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Michael Phelps offers special support for Jordan Spieth





CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If Jordan Spieth needs some help with the mental aspect of his game during this pressure-packed week of golf, he knows exactly where to turn.

Michael Phelps is right there for him.

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Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist who knows a thing or two about performing at his best under crushing pressure, spent Thursday following Spieth around Quail Hollow during the first round of the PGA Championship.

The 24-year-old Spieth is looking to become the youngest player to win golf’s career Grand Slam. Spieth was thrilled to have Phelps inside the ropes with him.

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‘‘He’s become a good friend and even a mentor,’’ Spieth said. ‘‘That’s pretty awesome to have a mentor like that.’’

Phelps and his wife Nicole Johnson followed Spieth, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Masters champion Sergio Garcia for most of the round, mostly staying out of the way but always visible.

It’s not the first time Phelps has shadowed Spieth around the course.

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Phelps, an avid golfer, struck up a friendship with Spieth last year in Phoenix through their mutual sponsor, Under Armour. They’ve hung out together in Cabo San Lucas, where they had a photo taken with former NBA great Michael Jordan, golfer Fred Couples and NFL players Russell Wilson and Dwight Freeney.

Phelps has also tweeted well wishes to Spieth after his victories.

‘‘We have had dinner and talked through a lot of things,’’ Spieth said.

Spieth said the specifics of those conversations are private, but said the conversations focused around ‘‘a lot of mental approach and preparation and stuff.’’

Phelps did not speak to reporters on Thursday. But he texted a delighted Spieth and informed him he would be in Charlotte for the PGA Championship because of a sponsor commitment.

Spieth said at a post-round press conference at the British Open that he felt like he could call Phelps any time for advice — and that he’d be doing himself a disservice if he didn’t, given Phelps’ past success in swimming.

Spieth might need some of Phelps’s advice on the mental part of the game if his putting doesn’t improve on Friday.

Normally one of the game’s best on the greens, Spieth said he ‘‘can’t putt any worse’’ than he did on Thursday. Still, he avoided big mistakes and rallied with birdies on two of the final three holes to shoot a 1-over 72, leaving him five shots behind Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner, who shared the first-round lead.

Phelps, who was recently seen racing simulated sharks on the Discovery Channel, joked around with Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller on the first hole. Spieth said it helped ease the tension.

‘‘He kept it light,’’ Spieth said.

Spieth said he was delighted when Phelps texted and told him he would be in Charlotte for the PGA Championship because of a sponsorship commitment.

Phelps isn’t the only celebrity who has been in town for the city’s first major championship.

Singer Justin Bieber attended the practice rounds earlier in the week, while Darius Rucker performed in the area on Wednesday night and was joined on stage by former PGA champion John Daly. Roy Williams, the coach of the defending national champion North Carolina men’s basketball team, was also seen at the first round on Thursday.

What’s in a name?

Olesen said growing up in Denmark there were three boys named Jacob in his class, so everyone started calling him by his middle name, Thorbjorn, to avoid confusion.

The name stuck and Olesen has made it known to the golf world ever since.

‘‘I thought, why not, I’ll still use it as a professional golfer,’’ said Olesen, who has won four times in the European Tour but never on American soil. ‘‘I think it’s only really my mom that calls me Jacob. But everybody else calls me Thorbjorn.’’

Daly meltdown

John Daly went from contender to curmudgeon after a triple bogey on No. 18 capped an eventful 24-hour period that included singing onstage with Darius Rucker.

Daly tweeted a video taken Wednesday night showing himself and the Hootie & the Blowfish frontman-turned-country soloist singing Prince’s ‘‘Purple Rain.’’

The good times kept rolling through Daly’s 8:20 a.m. tee time; he was at even par through 17 holes. Then came the meltdown on No. 18. He struggled with his chipping, then three-putted for a seven.

Daly left Quail Hollow without speaking to reporters but did tell his fiancee that he wanted to ‘‘get out of here,’’ using a profanity to express his frustration with the course.

‘Green Mile’ goblins

Garcia was the first big name to get tripped up by Quail Hollow Club’s ‘‘Green Mile.’’

The Masters champion struggled on the course’s challenging three-hole finishing stretch during his opening round Thursday.

Garcia, who started his round on No. 10, made the turn after double bogeys on a pair of par-4 holes — Nos. 16 and 18 — sandwiched around a bogey on the par-3 17th.

A briefly scary moment unfolded when Koepka’s drive on No. 16 hit a course marshal. The shot sailed wide right and struck the marshal near the ropes.

Video posted on the PGA of America’s Twitter feed showed Koepka checking on the marshal and signing a glove for him as he laid on the ground. The man smiled and appeared to thank the US Open champion for the gesture.

The ball wound up in the fairway, and Koepka went on to bogey the par-4 hole.


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