By any measure 21-year old Jordan Spieth has had a phenomenal first two seasons as a PGA Tour player. With his first Tour Event in 2013 at the John Deere Classic at age 19 he became the first teenager in 82 years to win a tour event. Garnering close to $3.9 million in winnings he was a “within the leather” for Rookie of the Year in 2013.
In 2014 with a 2nd at the Masters, 8 top tens on the PGA Tour, and a successful Ryder Cup appearance he took the next step forward with another $4.2 million in tour earnings. The lack of a second tournament win was the only “blemish” in an otherwise accomplished season.
Young Spieth and Reed held their own at the 2014 Ryder CupEmbed from Getty Images
Taking a page from the Peter Uihlein/Brooks Koepka book of young player development, Jordan Spieth took his game on the road, the global road, the last two weeks, playing in the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Tour and then the Australian Open in Sydney with good results.
As Aussie Mike Clayton was quoted in Geoff Shackelford’s website posting, “It is more than heartening… he seems to understand the importance of developing his game outside of America. Players can make fortunes without ever owning a passport….but to be judged a truly great golfer one needs to venture beyond the shores of the United States and both test and develop a game in unfamiliar conditions.”
Foreign time zones and reverse toilet flushes aside, Jordan stood up to the test nicely finishing tied third behind Hideki Matsuyama in Japan and then bested a talented field in Australia, which included World #1 Rory McIlroy and the favorite son down-under Adam Scott, with a final round bogey-free 63 to win the Australian Open at 13-under by six shots. The Stonehaven Cup bears the names of many of the games greatest players including Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Greg Norman. The significance of this was not lost on Spieth.
Trying to defend was a trying experience for the World #1Embed from Getty Images
The Australian Golf Club, host venue for this year’s Emirates Australian Open, is one of the oldest clubs in the country dating back to the 1880s. Recently renovated with an unlimited budget under the direction of Jack Nicklaus the course may be the best championship test in Australia.
This place has an Americanized look of tight driving throats, serpentine fairway routings, threatening water and sand, and small segmented greens with lots of facet. It has more of the feel of a Sea Island, Georgia course then the Melbourne Sand Belt tracks we have come to associate with Australian championship golf. The green complexes in particular, many raised from the fairway and presenting narrow segments for pin placements meant that a creative and adept short game and nerveless putting would be required.
In a zone Jordan had more than his share of fist pumps on SundayEmbed from Getty Images
Add more than a spot of wind this week and scores in red numbers were hard to come by. Only eight players were under par for the week. Jordan played an unperturbed final round with 8 birdies and no bogies. His three birdies in a row on the front side kept all the competitors at bay and three birdies over the last four holes on the inward nine slammed the door with authority. His 21 putts in the final round is something Aussies will be talking about for years to come.
Jordan said, “This week was big because I was able to close it out. If felt the pressure and felt the nerves and performed the best I’ve ever performed.” Rory Mcilroy’s tweet to Jordan afterward is revealing, “You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn’t sniff 63….well done…very impressive”.
Spieth is forever connected to the great names who have won here
On what handling the pressure in this international win means to future “major” successes Spieth said, “In order to do this in majors, it’s going to take a lot more than it took this week”. Pretty sobering thinking for a 21-year old.
From what we have seen this week Spieth has the full set of skills and is not afraid to use them. It is not going out on a limb to predict that a major tournament trophy will bear his name sooner rather than later.