Was 2015 an anomaly for Jordan Spieth, something that he’ll never approach again? More to the point, can he approach anything near it again this year? Pretty damn tough to do, but if anyone can come close or equal what the then 22-year old Spieth did last season, his first full year on tour, its this level-headed kid from Texas. Nobody – not Tiger, not Jack, not Arnie, Hogan or Snead – had ever won five times in a year at a younger age since Horton Smith accomplished it at age 21. That was back in 1929, just before the stock market took a dive.
Spieth won the first two legs of the Grand Slam and then came within a couple of inches of getting into a playoff at the British Open (finishing fourth) and finished in a tie for second at the PGA. He won the Tour Championship at East Lake and with it the Fed Ex Cup. And even without that $10 million bonus smackeroos, he became the biggest money winner in history for a single year ($12 million) a full mill more than Vijay Singh, who had held that mark since 2004.
Suffice it to say that Spieth isn’t worried about where his next meal is coming from, but the burning question is can he do this for the long haul? Can he be the next Nicklaus, the next Tiger Woods or will he just be a really good but not an all-time great?
Gorman will play the odds and say no, that somebody else among the stable of young studs (and there are many) will emerge this year and beat Spieth down. Rory is set to explode or maybe Rickie or Dustin. Perhaps the PGA victory by Jason Day will serve as his springboard to dominate golf in 2016. All of them have more raw physical talent that Spieth, but Spieth has that intangible that made Nicklaus and Woods something nobody else in their eras could duplicate. It cannot be quantified by statistics. But it is just as real as a 350 yard drive or an 80 percent sand save percentage.
Spieth is more mentally tough than any of his contemporaries. He is the ultimate grinder, which means he not only never takes a round off. He never takes a single shot for granted. And as I have written previously, while he shows his emotions on the course, he is not controlled by them. He channels his frustration toward his next shot. He never lets a bad shot influence the next one. That makes him special. Then there’s the putter, that old Scotty Cameron blade that has been in Spieth’s bag since he was in grade school. In that regard he’s like Ben Crenshaw.
Spieth has shown in his very brief career that he can make putts on the biggest stages and under the most intense pressure. Its that razor thin edge he has on his competitors. Its the difference. He’s not afraid of the moment. All the greats had that gift. It cannot be taught. It can’t come from hours of practice. You either have it or you don’t. Spieth’s got it. Much can go wrong in golf. A ball hits a sprinkler head and bounces over the green, a perfect drive stops in a divot on the 72nd hole. An injury can derail a career. The odds say somebody else will be the best player on the PGA Tour in 2016. I’ll take my chances with Jordan Spieth.
(Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. He was not born with that intangible)