Jordan Spieth joins list of golf stars burdened by unattainable title
The problem with the search for the next Tiger Woods is that it supposes there will be one.
Jordan Spieth, the latest young star auditioning for the role of golf’s savior, is a very fine player with a very bright future.
"I think the average American is thinking this is the new guy. This is the most exciting thing in golf right now," Johnny Miller said during Sunday’s broadcast of The Players Championship.
"He has the ‘It’ factor, and, as he calls it, the ability to get it done. He gets it done is the bottom line."
Except that he doesn’t, Johnny.
Spieth isn’t a closer.
Not yet, at least.
He is discovering what the others burdened with the role of the Next Tiger — Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy — have found.
Heavy lies the crown.
Tiger so elevated expectations that second place — a lofty achievement in a 156-player field — is no longer viewed as a success but instead became what Tiger called "the first loser."
Hard to imagine a player walking away with $1.08 million for finishing runner-up — as Jim Furyk did on Sunday — feeling like much of a loser, but that’s how Woods changed the game: It’s all about getting the W.
Spieth had the stage on Sunday at The Players.
Four holes into the final round, the W beckoned. He had a two-shot lead and looked untouchable. He hadn’t made a bogey through the first three days — a feat achieved only once before, by Greg Norman in 1994.
But once the 20-year-old Texan made his first bogey on the exacting fifth hole — surrendering the solo lead he had taken over Martin Kaymer — he suddenly couldn’t stop making them.
Spieth had five bogeys in a disappointing 74 that left him in a tie for fourth.
It’s the ninth time in his short career that he has entered the final round in the top four. He has only one win — the 2013 John Deere Classic — and even that had a whiff of fortune to it, coming after he holed a bunker shot.
And, more to the point, this latest disappointment came just a month after he capitulated in the final round of the Masters after going into Sunday with a share of the lead.
As night fell on the PGA Tour’s headquarters, Spieth explained that although he was nervous on Sunday, he felt more comfortable than he had in other final rounds. But the loss, he said, was "tough to swallow."
"I’m stinging right now," Spieth said. "It’s not fun being that close and having opportunities and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off."
What he will need to do is get to the bottom of why the bad swings come when the pressure is at its highest.
Spieth has a homemade golf swing that is very dependent on timing. When he is swinging with good rhythm and tempo, he’s deadly. But, as he acknowledged, on Sunday he "just got a little quick." And, obviously, it’s not the first time that has happened. Even his world-class short game can’t rescue him from where those bad swings with the one-handed finishes leave him.
Spieth is taking the long-term view and not pushing the panic button.
"It’s not something that I feel like I’ve struggled with throughout my whole career, going back to junior days," he said. "So I don’t think much of it, other than I didn’t have my best stuff.
"I’m disappointed right now in how I performed, but I think I’m on the path to good things. It’s been a great year of putting myself in a lot of positions and having new experiences instead of having to come from behind, trying to hold leads.
"I think that is something that takes a little time to adapt to, and, hopefully I’m done trying (to learn)."
None of this is to say that the condition is terminal for Spieth. There will be many, many more Sundays in his future.
But what it is to say is that winning is hard on the PGA Tour.
Tiger just made it look easy.