MEXICO CITY — The first fist pump came on the first hole at Club de Golf Chapultepec, when Jordan Spieth hit a sporty chip from under a tree to tap-in distance for birdie and then bumped knuckles with his caddie.
His father, Shawn, returned knuckles and a smile.
It was just the start of an 18-hole walk for father and son in Thursday’s first round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship as the elder Spieth was called into emergency caddie duty. Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, who has been on the bag for his boss’ entire professional career, left Mexico earlier this week to be with his family after the death of his father, John “Bear” Greller, on Tuesday.
As special as the occasion was for the Spieths, the unwelcomed change of pace couldn’t get Spieth back on track. After a birdie on the first, Spieth quickly lost momentum, went through a stretch on the back nine where he made three bogeys, one double bogey and two birdies in six holes, and signed for a 4-over-par 75.
“I wish I would have done more for him,” Spieth said of his dad. “But glad he’s stepping in. Our bright moment was probably No. 1. Just trying to progress each day.”
In the three-time major champion’s steady fall to No. 24 in the official world golf rankings — his lowest standing since 2013 — Spieth has gone 11 PGA Tour starts without a top-10 finish and 19 months without a victory since claiming the Claret Jug in the 2017 Open Championship.
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His best finish this year is a tie for 35th. And he was last seen signing for an 81 after the last round of last week’s Genesis Open.
His father couldn’t change the mojo.
“He’s still trying to figure a few things out,” Shawn said. “And the wind is hard to read, and it’s hard for me to read it. But you have to be able to trust your swing, and we’re not quite there yet. We’re getting close.”
It was the first time in eight years the two were side by side inside the ropes, the last time coming in the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills. On Wednesday, Shawn went to work during a practice round on the front nine.
The younger Spieth did everything he could to lighten the load for his father. For starters, there was no rain gear in the bag. And most importantly, the bag was a much lighter carry bag instead of the hefty staff bags most of the loopers lug. A member of Spieth’s management team, Laura Moses, flew in Wednesday with the bag instead of shipping it overnight and risking it being delayed in customs.
In the first round, Spieth walked off all the yardages, but as the holes passed, father joined in. The two often discussed shots, especially with their eyes toward the wind, and Shawn helped read a couple of putts.
While Shawn was concerned about his ability to handle the high altitude — the course rests 7,800 feet above sea level — he handled the thin air just fine.
“I feel good,” Shawn said. “Carrying that stand bag over 18 was a lot easier than carrying the tour bag over nine holes (Wednesday).”
The overall experience — which will continue Friday — was full of mixed emotions, Shawn said.
“It’s great, but you want him to have his best chance,” he said. “And his regular caddie would give him his best chance. It was fun a lot of ways, and I learned a lot that may help us own the road. It’s fun to get to do it.”