Ryder Cup is Spieth's priority, in theory

Jordan Spieth blasting out of a bunker during practice for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a big fortnight for the world No. 4, who is aiming to retain his crown and grab the US$10 million FedExCup bonus before
Jordan Spieth blasting out of a bunker during practice for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a big fortnight for the world No. 4, who is aiming to retain his crown and grab the US$10 million FedExCup bonus before helping the US to Ryder Cup glory.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Asked if he would choose PGA play-offs over US team success, Texan opts for Hazeltine

MIAMI • As much as Jordan Spieth would love to complete a successful title defence at golf's Tour Championship this week, team victory at the Ryder Cup next week is an even bigger goal for the American.

The world No. 4 told reporters at East Lake in Atlanta on Tuesday that if he were forced to choose between the two, he would opt for Cup glory.

"That's kind of rude," the two-time Major champion said in response to the question, before answering it directly when he could have diplomatically brushed it off as being hypothetical.

HIGHER PRECEDENCE

I don't have a Ryder Cup (win). I think I will have a Ryder Cup at some point. You want what you don't have. I've watched the other side of that (Ryder Cup defeat in 2014) and it hurt.

JORDAN SPIETH, on making amends for the US team's 111/2-161/2 loss to Europe two years ago - their third consecutive defeat.

"I don't have a Ryder Cup (win). I think I will have a Ryder Cup at some point. You want what you don't have. I've watched the other side of that (Ryder Cup defeat in 2014) and it hurt.

"It was tough in that closing ceremony. When we boarded the plane back home, it was an empty feeling and we don't want that again."

Spieth spent Sunday and Monday at Hazeltine National in Minnesota, site of next week's biennial showdown between the United States and Europe, seeking to squirrel away course knowledge.

The former world No. 1 says he will have no trouble this week eliminating the Ryder Cup from his mind as he chases the tournament crown and also the US$10 million (S$13.6 million) bonus handed out to the winner of the season-long FedExCup points race.

But the Ryder Cup will be very much on the mind of others in the elite 30-man field at East Lake, who are vying for the 12th and last spot on the American team.

Their battle to impress captain Davis Love, who will name his final wildcard selection on Sunday night, will provide an intriguing sub-plot to the event. Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger are among those on the shortlist.

Spieth played with all three at Hazeltine on Monday.

"You could see how badly each of them wanted to be there," he said.

"I think being on the property excited them even more. We want whoever's playing the best to be the last pick and I think there are five or six options."

Spieth has particular sympathy for two-time Masters champion Watson, the world No. 7.

"I couldn't imagine being in his position," said the 23-year-old.

"I don't know if anybody's been passed up at that spot (but) he didn't seem upset about anything, like he was entitled to anything.

"I think he really feels like he needs to do his job this week."

Spieth added that he did not mind if Love chose a veteran or a rookie for the final spot. "Doesn't make much difference, whoever's playing the best golf," he said.

The Americans will aim to prevent a fourth consecutive victory for the dominant Europeans in the fiercely competitive three-day team event next week.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Ryder Cup is Spieth's priority, in theory'. Print Edition | Subscribe