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Spie’ll Be Just Fine: Spieth Down, Not Out

During the past week there has been much hand wringing and teeth gnashing about Jordan Spieth’s Armageddon at Amen Corner.

To those who put forward the idea that losing the way that he did will destroy the 22-year old psyche; go read another volume of Freud.

To those who have resurrected the notion that Spieth is overrated as a player; digest these figures. 1st, 1st, T-4th, 2nd, T-2nd. Those are Spieth’s finishes in the last 5 Majors.

And to the truly ignorant who have ridiculed his third shot on the par-3, 12th hole that Spieth hit so badly, it barely made it into the water hazard, you have obviously never played a meaningful golf shot in your life. If you had, you would have experienced something like that.

Everyone who has ever played the game has had moments like this. That means someone who just started playing all the way up to Jack Nicklaus.

It is the very nature of this quixotic pursuit. You spend a lot more time failing than you do succeeding. The trick is not to become burdened by your failures and to have the expectation that the next shot you hit, will be the greatest that you ever have played.

Nicklaus has won more Majors than anyone in the history of the game with 18, but he finished 2nd 19 times. We certainly wouldn’t describe that as failing, would we?

Nick Faldo was brutalized in the early part of his career by his own British press, who labeled him “Foldo” because of his inability to close out tournaments (people said similar things about Spieth before 2015). Sir Nick went on to win 6 Majors.

In the 1961 Masters, Arnold Palmer made a double-bogey 5 on his last hole to lose by a single stroke to Gary Player. Palmer would win the Open Championship later that same year and two more Masters (1962 and 1964) in his career.

Until Adam Scott’s brilliant win in the 2013 Masters, no Australian player had ever won the Green Jacket. That is some baggage. Additionally, Scott who for most of his 20’s was one of the game’s best players (and had the dubious label of “the best player not to have won a Major”), spent two years in golf’s wilderness as he turned 30 and lost his game. More baggage. And then a resurgent Scott triumphed where no Aussie ever had.

Payne Stewart’s nickname was “Avis” because he was always finishing second. Stewart won 2 U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship in his tragically shortened career in which he was at his best when the stage was the biggest.

Phil Mickelson finished second or third 8 times before winning his first Major at Augusta in 2004. Until that breakthrough win, Mickelson had developed a “bridesmaid’s” reputation that was becoming increasingly difficult to shed. Lefty now has 5 Majors to date and may well win another before the sun sets on his brilliant career.

Ben Hogan was a professional for 10 years before he won his first tournament and went broke several times in the process. He would go on to win 64 times on the PGA Tour including 9 Major Championships.

As Spieth openly acknowledged when being interviewed after Sunday’s round: “Big picture, this one will hurt. It will take a while.”

It will. But he will also recover from this just as all the great players have before him. At 22, the brightest star from the Lone Star state has won two Major Championships to go along with six other PGA Tour victories. By any measure, he is a success.

Spieth is dignified and courageous well beyond his years and is the antithesis of the modern day athlete. He is thoughtful, forthright, articulate and one of the best 3 players in the game.

Jordan Spieth will be just fine.