PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) – Jordan Spieth was soaked by rain, beaten by wind and ready to begin the half-mile trek back to the Monterey Peninsula clubhouse after the horn sounded to suspend play in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
That’s when a woman behind the ropes near the 17th tee asked for a picture.
Another asked for an autograph. And then a request for a selfie. A half-dozen more followed.
They had been in the nasty weather for hours during the opening round, and Spieth had no problem signing for them Thursday.
The day before was a different matter.
Spieth wrapped up a final practice round at Pebble Beach and was signing for the crowd when he reached the roped-off exit at the 18th green. According to a San Jose Mercury News reporter observing the scene, Spieth walked past a number of men who balked at him for ignoring their requests. Spieth accused them of being professionals who were only interested in selling his autograph. And when they kept barking at Spieth, one of them shouted an obscenity at him as Spieth signed for a young boy.
“C’mon, guys, there are children here,” Spieth told them, according to The Mercury News.
Spieth saved stronger words for his press conference when the reporter mentioned that it had become a little testy after his practice round.
“I’m not appreciative of people who travel to benefit off other people’s success,” Spieth said. “I enjoy signing, and sign for kids whenever we get the chance.”
He said his management team keeps tabs on which items get sold online, so it got under his skin to see bags of merchandise to be signed “to benefit from other people’s success when they didn’t do anything themselves.”
“Go get a job instead of trying to make money off of the stuff that we have been able to do,” Spieth said.
Spieth is learning not to get into confrontations. A year ago at the Valspar Championship, he was walking through 75-yard corridor of fans asking for autographs. As often is the case, Spieth sent caddie Michael Greller ahead of him to collect items from children and what he discerned to be golf fans to make the process easy. When one man claimed Spieth never returned items he was supposed to sign from a year ago, Spieth challenged him. A debate ensued that was longer than it needed to be.
On this occasion at Pebble, he wasn’t about to back away from an argument.
“One of them dropped an F-bomb in front of three kids, so I felt the need to turn around and tell them that wasn’t right,” Spieth said. “And a couple of them were saying, ‘You’re not Tiger Woods, don’t act like Tiger.’ I mean … you’re still trying to benefit off me and I’m not even Tiger Woods. So what’s that say about you?”
Spieth then provided fodder for headlines by using the word “scums.”
“I was just a little frustrated at the end, and I didn’t appreciate the language that was used and just some scums that just … it just bothered me,” he said.
Oddly enough, it was during a practice round at Pebble Beach last year when Spieth talked about his obligation to fans and what how he wanted to be received. His popularity was starting to soar coming off a year in which he won the Masters, U.S. Open, pursued the Grand Slam and wrapped it up as the FedEx Cup champion.
“I still find myself struggling with what’s the right thing to do,” he said last year. “Oftentimes, I come off the course and I hit it poorly that day. And it’s a frustrating feeling trying to look for answers, knowing you need to go work on it, and then you’ve got all the people asking for something. And if you don’t do it, they give you a bad rap. On the other side, how great is it to have fans? How great is it to be able to influence people in a positive way? Why wouldn’t you want to flip that switch?”
The switch was flipped in the rain Thursday, right to the very end.
One of the young men who had a group selfie with Spieth approached him again about 15 minutes later, explained that he was with a friend and asked for another one. Spieth obliged, and the man fumbled to get his phone. He had an umbrella, his phone and a drink bottle — three items, two hands.
Spieth offered to help by holding one of the items, and he grabbed the bottle.
Looking down at it, he noticed it was Coke — Spieth signed a big endorsement deal with Coca-Cola last year.
Spieth smiled and held the label toward the camera.
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