Spieth said as he clutched the silver claret jug. And then he turned to look over at Greller and said, “You deserve all the credit in the world for this major championship.”
Greller still had to work out some new math at the most critical juncture of the final round at Royal Birkdale. Spieth was hitting his third shot from the driving range and couldn’t see any part of the par-4 13th hole. He thought he was about 270 yards away and was planning to hit 3-wood. Greller estimated the yardage closer than that and told him to hit 3-iron.
“I certainly didn’t have any numbers from the right side of the range,” Greller said. “Honestly, getting a good line was tough. He thought it was a 270-yard shot. I was just looking at all that gorse and thought it was a little shorter. Short was fine. From there, he did what he has always done.”
In a situation like that — has there ever been a situation like that with a major on the line? — Spieth said he normally would trust his own instincts.
But not this time.
“On that one, he seemed very confident,” Spieth said. “He was very adamant about what club to hit, and it gave me the confidence to hit it, because sometimes when that happens I’ll still go with what I think. But he was right on.”
Those weren’t the only meaningful words on Sunday.
It was the calm in his voice when Spieth’s world was falling apart. It was reminding Spieth at the right time who he was and what he has accomplished, using as a reference a photo from a beach holiday in Mexico where Spieth posed with a group of star athletes that included Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan.
And it was reminding him that his bogey on the 13th, while costing Spieth the lead for the first time all weekend, was the shot of winners.
As they walked off the 13th green, Greller stopped Spieth.