Texas-ex Brandel Chamblee, on the job for Golf Channel, first watched Jesuit senior Jordan Spieth play a round at the 2010 Byron Nelson.
Spieth, then a 16-year-old amateur who had already committed to play at the University of Texas, finished his hometown tournament tied for 16th.
Chamblee, who played professional golf for 15 seasons, was impressed.
But it wasn’t until the 2011 Oklahoma State-Texas football game at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium that Chamblee fell under Spieth’s spell.
“I met him in the alumni area,” Chamblee, an Irving MacArthur grad, recalled in a telephone interview the other day. “He was talking to four or five men who could buy the University of Texas, and it struck me how comfortable he was in that setting. I remember thinking he represented everything anybody would want. He had intelligence, humility and the ability to carry on a conversation.”
Chamblee, no shrinking violet behind a microphone, was blown away.
And then in our conversation, Chamblee invoked two names on golf’s Mount Rushmore.
“He reminds me of what I’ve heard about Bobby Jones,” Chamblee said. “And what I do personally know about Arnold Palmer.”
Both were ambassadors for their sport.
Chamblee recalled he was once at a Texas event with Spieth and Ben Crenshaw. When it came time for a photo, Chamblee tried to step out in favor of the more storied players.
“You come back here,” Spieth said. “You belong in this photo.”
Chamblee, who won once on the PGA Tour, felt elevated.
Spieth, who last week won the ritish Open, is scheduled to play the next two weeks in the high-stakes WGC Bridgestone Open and PGA Championship, the only one of golf’s four majors he has yet to win.
Chamblee, the analyst, believes Spieth will be favored at the PGA but will have to drive the ball better to win.
Hitting big drives into fairways may be the Achilles heel in the 24-year-old Spieth’s golf game.
“He is the best irons player on the Tour,” Chamblee said. “He’s the best chipper and scrambler. He misses fairways and short putts.”
But then Chamblee offered his highest praise.
“As a player, he is just about as special as he is as a person,” Chamblee said. “I’ve read about Arthur Ashe, and I’ve read about Roger Staubach, but I never knew them. If everything I’ve read is true, I’d put Jordan in their class.”
Baker-Finch endorses Spieth
CBS’ Ian Baker-Finch, who will work the 18th hole alongside Jim Nantz at this weekend’s Canadian Open and returns to his usual perch in the 17th tower for the network’s coverage of the WGC and PGA Championship, picked Spieth to win last week’s British Open.
“I thought his game suited Royal Birkdale well,” Baker-Finch, the Open winner at the same course in 1991, said in a telephone interview. “And he went in playing well, having won the Travelers in June.”
Asked about Spieth’s chances to win at the PGA and complete a personal Grand Slam at a tender 24, Baker-Finch took a breath.
“The PGA suits a longer hitter,” the Australian-born Baker-Finch said. “I think Rory McIlroy has a pretty good chance.”
“But Jordan is in a great frame of mind,” he said. “If I had to pick somebody now, I don’t see anyone I’d pick ahead of him.”
The Spieth Effect
Let’s face it: The British Open’s final round, which is televised Sunday mornings to this side of the pond, is never going to earn boffo ratings.
But know this: Jordan Spieth’s triumph at Royal Birkdale earned a healthy 3.2 rating, when he was on the course. NBC is saying, if you add in streaming video, 4.94 million viewers watched. That would make it the most-watched British Open since 2009 (5.5 million on ESPN), which ended in a four-hole playoff between Tom Watson and champion Stewart Cink.
On the TV side alone, viewership crested at 7.33 million viewers between 12:15-12:30 p.m. as Spieth blazed to victory.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, Spieth’s hometown TV market, the final-round rating was a 4.6, well above the national 3.2.
On NBC, lead analyst Johnny Miller, who can be a curmudgeon on the air, called Spieth’s victory, “the greatest finish I have seen in championship golf.”
And Miller added: “Spieth just has the magic championship ability that not many guys have. It is a very rare thing.”