Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
AUGUSTA, Ga. - At a potentially treacherous turning point in the biggest round of his life, Jordan Spieth grinned and gave a thumbs-up to salute to his opponent after a shot that could have undermined his Masters chances. That said it all about Spieth: a rare blend of old-school sportsmanship and digital-age style.
That also is why Spieth is such a good fit for a green jacket. He is a 21-year-old throwback, one who refers to Ben Crenshaw, the fellow Texan with whom he practiced this week, as "Mr. Crenshaw." And he is a modern athlete, a confident, precocious one-and-done college guy who left the University of Texas after a year and jumped deep into the heart of professional golf.
Spieth is mature enough to have won the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic at 19. He was savvy enough this week to have shaken off the disappointment here last April, grabbing the Masters lead on Thursday and hanging on. Yet he still is enough of a kid to bring his laundry to his mom so she can wash it.
All told, Spieth is who you would want him to be if he were your son, your friend or just the guy you were watching Sunday when he tied Tiger Woods' Masters record of 18-under-par 270.
It was no surprise to his parents -- Shawn, a former pitcher for Lehigh, and Chris, a former basketball player at Moravian -- when their son gave the thumbs-up to Justin Rose for his shot into the seventh green. It did not matter that Rose would make par, Spieth would make bogey, his lead would shrink to three strokes and the momentum could have shifted dramatically.
"That's just what he is," Shawn said. "He appreciates other great play, and other people who play the game right and treat each other right."
The parents like what they see in their son, and even more, they like that the green jacket, the acclaim, the place in history their son earned Sunday will not change him one bit. "He's got the right approach to life," his dad said.
Most of Spieth's friends in Dallas are not golfers, so they don't talk shop with him. One of his closest relationships is with his 14-year-old sister Ellie, a special-needs teen who was born with a neurological condition.
"She puts everything in perspective in life. It's just that simple," Shawn said outside the Augusta National clubhouse. "As great as this is, it's the greatest game. It's still golf. It's not anything that's going to change the world, other than the way they handle themselves out here. And that's why I think he'll stay the same person he has always been."
The Masters winner said that Ellie was in Houston last week when he lost in a playoff. "After every round, she said, 'Jordan, did you win?' I was like, 'Not yet,' 'not yet,' then 'no,' " he said, with another grin. Mindful that she stayed home with friends this week, he was looking forward to calling her with good news Sunday night.
The family portrait that emerged at the Masters here last year and again this week is not just some act for the national media. The Spieths are the same way when Jordan's parents and sister trek to Rhode Island to watch his younger brother Steven play basketball for Brown.
"They come a lot. They're wonderful people," said Brown athletic director Jack Hayes, the former athletic director at Hofstra. "The thing about the Ivy League is we play on back-to-back nights, so you can come for a weekend and see two games." Next season, the team will come to the Spieths, with a game at SMU.
Hayes called Steven, a sophomore, "a real leader," and said of the parents, "They get to see one son play on tour and they get to see another one play Division I basketball. That's got to be a lot of fun."
But Sunday night, Shawn said, "You can't have more fun than you do walking off that 18th green with [Jordan]."