There may be some people who were surprised when Jordan Spieth became the first teenager since 1931 to win a PGA Tournament on Sunday, claiming the John Deere Classic in a thrilling five-hole playoff.
Those people must not know the 19-year-old Dallas native that well.
The people who know Spieth, who earned a spot in the British Open as well as full status on the PGA Tour, aren’t surprised at all. Just like they weren’t surprised when a 16-year-old Spieth was a contender in his first PGA Tour event. Or when, last year, Spieth was the low amateur at the U.S. Open and finished 21st.
To those people, Spieth’s Sunday win was just another step in his progression to becoming one of the top golfers in the world, 19 or not.
“In no way does it shock me,” said University of Texas golf coach John Fields. “He’s so super talented. He’s one of the two guys on the planet to have won multiple United States juniors and the other one is Tiger Woods. He’s the only guy in the state of Texas to win three state high school titles in a row. The state includes Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Justin Leonard and Mark Brooks. Just look at his success. His dreams and aspirations are really high. The cool thing is he has the ability to accomplish those things.”
Spieth has done something those golfers and plenty of others haven’t accomplished. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy each notched their first professional victories when they were 20. Spieth doesn’t turn 20 for two weeks, but he’s already put together an impressive resume.
Spieth won the Class 5A state titles at Dallas Jesuit in 2009, 2010 and 2011. His junior year also included his run at the Byron Nelson that ended with a tie for 16th place. He won every junior award imaginable and that was before he enrolled at the University of Texas.
All he did at UT was become the nation’s top junior golfer and lead the Longhorns to the 2011 national title. He left school following the first semester of his sophomore year to turn pro. He did so by playing with sponsors’ exemptions.
While some would have considered that a risky move, Spieth made 11 of 15 cuts this year and had five top-10 finishes to go along with more than $1.2 million in earnings. And that was before this weekend.
So about that risky decision?
“As a 16-year-old, this might sound a little pompous, but I felt like his skills were tour caliber,” said Cameron McCormick, Spieth’s coach since he was 12. “What wasn’t tour caliber were his mental control and the way he developed. He’s been able to maintain the skills he had at the time, get better and become mentally stronger.”
McCormick, a Dallas- based coach, talked to Spieth Sunday morning. Spieth didn’t sound nervous to McCormick at all and went out and played that way. He chipped in from the bunker on the 18th hole to get into the playoff and then made a key putt on the fourth playoff hole to stay alive.
While Spieth is now heading to Muirfield for this weekend’s British Open with a lot more of a spotlight on him, those who know him don’t expect anything to change.
Spieth lives in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas with a roommate, who is also a pro golfer. He said Sunday that he’s still driving the same Chevrolet Yukon he did before turning pro. It doesn’t sound like the win will impact his lifestyle much.
“I’m extremely cheap as it is, because I was very cheap in college,” Spieth told reporters Sunday “It hasn’t really changed. Maybe I’ll work into it a little bit. But for now, the check is the check, but this is what I wanted. So I’m happy to have it. I’m just happy I got one of those big checks instead of one of the little ones.”
More big checks in Spieth’s future seem to be a certainty.
As for whether or not Spieth will become the next Woods, McIlroy or Mickelson, it’s impossible to tell. There have been plenty of young golfers who made a run and then fizzled out. But those who know Spieth don’t see his career going that way.
“He told people when he came to Texas he wanted to win a national championship and he did that,” Fields said. “He told people he wanted to be the best player in college golf and he was ranked No. 1. I know his desire is to be the best player in the world. He’s made more than $2 million. He’d like to take his time, have an incredibly successful career and play golf. He’s aspiring to be the best player in the world. I think that’s attainable for him.”