Spieth Can be Special
If you were to ask the casual golf fan how many wins Jordan Spieth has on the PGA Tour, they’d probably say three or four. It seemed that way since his name is always thrown around as one of the “best young players in the world.” The truth is that the Jesuit graduate had won exactly one tournament going into yesterday’s final round of the Valspar Championship in the Tampa area. That win was in his rookie season of 2013 at the John Deere Classic. The fact that he played in the final group with Bubba Watson at last year’s Masters, and finished tied for second, and also played in the final group at the Players Championship before losing to Martin Kaymer, made everyone think he had held up a trophy multiple times. But no…just once.
Spieth did win two tournaments at the end of 2014, the Australian Masters and an event called the Hero’s Challenge–which is just an unofficial tournament that Tiger Woods puts on for 18 Tour players each year. The Australian Masters, while impressive, isn’t an official PGA Tour event either. So Spieth really had a lot to prove during Sunday’s final round at the Valspar Championship. He knew people were wondering if he was a “one hit wonder.” Playing on Ryder Cup and President’s Cup teams is pretty awesome but winning is what really distinguishes great players from very good ones.
The Valspar may not have an impressive-sounding name like, The Masters or Pebble Beach Pro Am or The Colonial, but the field this past week was very solid. Guys like Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Matt Kucher, Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner were all competing, and the Innisbrook course is considered one of the most challenging on the Tour.
Spieth played brilliantly all afternoon and scrambled the entire back nine, including a clutch 8 foot par putt on the final hole, to put him into a three-way playoff with Reed and Sean O’Hair. Spieth finally won the tournament with a spectacular birdie putt from 28 feet on the third playoff hole to claim his second tour victory. He is now just the fourth player in the last 75 years to win twice on the Tour before turning 22 years old.
The reason Spieth’s victory is more than just a cool thing for a Dallas kid is because the PGA Tour is looking for the next “someone.” They need the next Tiger–or as close to a facsimile as they can find. Rory McIlroy is the world’s number one player (Spieth is now number 6 in the world rankings) and he is dynamic and talented and a 3-time major winner. But he’s also not an American. Not to seem to brazen or United-States-centric, but golf needs an American to be at or very near the top of the golf world. Forty-five percent of all the world’s golf courses are in the United States. Tiger filled that role perfectly for the past 18 years or so but he’s obviously not the same player any more and probably never will be (dare I say YIPS). Golf also needs a great rivalry, Hogan and Snead, Palmer and Nicklaus, and Woods and Mickelson have all made the game a lot more interesting and the TV ratings and crowds proved it. McIlroy and Spieth could be right up there with the others, if Spieth can keep it going and win a few majors and maybe even beat Rory for one or two of them.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone who’s only barely old enough to drink, but someone needs to step up and take the role–why not a nice Texas kid?