Spieth in elite company now but stays grounded

AUSTIN (Texas) • As Stephen Curry entered the court for pre-game warm-ups, Jordan Spieth stood alongside other avid basketball fans and extended his left arm to try to make a connection with Curry, who jogged right past him.

Never mind that Spieth, like Curry, is sponsored by Under Armour. Or that an introduction had been arranged for them after Curry warmed up.

Spieth is the reigning Masters champion and the world's No. 1 player, with more than US$21 million (S$28.7 million) in official PGA Tour earnings since 2013, but during a rare week away from competitive golf, he was just another 22-year-old hanging out with his best friends on a Friday night.

Asked about his brief meeting with Curry, Spieth described it as a "cool experience" and said: "What a role model he is."

Spieth added: "We stayed after, and he was nice enough to come out and hang out with us."

The way he spoke, it was as if it had never crossed his mind that Curry might have felt charmed to have made his acquaintance.

Spieth enters this week's World Golf Championships matchplay event at Austin Country Club as the headliner.

His 2014-15 season, in which he won five tour events, elevated his status outside Texas, but Spieth treats the pedestal that people want to place him on as if it is suitable only for chopping.

He is coming off a year, he acknowledged, "that sets you kind of into a non-golf audience and puts you in the spotlight there".

He said a way to cope was to "stay away from all the outside influences, whether it's TV, where you see yourself, or it's social media, whatever it may be. Just do less of it and find something else to do".

He has a humility that Andy Roddick described as "kind of endearing". "A lot of athletes can play the humble role," the retired American tennis player said, "but with him, it's real."

Spieth has also revealed he has received advice from legendary National Football League quarterback Tom Brady as he aims to cement his status as the world's best golfer.

"I did some talking with Tom Brady... and I've spent on a couple different occasions some time with him and certainly received some advice," he said.

"He's obviously in the spotlight being arguably the greatest - one of the greatest quarterbacks of all times if not the best.

"So it's pretty cool just to have that opportunity to talk to him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Spieth in elite company now but stays grounded'. Print Edition | Subscribe