No one seems to downplay Jordan Spieth’s accomplishments more than Jordan Spieth. After vaulting to World Number One in 2015 and further securing the ranking by winning the Tour Championship, he assured everyone that he couldn’t expect to repeat a season that included a Masters win, a U.S. Open win and, oh yes, $22 million in prize money (not including the millions made in sponsorship money from brands like Under Armour and Titleist).
Spieth was at it again Sunday evening at Kapalua, Hawaii. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to have a year like last year,” he said. However, all this was said as he was clutching hardware won moments before by trouncing a field of last year’s PGA Tour winners by eight strokes in 2016’s first event. It’s really getting hard to believe the things Jordan Spieth says.
It’s Tough Finding Motivation When You Reach Number One
When you beat down the world’s best golfers while seemingly on cruise control, sometimes you have to start setting different goals. For Spieth at the par 73 Kapalua links, it was to reach 30 under par. He managed to get there, playing the 16 par-fives in 16 under par, even though he is not considered a “long hitter.” Spieth became only the second PGA golfer to dip that deep into red numbers, joining Ernie Els who set the record of 31-under par on the same track back in 2003.
Spieth’s seventh PGA Tour victory immediately triggered yet more comparisons to Tiger Woods, who was the last player to collect seven Tour wins before his 23rd birthday. And of course Spieth was even quicker to deflect such talk (“What Tiger has done I can’t imagine ever being done.”) The modest Texan may have been right in this case; the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was Spieth’s 77th event and Woods got his wins in just 38 tournaments. Spieth’s unassuming “aw shucks” assessment of his career accomplishments also stands in stark contrast to young Woods, who at the same age was making television commercials vowing to “change the world” and kick every other golfer’s behind.
Lies and Statistics
If there are still doubters that Jordan Spieth is the best golfer on the planet as the year 2016 dawns, there is statistical evidence to back up those thoughts. Consider that in 2015 Spieth ranked 78th in Driving Distance and was not particularly accurate at the same time – 80th in Driving Accuracy. Four dozen PGA players were better at hitting greens and he was only 26th in Proximity to the Hole. Best ball striker on Tour? It wasn’t Jordan Spieth – he sat at 45th in All-Around Ball Striking. And that was the precocious Texan’s best year yet statistically.
However, those middle-of-the-pack statistics omit one club in the bag – the putter. If it seemed like Spieth was holing putts from all over Kapalula’s massive greens, it was not an illusion. Spieth led the elite field by picking up 1.91 strokes putting and he gained 2.395 strokes from tee to green, which also led the field.
So is Jordan Spieth just a good golfer who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and rises to the top of the game behind a magical putter? As he continually reminds those who want to anoint him as the next generational golfer, it still very early for such pronouncements. He could very well just be going through an early career hot streak. Or, he could be getting better as a ball-striker and those five wins and two majors in 2015 could be a launching pad to join the pantheon of Jones and Hogan and Nicklaus and Woods. Either way, it will be fun to find out.