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Rookie Spieth fired up for Presidents Cup challenge

U.S. team member Jordan Spieth hits from a sand trap on the 10th hole during the first practice round for the 2013 Presidents Cup golf tourn
U.S. team member Jordan Spieth hits from a sand trap on the 10th hole during the first practice round for the 2013 Presidents Cup golf tourn

By Simon Evans

DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - PGA Tour rookie Jordan Spieth is relishing teaming up with veteran Steve Stricker for the United States in Thursday's opening fourball matches against the Internationals at the 10th Presidents Cup.

Spieth, whose stunning form in his debut season made him an obvious wildcard pick for U.S. captain Fred Couples, was once again the centre of attention on Wednesday after making a hole-in-one at the par-three 12th during team practice.

Traditionally, Spieth would be expected to buy a round of drinks for his playing group but the 20-year-old is not yet old enough to purchase alcohol.

That is probably the only thing that the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year will be unable to deliver on this week - in terms of confidence, talent and composure, he looks to have it all.

"He is a much better player than probably any of us were at 19 or 20 except for Tiger (Woods)," said Couples.

That was a view that Cup veteran Phil Mickelson agreed with.

"His game is so far past where I was at 20 years old, the shots that he hits and the level of consistency he has been playing at week-in, week-out, is really impressive," said the British Open champion.

Spieth is not overwhelmed by such compliments, taking them all in his stride, but if he does find the occasion getting to him at Muirfield Village Golf Club, his 46-year-old playing partner Stricker should be able to put him at ease.

JUNIOR PARTNER

Not that Stricker is anticipating his junior partner to be anything other than focused.

"He's a pretty calm, collected guy, and I am, too, so I think we hit it off in that respect," said Stricker. "This is my fifth Presidents Cup, and so maybe he can lean on me a little bit.

"I don't think he needs to (though) he's got everything in order. And you know, who doesn't want to play with him? He's playing great, he's a good kid. He's got a good head on his shoulders. So I'm looking forward to it."

Indeed, while Spieth talks of Stricker's 'mentor' role, he also believes the veteran will benefit from having some youthful energy alongside him in their match on Thursday against South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge.

"I'm so excited to get going, I'm nervous which is a great thing," said Spieth. "To hear people chant 'USA' gives me the chills. For it to be my first time, I think bringing that kind of new firepower, new emotion may be will help.

"I don't think Steve needs any of it but if he's looking for any of it, I'll have it".

Spieth began the year with no PGA Tour status yet ended up playing in 23 events and winning the John Deere Classic, where at 19 years, 11 months and 18 days, he became the youngest player to triumph on the tour since 1931.

The former college standout at Texas, who began his run with the help of some sponsor exemptions, became the youngest player to reach the Tour Championship and finished second in that elite, season-ending event.

Spieth finished 10th on the money list with earnings of just under $4 million as he recorded nine top-10 finishes, tied for the most on the U.S. circuit, and putting him right in the frame for a U.S. team call-up to face the Internationals.

"I didn't expect it at the beginning of the year so it wasn't going to be a let-down but I felt like I did what I needed to do and I couldn't have been more excited to receive Freddie's call," Spieth said.

(Reporting By Simon Evans,)

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