A few months ago, I wrote a piece claiming that Jordan Spieth would be golf’s next big thing. At that time, he was preparing to play at Colonial as a “Champion’s Choice” invitee, where he would go on to earn his fourth top-10 of his rookie season.
I had been coming off of the weeks of hype surrounding Chinese phenom Tianlang Guan, and when I really looked into Spieth, it was apparent he had just as much talent as the younger Guan. Now, I’m certainly not saying I was even close to the first to recognize this, but with all the media attention surrounding the “youth movement” in the game, it seemed to me that if Guan was the future, Spieth would be the present.
Of course, there’s no denying the fact that Spieth has some serious game. He had his rough outings, including four missed cuts and several disappointing finishes, but he always seemed to be just one good day and a few breaks from victory.
Sunday turned out to be that day for the 19-year-old Texan. Having already made enough money on the PGA Tour in 2013 to secure full member status for next season, Spieth’s win at the John Deere Classic is a breakthrough in what has already been a phenomenal year. What’s most impressive is just how he pulled it off.
Coming down the stretch in regulation, it looked like Spieth was going to have yet another “almost” event. Zach Johnson was playing a few groups behind Spieth, and even a one or two-stroke lead might have been insurmountable as scoring opportunities were readily available at seemingly every hole. If Johnson just kept up what he had already done for three days already, this tournament was over.
Then it wasn’t.
When I talk about the way Spieth won, I’m not just talking about his incredible hole-out for birdie from the greenside bunker on the 18th, although that’s the shot that got him in the playoff. He showed a lot of heart in not only posting a third straight round of 65 (coming back from a six-stroke deficit to start the day), but also in the way he worked through the playoff with Johnson and David Hearn.
Several times, both Johnson and Hearn had Spieth on the ropes, but he made some clutch putts to stay alive and recovered from trouble on the fifth playoff hole to win.
Next up for Spieth is an unplanned trip to Scotland to play in this week’s Open Championship. When he returns, he’ll finally be able to cash in all the FedEx Cup points he’s earned and shed the “Special Temporary” part of his PGA Tour membership status.
I said it then and I’ll say it again: Jordan Spieth is going to be a force in golf for a long, long time.