Jordan Spieth fills the room

By Art Spander

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The room, the interview room for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, had been chock-a-block full. Then Jordan Spieth was finished, and even though another major champion was ready to sit down, most of the media also were finished. Jason Day, the new guy, only shrugged at what at best was disregard and at worst an insult.

But first Day showed he had a sense of humor. “I think Jake Owen pulled most of those people in here,” said Day about Spieth’s amateur partner, the country and western singer — and two handicap golfer. Then after a pause, Day added a rhetorical, “Didn’t he?”

Certain performers, athletes, entertainers and politicians have the “it factor," charisma, a quality that, well, fills rooms, TV screens, front pages and their bank accounts. Not that Jason Day, one of the top three in the World Golf Rankings, hasn’t made the big bucks. What he and many others haven’t made is the big splash.

Arnold Palmer was the first and perhaps still the most memorable. Arnie was just a guy who liked people and could hit a ball a mile. And that’s what golf needed, still needs, because golf has no team loyalty.

Thousands of people can make birdies. Arnie made us pay attention, pay homage. So did Jack Nicklaus. And certainly Tiger Woods. And now Jordan Spieth.

And if Spieth isn't yet Tiger as far as history — Woods has more wins than anybody besides Sam Snead, more majors than anybody besides Nicklaus — or in personality, Jordan is heading in the right direction as far as results. His personality always has been sunnier than Tiger's.

Two majors in 2015 for Spieth, seven victories before age 25. But no less important, confidence without a scintilla of arrogance and an ability to give long, thoughtful answers to questions, a rare virtue in a hurried, impatient world.

“It doesn’t worry me,” said Day of the people fleeing before his interview. “It just needs, it just shows I need to work harder, and hopefully a couple more people will fill the room after that.” Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Or understandable.

A star isn’t always born or developed. The progression begins with talent. Lady Gaga’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to open the Super Bowl was an event unto itself. She already had a reputation, a career, then left us with a memory. Perfect timing, the biggest event of any year in the United States and wham, she left us gasping. Wow.

As did Spieth, already heading toward greatness by becoming only the third in a half-century, next to Arnie and Jack, to start the year with wins in both the Masters and the U.S. Open. He gave the Grand Slam a run, just missing a playoff in the British. Wow.

We used to call Tiger “The Man.” Spieth, then, is “The Man II.” Although he appears embarrassed by the comparison. To Spieth, at 22, fundamentally half as old as the 40-year-old Tiger, Woods is an inspiration, not an association.

His climb into the No. 1 place in the rankings, a position long held by Woods and more recently by Rory McIlroy and Day, is seen by Spieth as an opportunity rather than verification.

It isn’t “Hey, look at me,” it’s “You know what I’ve been able to do?”

Such as play against Woods, and even shoot 63 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, in 2014. Such as being introduced to one man he long has admired from his hometown Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki.

“I grew up living half a mile from him,” said Spieth of the 2007 NBA most valuable player, “and he was my hero growing up in Dallas. I never met him. The other day I got to take pictures and hang out with him. And I thought that was pretty awesome. I wouldn’t say that’s probably an advantage to the position we’re in, but with (the No.1 ranking) it becomes a responsibility for sure.”

The key in life, we’re told, is to take your job and responsibilities seriously, but not yourself. Spieth has full comprehension. He can needle and joke with others, unworried what they might say in response.

Owen, the singer, sitting next to Spieth, said Colt Knost, another Texas pro — and winner of the 2007 U.S. Amateur at San Francisco’s Olympic Club — told him, “When Jordan talks to the ball, the ball listens to him.”

In Singapore, Spieth hits a ball to the edge of a bunker, yells, “Just give me a normal bounce,” and the shot ends up in the middle of the fairway. “That’s a normal bounce?” questioned Owen.

Nothing’s normal for Jordan Spieth. “But you haven’t changed in the four years I’ve known you,” said Owen to Spieth, “as far as your graciousness to the people around you and the way you handle yourself ... I really admire that.”

Who wouldn’t?


S.F. Examiner: Broncos win for Manning, send bouquet to Bowlen

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

“The best laid plans …” You know the rest, words from a poem by Bobby Burns, the Scot who more than a century ago wrote words of warning, words telling us that our hopes and dreams more often do not work out. Or as Burns wrote, “ ..gang oft a-gley,” or as we would say, go often astray.

But not the plans of John Elway. Or the hopes of Peyton Manning. Or the long-ago dreams of the family of Pat Bowlen.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Big night for Eddie D, Stabler, Boldin

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

He was the stranger from Youngstown, the little guy who had to earn his spurs and, more importantly after some missteps owning the 49ers — “This team is not a toy,” he grumbled at the media so critical of his mismanagement — earn the cheers. They were there at Super Bowls in past years. And they were there Saturday night, when Eddie DeBartolo was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So timely. So appropriate that DeBartolo, now 69 and far away in time and distance, having moved to Tampa, Fla., would be one of the chosen few when the Super Bowl, the Half-Century Super Bowl, No. 50, would be played in the area where he built a champion in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Read the ful story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Defense, ball control can send Manning off in glory

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

It’s as if the game already has been played. As if the Carolina Panthers won the Super Bowl. When, in fact, the Denver Broncos will win it. Win it ugly, the way underdogs usually do. Win it by keeping the Panthers from winning it, with defense, with ball control, with the sort of breaks teams like Denver inevitably get in games like this, and thus are described as lucky rather than good.

But in football, luck is not so much bestowed as created.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Broncos forced to overcome tumultuous upbringings

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

A letter from the president. So few are sent. Katrina Smith had to be special, and in a way she was, holding the letter from President Barack Obama that commuted an excessively severe prison sentence which had taken her away from society, away from a son who was to become a football star while she had become an inmate.

Demaryius Thomas was a sixth grader, 11 years old, when Smith and her own mother, Minnie Thomas, were convicted and incarcerated 16 years ago for making and selling crack cocaine in Georgia.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner