Unfailingly polite and down-to-earth, Jordan Spieth tops our latest Good Guys survey of professional golf. The three-time Major winner benefited from an upbringing that taught him to never lose that often-elusive quality known as perspective.
As for his professional education – at 24, Spieth is already in his fifth year on tour – he has had no shortage of role models. They include Ryan Palmer, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas and Rickie Fowler, whom Spieth describes as “unbelievably generous with his time and [having] more energy than I can ever hope to have”.
But if there is one figure who has made the biggest impression on Spieth, it’s the amiable Steve Stricker, who won this honour the last time we surveyed players four years ago. The two first bonded during the 2013 Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
“Multiple players from a few different generations have helped me,” says Spieth, who has a knack for exhibiting maturity, “but the one person who stands out is Steve. What an incredible role model. He’s a Payne Stewart Award winner, he previously won this award, and it’s obviously for the person he is. To build a relationship with someone like that early in my career was big. He’s almost taken on like a father role. He’ll hate that I said that, but I’ve been blessed.”
Players, caddies, media members, various golf officials and insiders participated in our Good Guys voting. We limited the candidates to players under 50, which is why Stricker (who turned 50 this year) isn’t a finalist this time. Tour members were marked on several criteria, including treatment of fans, being a good role model, treating the “little people” well on tour or simply being “nice when no one is looking”.
Jason Day added a wrinkle to the scoring, something we hadn’t considered: “One way I look at it is, in the heat of competition, are they easy to play with?” The first player he mentioned? Jordan Spieth.
Finishing tied for second in our poll were Tony Finau, another young pro, and 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott. Stewart Cink, a longtime media favourite, was fourth, and Fowler rounded out the top five.
If Spieth has one predominant quality, it’s his humility. Once asked about this, he famously replied, “My speaking about humility is very difficult, because that wouldn’t be humility.” Touché.
A person tends to mature faster when confronted with life’s realities. In Spieth’s case, he grew up with a sibling with special needs. His sister, Ellie, was born with a neurological disorder. That will keep you grounded, even after winning 11 US PGA Tour titles, the fastest to that figure since Tiger Woods.
Not surprisingly, Spieth established a charitable trust at 20, and it has evolved into the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation, which supports special-needs youth, junior golf, military families and the fight against pediatric cancer. Also not surprisingly, he credits his manager, Jay Danzi, and his staff for the organisational push to get his foundation off the ground.
“The thing that’s special is that we can help a lot of people while still trying to figure out what we want this foundation to become,” says Spieth, who talked at length about his ambitions for helping others.
“It’s been enjoyable and meaningful to designate money to a lot of people who really need it, but going forward, our future is a lot brighter. When I look back on my life, what we accomplish [with the foundation] will be more important than anything I do in golf.”
Our Top 30 Good Guys
T-2 Tony Finau & Adam Scott
4 Stewart Cink
5 Rickie Fowler
6 Billy Hurley III
9 Justin Rose
10Andrew (Beef) Johnston
11 Aaron Baddeley
T-12 Matt Kuchar & Rory McIlroy
16 Graeme McDowell
18Brendon de Jonge
19 Harold Varner III
T-22 Ernie Els & Ryan Palmer
24 Rafa Cabrera Bello
T-25 Padraig Harrington & Charles Howell III
27 Bill Haas
28 Louis Oosthuizen
T-29 K.J. Choi & Adam Hadwin