The reviews are in, and Spieth has thoroughly impressed his peers
January 08, 2014
By Garrett Johnston, PGATOUR.COM
- January 08, 2014
- Jordan Spieth has quickly established himself as a force on the PGA TOUR. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jordan Spieth’s impressive rookie season in 2013 caused quite a stir among his peers on the PGA TOUR. As a 19-year-old, Spieth became the youngest TOUR winner since 1931 when he claimed the John Deere Classic. He then wrapped up his season as a member of the victorious U.S. team at The Presidents Cup.
“It was probably the best rookie year I would say of anybody, better than even Tiger’s,” John Mallinger said. “You’ll see guys play well for two weeks at a time. But his consistency over the year was probably the best I’ve ever seen. And he putts like a 19-year-old.”
Added Brendon Todd, who played with Spieth on the Web.com Tour in early 2013: “I thought it was one of the greatest years put together by a young player that I’ve ever heard of. Insane.”
Players who tasted success early in their careers appreciate the magnitude of Spieth’s breakthrough at such a young age.
“It is incredible that he was 20 and representing his country in a Presidents Cup, that was just awesome. And he performed really well, at such a high level, which was incredibly impressive,” said Matt Kuchar, who played the Masters and U.S. Open when he was 20.
“The standards that he is playing at are far beyond where I was playing at age 20,” added Jason Day, who was 22 when he won the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship.
When Ted Potter Jr. was in his early 20s, he was playing on the Web.com Tour and missing 24 straight cuts. Potter won his first PGA TOUR event when he claimed The Greenbrier Classic in 2012 at age 29.
That perspective left him with a greater appreciation of what Spieth accomplished as a 19 year old.
“I smile and I’m just going to be happy for him,” Potter said. “It’s great for the game of golf, for the fans sitting at home watching and supporting.”
The tender age of 19 also contributed to a helpful ignorance, according to Jason Gore.
“It’s an Ignorance is bliss kind of thing,” Gore said. “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing so you just go. You don’t realize how important that is.”
Tour veteran and now Champions Tour member Kirk Triplett sees in Spieth a player whose ability goes beyond the technical aspects.
“I think people have kind of overlooked him because his swing might not be technically perfect,” Triplett said. “I think that tells you the secret to being a really great player doesn’t lie in your swing, it lies in what you have inside and can you make the shot when it counts.”
Spieth undoubtedly delivered the shots when they counted most at the John Deere Classic. To some of those who played with Speith that week, the wonder-kid didn’t have complete control of his game but kept his focus.
“He struggled for the first 12 holes of that tournament,” said fellow 2013 rookie Luke Guthrie, who was one of Spieth’s playing partners for the first two rounds that week. “He was hanging around even par and fighting hard. Who knows, for most players that might get to them and they would start heading over par but he kept going, stayed with it, and won the thing.”
Another 2013 rookie, Scott Langley, played with Spieth during Saturday’s third round at the John Deere and saw many a good bounce head the young Texan’s way.
“I remember one on 18, he made a great par, he drove it up on the right -- almost went out of bounds I think -- it hit a tree and came back in,” Langley said. “Then he kind of punched out, hit another tree and it stopped it from going in the water left, and then he chipped on to like 15 feet and then made a great putt.
“You could kind of tell that it was his week,” Langley said. “Jordan played far and above anyone else in 2013 on the rookie level. It was a dominant performance among our class.”
William McGirt played with Spieth five times in 2013 and likes what he sees in the 20-year-old, who started his 2014 campaign with a second-place finish at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
“There’s not a weakness to his game,” McGirt said. “The closer he gets to the hole, the better his game. He may be the best bunker player on TOUR.”
McGirt was witness to bunker wizardry from Spieth during the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance when he got up and down from 15 of 16 greenside bunkers in the first two rounds.
“The only one he didn’t get up-and-down was one that he couldn’t get it with a Baco Tractor,” McGirt said due to the angle of the shot. “His short game blew my mind. Those were not easy bunkers. It was as if he was walking into the bunkers thinking ‘huh I can make this’.”
John Cook, an 11-time TOUR winner, sees something different in Spieth than other young talents.
“You can’t put a word or a value on talent, and potential, and there are a lot of really good young players,” Cook said. “Jordan Spieth had an opportunity and he took advantage of it and a lot of guys don’t. They’re 20 or 21 and they get out of their element a little bit.”
Veteran and fellow Texan Ryan Palmer believes Spieth plays at as level well beyond his years.
“He’s a 28-year-old veteran in a 20-year-old’s body,” Ryan Palmer said. “He’s an impressive player and a good kid, too.”
Indeed. The sentiment that Spieth is an old soul is a common one from TOUR players and observers.
“He’s one of the guys you actually pull for,” McGirt said. “He knows how to handle the situations with class even if he doesn’t play well.”
Spieth’s command of golf’s mental side is what grabs Luke List’s attention.
“It’s incredible what he’s done,” List said. “I’m more impressed with his mental strength. It’s nuts that he’s only 20 and doing this.”
Derek Ernst, another 2013 rookie who broke through with a TOUR win last year, sees Spieth as being on another level.
In February of 2013, the two played a practice round the Sunday before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
On that day at Pebble, Spieth left after nine holes to watch the Super Bowl. Ernst forged on and finished but who would have thought then where both would be now.
“He’s a different type,” Ernst said. “Nothing fazes him. He has no fear at all.”
Golf’s preeminent play-by-play voice at CBS Sports, Jim Nantz, enjoys having Spieth as a major part of golf’s narrative.
“It's exciting to have such a gifted young player performing at such a high level,” Nantz said. “Even better, he is a quality kid. I could not be more impressed.”