2015 U.S. Open: After the Win

June 26th, 2015  |  Published in Front Page, Golf, Noteworthy  |  19 Comments

during the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. on Sunday, June 21, 2015.  =caption= (=photog=/USGA Museum)

A new twist from the USGA yielded my favorite picture of the night. For the first time, the champion's name is being engraved on the trophy as he watches along with his family. (Leica M (t240), 35mm f 1.4 Summilux) ©2015 USGA Museum/Darren Carroll

(note: the gallery of images can now be found on USOpen.com by clicking on this link.

I’ve been covering the U.S. Open for the United States Golf Association for 5 years now, but only last year did I start doing something that quickly became my favorite part of the whole week: As soon as the final putt drops, it’s my job to stay with the champion for everything he does post-round: from signing his scorecard to accepting congratulations from family to receiving the trophy to talking to the media. When I introduce myself to agents and families and tell them who I am, who I’m working for, and what I’m doing (as I make sure to do immediately upon running into them for the first time), I equate it to a wedding: You probably won’t remember much of this in the rush of what’s to come, but I’m here to create a visual record of what’s happening, and you’ll probably be happy to have these pictures documenting the occasion later on.

Last Sunday at Chambers Bay, just outside of Tacoma, Washington, Jordan Spieth walked off the 18th green and headed to the scoring trailer to sign his card with a one-shot lead, and, as I was supposed to, I walked right off with him. Dustin Johnson, playing behind him in the last group of the day, was the only golfer with a chance to catch him. This left me in a bit of a delicate position. When I first did this last year, at both the Men’s and Women’s US Opens, both championships were won by players in the last group—as I was walking to the scoring office with them there was no question of who the winner would be and, to be honest, both Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie were so overjoyed at the time that they could not have cared less that I was right next to them, shooting pictures all the way.

Not so this year. Spieth came into the scoring trailer with a lead, but a tenuous one at that. I maneuvered around the table and shot two or three frames of him watching Johnson hit his second shot from the fairway on television as he waited to sign his card. I sensed a little tension in the air (that’s me, Captain Obvious…), so I quickly got out of there, and moved into an anteroom where Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, waited with Spieth’s golf bag. I made a frame of Spieth and his playing partner, Branden Grace, signing their cards through a doorway, and as I did, Spieth very quietly and politely asked me to hold off on taking pictures. I didn’t have a problem with that–I had shot what I needed to so far anyway, and things weren’t exactly relaxed in the room — Johnson had just hit his second shot at the par-5 18th on to the green and the outcome of the championship was still very much up in the air. If Johnson made his eagle putt on 18 he would win; if he made birdie there would be a tie and he and Spieth would play an 18-hole playoff the next morning. And if Johnson three-putted 18, that would mean…well, no, come on, really? Dustin Johnson wasn’t going to three-putt the 18th.

I’m not sure if they just needed to get some fresh air, to relieve some tension, or what, but as Johnson walked to the 18th green, Spieth and Greller walked out of the scoring trailer to visit with family, and I followed, as did a whole horde of TV cameras that had been parked outside the door to the trailer. After a few minutes, the two walked back up the stairs into the scoring trailer, alone. And as they did, they slammed the door tightly behind them.

Now, I can take a hint, and there was no mistaking the message, or the awkwardness of the situation. I stayed outside for a minute, thinking about it. But I really had no choice. I was working for the USGA, so I had a responsibility to represent the organization well; but as a consequence of that I also had authorization to be in that room, and more than that, my assignment at that very moment required me to be in that room. I was pretty sure there wasn’t a TV camera in there–I was positive a cameraman hadn’t followed them in, and knew that the remote-controlled camera Fox had put in only covered the room with the scoring desk, not the other areas of the trailer. In fact, I knew that there was no one in there to record what Spieth’s first reaction would be to winning the U.S. Open, should it come to pass. In the end, it was my job to be in there. And I also had a funny feeling that should Johnson somehow three-putt, the first question out of my editors’ mouths would probably be, “So, what happened when he realized that he won?” And I was absolutely positive that the correct answer to that question was not, “I don’t know, I wasn’t there.”

So I took a breath, opened the door to the scoring trailer and walked in. Spieth stared straight ahead at the monitor on a table in front of him, but Greller shot me a look. I knew right then that I needed to tread lightly, so I headed straight for the other side of a partition in the trailer where I couldn’t see either one of them—and they could no longer see me. It didn’t matter to me—Dustin Johnson was still putting on the 18th green so nothing had been decided yet, but it was a tense couple of minutes, just standing there and waiting to see what would happen. What was I going to do, take a bunch of pictures, the motor drive cracking the stillness of a silent room, of two guys sitting with their backs to me? Why? Besides, the picture that I needed was only going to happen if and when Spieth actually won; until then the two of them deserved to have the moment to themselves.

On my side of the partition, there was a computer set up streaming the broadcast of the 18th, just as there was on Spieth and Greller’s side. It was kind of odd, because there was about a five-second delay on the TV broadcast; you could hear by the crowd’s reaction outside that Johnson had missed his eagle putt before he did it on the monitor. There was dead silence on the other side of the trailer. And then came a huge roar from outside at 18—but one ambiguous enough that we all had to watch our monitors to confirm that Johnson had slid his four-foot comebacker for birdie — and a tie with Spieth — past the hole. As the putt rolled on the screen, I backed up and poked my head around the partition.

There was no reaction, save for a barely perceptible shift in Spieth’s shoulders as he exhaled. No fist pump, no yelling, no whooping and hollering. Spieth and Greller were sitting there, backs to me, silent, and seemingly stunned. Finally, after a few seconds, Greller stood up. “Hey man, give me a hug,” he said, holding his arms out. And with that Spieth, still slack-jawed in disbelief, stood up and embraced his caddie. I stayed back against the wall, and as Spieth rose, I raised the camera. Two frames, and that was it. I had a feeling no one would mind.

That was about all the peace and quiet there would be for the next two hours or so. Now it was time for the trophy presentation and the requisite media availability that followed–the whirlwind of activity that is part of the champion’s responsibility following the win.

I first saw Jordan Spieth play at the 2010 Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas, a 16-year old from Dallas Jesuit High School playing on a sponsor’s exemption. He caused a media frenzy when made the cut then, and and he handled everything–from the autograph requests to the media crunch to his responsibilities to the tournament and its organizers, with nothing but class and and a confidence that belied his age. Five years, a Masters win and a U.S.Open championship later, it’s good to see that nothing has changed.

For a complete gallery of images of Jordan Spieth as the newly-crowned U.S. Open Champion, head on over to USOpen.com, or click on this link.

Responses

  1. Anne Jacobs says:

    June 26th, 2015at 1:15 pm(#)

    Thanks so much for posting these pictures. You did
    a great job. Mr. Spieth is a class act. i wish there
    were more like him.

    Once again. Thank you for these.

  2. Mark Carlson says:

    June 26th, 2015at 3:33 pm(#)

    Wow. Just wow. Great job. Thanks for being in the right spot at the right time.

  3. Filippo Bertozzi says:

    June 26th, 2015at 9:57 pm(#)

    Really a great job: also the chronicle is spot on!
    Thanks

  4. Raleigh Smith says:

    June 27th, 2015at 2:49 am(#)

    That’s really cool. Random question: what does the champion eat for dinner that night? It seems like he would be starving after a 5 hour round, and then has another 4 hours of media responsibilities.

  5. terri says:

    June 27th, 2015at 5:21 am(#)

    Wonderful shots!

  6. Elaine C. says:

    June 27th, 2015at 8:31 am(#)

    These are great pictures! Since Fox did such a bang up job & failed to have a camera to capture this moment, I was curious as to what happened. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Charlie says:

    June 27th, 2015at 8:32 am(#)

    Great pics, really liked you did not use color like most would have.

    As for the question form Raleigh Smith, where would he eat….ANY PLACE HE WANTS! LOL

  8. joe clifton says:

    June 27th, 2015at 9:04 am(#)

    Darren,

    Absolutely great work! Your comments along with the pictures made me feel as if I were there with you watching it live. Thank you.

  9. Dave Jochum says:

    June 27th, 2015at 9:05 am(#)

    Terrific photos and blog post very nicely documenting this special event.

  10. Scott F Waugh says:

    June 27th, 2015at 9:32 am(#)

    Thank you! This historical time captured in still frame black and white are perfect! A wonderful and great job! And for Jordon Spieth, he is an exceptional young man, and a great example and role model. We need thousands like him! Thanks again for sharing!

  11. Barb Peach says:

    June 27th, 2015at 2:09 pm(#)

    Darren Carroll, you did a great job of photos and commentary. It’s everything we really want to know about the young golfer who is
    destined for greatness and so deserves it!

  12. Philip says:

    June 27th, 2015at 6:34 pm(#)

    These are fantastic. Thank you for the story as well.

  13. Mike in Seattle says:

    June 27th, 2015at 10:35 pm(#)

    Terrific job with the photos, the story, and your judgment on the day of the event. Like you, I first saw him at the 2010 Byron Nelson when he came pretty darn close to winning.

    Ever since, I’ve followed his progress in every tournament, and I was amazed how little attention he received even in the golf press. I guess that’s changed now!

    From everything I hear, it couldn’t happen to a better family. It’s also awesome to hear his dialogue with Michael before & after each shot.

  14. chris says:

    June 28th, 2015at 5:02 am(#)

    Thank you for your story and pictures, it was a fantastic narrative and indicative of how you view your profession and the difficulty of achieving the right balance between you and your subject.

    Chris
    Georgetown, Texas

  15. Walt Garcia says:

    June 28th, 2015at 5:23 am(#)

    Terrific picture taking and what a class young man in Jordan Speith . It is fun to watch his young professional career unfold.Thanks for capturing this historic moment in golf.

  16. Kathleen says:

    June 28th, 2015at 6:37 am(#)

    Wonderful job with the photos and the commentary ! My favorite is his mother looking at him while he’s watching his name being engraved on the trophy…… as MasterCard would say….. priceless.

  17. ClubUpGolf Jordan Spieth Captured by Darren Carroll - ClubUpGolf says:

    June 28th, 2015at 9:08 am(#)

    [...] Pretty cool stuff. Check out the rest of Darren’s account at his blog.  [...]

  18. Jason says:

    June 29th, 2015at 5:10 pm(#)

    Great journalistic decision to bravely enter the slammed door then to softly head for the quiet side of the partition; those great shots would’ve been lost to the world if you stayed outside. Great blog and music photos as well.

  19. Monday Scramble: Bubba Ball and the Spieth Slam - Golf NewsGolf News says:

    June 30th, 2015at 3:07 am(#)

    [...] Click here for the rest of Carroll’s incredible post-round slideshow.  [...]


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