Player Spotlight Series: Jordan Spieth
For this edition of the Player Spotlight, we’re turning the focus on none other than the Number Two ranked golfer, Jordan Spieth. For many years, the only notoriety the John Deere Classic had on the PGA Tour was that it was the tournament lodged in the unfortunate spot on the golf calendar the week before the Open Championship, so most top players skipped the Illinois event. Tournament organizers scrambled to make their event more appealing; they handed an exemption to 15-year old Michelle Wie to play in a men’s event, and they chartered a flight directly to Great Britain after the final putts on Sunday night to an attempt to gain some more players.
That all changed in 2013 when a University of Texas dropout (and 120th-ranked player in the world) named Jordan Spieth, holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to force his way into a playoff with defending champion Zach Johnson and Canadian, David Hearn. Spieth won the tournament with a par on the fifth extra hole, and at age 19 became the youngest PGA Tour winner ever. It is now two years later and Spieth is one of the biggest names in golf and, being a loyal guy who remembers where it all started, decided to go ahead and win the John Deere Classic again in 2015,even as he pursues golf’s elusive single-season Grand Slam.
Building to another John Deere Classic Title
Spieth was far from unknown in golf circles before his breakthrough at the TPC Deere Run. He had played in his hometown Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas when he was 16 years old, and finished 16th. He was a low amateur in the U.S. Open and, before that, Spieth had won two U.S. Junior Amateur titles. Only Tiger Woods ever won more than one of those.
Nevertheless, despite the glittering teenage golf resume, the golf world was not panting for Spieth’s arrival as it had been for Woods two decades earlier. Even the win at the John Deere Classic did not lead golf headlines that week – Phil Mickelson’s dramatic playoff win in the Scottish Open cast a news shadow over Spieth’s heroics. Although his gifts are evident to the trained golfing eye, there is nothing about Spieth’s game to make casual onlookers drop their jaws in awe. Instead, he is just remarkably solid through the bag, as evidenced by his career low round of 61 last Saturday en route to another John Deere Classic title.
“Which one is Spieth?”
The 6’1″ Spieth is cut from the same corporate country club cloth that drapes most of the PGA Tour. For the average fan, Spieth differentiates himself from the current crop of young guns mostly on the leaderboard. Poised beyond his years, Spieth is deeply rooted in family values—grounded in the special needs of his younger sister, Ellie, who was born with a neurological disorder. Watch this video that outlines the special relationship he has with Ellie:
Spieth went on to make the 2013 Presidents Cup, and snagged PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors, but the non-golfing world got its first dose of Jordan Spieth at the 2014 Masters when he shared the lead after 54 holes. His bid to become the youngest Masters champion ever derailed over the back nine on Sunday and he settled for youngest-ever runner-up honors.
For the rest of the year, while Rory McIlroy hypnotized golf fans by winning the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, and others trundled off to follow the continuing soap opera of Woods’ comeback travails, Spieth went on a record-setting birdie binge in obscure, off-the-radar November events that served notice of something special in 2015. He won in March at the Valspar Championship and pulled himself to Number Six in the world.
Spieth then electrified Masters onlookers by racking up 28 birdies and reaching 19 under par at Augusta, numbers never before seen. His play at the U.S. Open this past June was more solid than spectacular, but when Dustin Johnson self-destructed on the 72nd green, he had that title as well. In a matter of months people shifted from talking about the Rory Slam to a real Grand Slam. Naturally, sponsorships accompanied his phenomenal success, including ones from Titleist, Under Armour, SuperStroke Grips, Rolex and NetJets.
How is he doing all of this at such a young age? Check out this piece from PGATour.com back in May that highlights not only Jordan’s thoughts on his success, but some great praise from his peers:
If his success continues this week at The Open Championship and he can find a way to take home the Claret Jug, there will be a whirlwind of media coverage on his quest for the elusive single-season Grand Slam. If he can accomplish that so young in his career, then in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’.