Spieth, Phelps, Under Armour Founder In A Pro-Am Together

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, tees off on the 15th hole during the ProAm at the BMW Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. The BMW Championship tournament begins Thursday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, tees off on the 15th hole during the ProAm at the BMW Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. The BMW Championship tournament begins Thursday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Some pro-ams get Jordan Spieth's attention more than others, and such was the case Wednesday at Caves Valley in the BMW Championship.

“This was really more important than the tournament to me. I really needed to show up today or else I wasn't sure if I was going to have a job,” Spieth said. “A lot of pressure.”

He wasn't talking about the FedEx Cup — Spieth is at No. 7, assured of going to East Lake next week for the Tour Championship for the first time since 2018.

His partner was Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour, which signed Spieth to a lucrative endorsement contract before he had a PGA Tour card. Also in the group was Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic swimming champion with 28 medals.

They had the largest following on a sweltering day at Caves Valley, which feels like home for both. Phelps grew up in Maryland.

“We can’t have a better group," Phelps said. “Honestly, just being back here for me in Baltimore and being here at Caves Valley — I haven’t been to Caves in probably five years or so. ... To have some good golf shots, some good laughs out there, seeing the crowd out there, too, for me was awesome. It's so amazing being able to see fans back at sporting events.”

Phelps also is with Under Armour, and Spieth said they've done commercial work together. What stands out is some of their conversations, which range to preparing for competition to what Spieth described as “the mental side of things.”

“He's getting very involved in mental health, and it’s been something that I’ve actually worked on a lot in the last few years, and that’s been a space that probably should be talked about more within athletes, their experiences across different sports, too,” Spieth said. “I’ve been really fortunate that he’s lent an ear and also bounced ideas off me.”

THE MCILROY GRIND

Rory McIlroy looked and sounded tired after his pro-am round Wednesday at the BMW Championship, and not coincidentally, that's how he felt.

McIlroy decided to fly home Monday night to see his wife and daughter, who is about to turn 1, before flying back up to Baltimore the next day for the next FedEx Cup playoff event.

“I think I feel like a lot of guys feel right now, a little jaded, a little tired. End of the season, there’s been a lot of golf,” McIlroy said. “I’m going day by day and just trying to get through it as best I can and try to make it to next week. After that, two weeks off before the Ryder Cup.”

That made it clear he would not be playing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the flagship event of the European Tour.

McIlroy, who won at Quail Hollow in early May, has now slipped to No. 16 in the world. He has only two top 10s since then, including a playoff loss for the Olympic bronze medal.

He is expecting to take plenty of time off after the Ryder Cup on Sept. 24-26.

McIlroy has played 32 times since golf returned from the pandemic in June of last year, and it will be 35 events at the Ryder Cup.

“So all that in a space of 15 months, it’s a lot of golf,” he said. “It’s probably too much for me. I’ve played more than I probably should have and feel like it’s just sort of all caught up with me.”

CHAMPIONS' DINNER

How to celebrate a first victory in more than five years? Tony Finau headed to a steakhouse with his caddie, his coach and his manager.

But he didn't stop there.

Finau was on such a high from winning The Northern Trust that he couldn't sleep. He was returning text messages at 3 a.m., talking to some of his family, and then he got hungry. So he and coach Boyd Summerhays went for what amounts to a nightcap.

They chose McDonald's.

“I haven't been into fast food like I was when I was a kid, but I felt like that was worth the price of admission at the time,” he said.

As for the meal?

“I had a lot,” he said.

The champion's post-meal was a Big Mac, double quarter pounder with cheese and 10 chicken nuggets. He fell asleep at 5 a.m. and was up at 8 a.m. for his morning workout.

PAIN IN THE NECK

Louis Oosthuizen sat out the first postseason event and slipped a little in the FedEx Cup standings, going from No. 8 to No. 11.

He wanted to rest a sore neck, and a week off didn't solve everything. Oosthuizen said he walked the last four holes of the pro-am without hitting a full shot because of his neck.

“It’s not a good spot to be with my last few events,” Oosthuizen said. “Hopefully, I can sort a few things out with my physio the next 24 hours, but I was able to manage my way around the golf course yesterday. I have my physio here this week, so I should be able to get through the week, but I want to be as good as possible for next week. I don’t want any niggles in the neck or anything.”