For Under Armour athlete Jordan Spieth, PGA Tour stop in Baltimore at Caves Valley feels like a homecoming of sorts

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BALTIMORE — Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Under Armour owner Kevin Plank had nothing but smiles stretched across their faces after finishing their pro-am outing Wednesday afternoon at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.

Phelps, a golf nerd and the most decorated Olympian of all time, couldn’t put into words how he feels about the PGA Tour returning to his hometown of Baltimore. Plank talked about golfing with NBA legend Michael Jordan and hitting balls in a simulator until his hands bled, while Spieth critiqued his partners’ golf games.

“It’s cool to see the passion these guys have for golf, and obviously within everything else that we do,” said Spieth, a three-time major champion and 2015 FedEx Cup winner. “It makes for a nice common area to spend some time.”

For the Dallas native Spieth, an Under Armour athlete who’s played at Caves Valley several times before this week’s BMW Championship, the second leg of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, Baltimore has sort of become a second home.

“It’s far from home, but kind of feels more like I’ve got family around me in a way,” Speith said. “It’s a cool opportunity to come back to a place that I’ve visited the most in the last 10 years and play a PGA Tour event.”

Spieth, 28, enters the BMW Championship seventh in the FedEx Cup standings and ranked 12th in the PGA World Golf rankings. Spieth was second in the standings before last weekend’s Northern Trust in New Jersey, where he finished 73rd and shot 8-over-par 79 during the final round. “That one was a weird one because I actually felt like I was hitting it better that day than the other days,” Spieth said.

Spieth feels confident about the BMW Championship, as he has familiarity with the area and Caves Valley. Spieth has been with Under Armour since 2015, when he signed a 10-year endorsement deal. Whenever he would visit the sports apparel brand’s headquarters in Port Covington, Spieth would swing over to Caves Valley to play golf.

“There’s actually a couple tees that I’ve hit about 150 balls off of at different times during photo shoots,” Spieth said. “I feel pretty comfortable on a couple of the tee boxes where I’ve hit so many shots that I know exactly what to do.”

Plank recalls meeting Spieth for the first time when the golfer was 19. Plank sat with Spieth and his father, Shawn, at the Humble and Hungry Cafe at the Under Armour headquarters. “I remember Jordan just saying, he’s like, ‘Look, I’ve got other people talking to me, but I’m really an Under Armour guy; I’m an athlete; I’m a quarterback, I’m a pitcher, I’m a point guard, and I think this is my brand,’ ” Plank said.

With the golfer’s 12 PGA Tour titles, three major championships and signature apparel collection, Plank has not looked back at his decision to make Spieth one of the faces of Under Armour.

During Spieth’s time with the Baltimore-based company, he’s learned a lot from Phelps, a fellow Under Armour endorser, about being a competitor. Spieth has had discussions with Phelps, 35, about his preparation, passion and recovery process. Lately, Spieth has even picked Phelps’ brain on the mental challenges of being an athlete.

“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,” Spieth said of Phelps, who’s been open about his struggles with depression and has been honored for the work he’s done on de-stigmatization of mental health problems with his foundation. “That’s been a space that probably should be talked about more within athletes, their experiences across different sports, too. I’ve been really fortunate that he’s lent an ear and also bounced ideas off [to] me.”

Spieth and Phelps have been able to put business aside and become good friends. Spieth said he spent time with Phelps in Mexico, getting to know the swimmer’s family. Having a common interest in golf makes things even better.

“To have a golf lover be the most decorated Olympian of all time, it’s really good for our sport,” Spieth said. “He’s been a fantastic kind of friend.”

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