Tuesday, April 14, 2015

“Imagine You Have Pocket Aces,” Says the Caddy

Was listening earlier today to an interview with Michael Greller, the former sixth-grade math and science teacher who is now the full-time caddy for Jordan Spieth, winner of the Masters over the weekend.

Greller’s story is interesting, in part because he isn’t necessarily someone with a traditional background of those who caddy for the game’s top players. He has experience, though not as much as others who serve in that role. During the interview (on the Dan Le Batard Show) he explained how circumstances led to him getting involved with Spieth and ultimately becoming not just his full-time caddy but a trusted friend as well.

When asked about what kind of advice he gave to Spieth during the final round, Greller interestingly brought up poker as a game both he and Spieth like to play and as a source for ideas from which to draw upon to help him guide Spieth on Sunday.

“What I told Jordan all day Sunday, he’s been playing probably better than anybody in the world for a little while now. And I said -- he had a four-shot lead -- and I said... we play cards a lot on the road with each other, [so] I put it into poker terms.”

“I said ‘You’ve got pocket aces, you’re playing better than anybody in the world... [and] you’ve got the chip lead.’ He just wanted to build that chip lead. We talked about that a lot on the golf course.... He wasn’t thinking about the other guys; he was just thinking about getting to 20-under. And that was the goal all day Sunday.”

Analogies between poker and golf are endless. I’ve written about them before here many times, including in the context of the Masters which always seems to inspire that kind of thinking. So it wasn’t surprising to hear Greller bring up playing cards, although it was kind of interesting to think of the two of them chatting about poker during the endgame, one during which Spieth never was challenged much by the field as he was able to keep them at a safe distance right to the end.

Greller really combined two different analogies -- one comparing leading a golf tournament to having the best hand (pocket aces) and thus a necessary edge over one’s opponents, and the other comparing that to leading a poker tournament. Both emphasized Spieth playing from an advantageous position, either in terms of his “cards” or his “chips,” with the resulting lesson being to use that edge smartly by pressuring those with “less strong cards” or “shorter stacks.”

Of course, such advice is only going to be helpful if the recipient knows something about playing from ahead, as Spieth -- who raced out to a big lead after the first round and led wire-to-wire last week -- clearly does.

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