2015 Preview: Jordan Spieth

12.07.14 spieth trophy

Welcome to the 2015 Golf Preview, where I’ll take a look at selected golfers and examine what to expect over the next twelve months. Today, we look at Jordan Spieth.

The History

If it wasn’t for his age being constantly mentioned along with every utterance of his name, it would be hard to believe that Jordan Spieth was actually 21 years old, and not just because he’s losing his hair at a Furykian pace either. Spieth has always been one of those kids that was destined for stardom from an early age, and his showing as a 16-year old at the Byron Nelson where he was tied for 7th after the third round and ended up tied for 16th on Sunday, was further proof that it wouldn’t be long before we saw him on a regular basis on the PGA Tour. If it feels like we’ve been talking about him forever, it’s probably because that’s kind of what’s happened, but when you watch him play and you hear the way he speaks, you start to understand what all the hype is about.

Spieth turned pro in December of 2012 and after holing out from a greenside bunker to get into a playoff with Zach Johnson and David Hearn, Spieth had his first PGA Tour win in July of 2013 at the John Deere, and in the process, became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1931. His play was so impressive throughout the season that Fred Couples made him a captain’s pick for the 2013 Presidents Cup, where he would go 2-2 in his first team play event as a professional.

2014 was set to be a big year for Spieth and he had a good start, including a share of the 54-hole lead at the Masters before losing out to Bubba Watson, but it was the end of the year where Spieth really turned it on. First, he was one of the few bright spots for Team USA at the Ryder Cup, almost won in Japan and had perhaps the best single round of the year, dominating the final round at the Australian Open with a 63 to win his first tournament of 2014. He then followed that up a week later by torching the field at Tiger’s tournament, winning by ten shots.

ESPN’s Jordan Spieth Headshot

ESPN.com has a lot of great golf content, but their player headshots are, shall we say, a little outdated, with Ryan Moore leading the way. As such, I’m introducing the Ryan Moore headshot ranking system. Each player will get a ranking from 1-10, with 10 being the most outdated possible.

Here’s Spieth’s headshot from ESPN:

spieth espn

You know that this photo isn’t that recent because the massive Under Armour logo can’t be seen on Spieth’s left side, and in fact, this is a Ralph Lauren shirt, which puts this pre-2013 at least, but it’s nowhere near as bad as most of the other players.

1/10.

1-moore-head

Why You Should Watch

Golf has always been filled with prodigies. Players who, as I mentioned above, seem destined for stardom, but there’s usually far more of them who don’t make it for a variety of reasons versus the ones like Spieth or Hideki Matsuyama. I don’t want to compare Spieth, or anyone else, to Tiger Woods because in all honesty, it’s just not fair to do, but Spieth is very much like a young Tiger in a couple of ways.

Obviously he’s insanely talented, but on the course, there’s also no filter. The unabashed emotion that he shows with every shot, proof that he really is still just 21 years old, is a joy to see and I’m sure that at some point, just like it did with Tiger and Sergio Garcia, we’ll see that fade away, but for now, Spieth makes it fun to watch golf. He’s real.

When he steps away from the course and you hear him give interviews or talk to the assembled press, he has a maturity about him that goes well beyond his years, and as much as that could be some form of media training that happens with every pro athlete in 2014, Spieth manages to pull it off with sincerity and dignity at every turn.

Oh, and let’s not forget, he’s really, really good at golf, so that’s another reason why you should watch.

Spieth in one two GIFs

Spieth's bunker holeout at the John Deere that allowed him to force a playoff.

Spieth’s bunker holeout at the John Deere that allowed him to force a playoff.

Jordan Spieth holes out from the bunker on 18 to force a playoff at the John Deere.

Jordan Spieth holes out from the bunker on 18 to force a playoff at the John Deere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve made a ton of Spieth GIFs over the past two years, but there’s really nothing that personifies what I’ve been talking about better than the two above. Skill, a little bit of luck, and the pure joy of knowing that he was going to have a chance at his first win on the PGA Tour. One thing though, Jordan: don’t fall into the typical awkward golf guy celebration trap. You’re better than that.

The Question

Is Spieth ready for that first major win?

Coming into 2014, Spieth had said that his goal was to win twice, and he did eventually get there late in the season, but he definitely had his chances early on as well, namely at Augusta. Throughout the year, there was a lot of talk about why Spieth couldn’t close tournaments, which of course is patently absurd, and with his performances late in 2014, I would think that Spieth silenced at least some of that talk but it also definitely put an added level of expectation on him as well.

I’ve talked about Spieth and major contention in the past, and how it’s alright if a player, even one of Spieth’s talent and pedigree, doesn’t win a major or another big tournament right away. I mean, Phil Mickelson won his first major at 33 and the list of players who are really, really good without a major win is exceedingly long. Still though, you know that Spieth is dying to get that win and with his talent, I have no doubt that he’s going to get there, and it’s very possible that 2015 is the year that it all comes together.

It doesn’t happen very often that a 21-year old winning a major wouldn’t be a surprise, but that’s where we are with Jordan Spieth.

Enjoy the ride, everyone.

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