The Comeback Kid
It was only 6 years ago that Jordan Spieth was being universally anointed as the second coming of Woods/Nicklaus. The then 21-year-old phenom had just captured his second Major Championship and the golf world was agog with the engaging young Texan.
In a torrid stretch of superb and consistent play from 2015-2017, Spieth was a constant each week on every leaderboard recording an incredible 35 Top 10’s in 69 starts. He was ranked #1 in the world for 26 weeks during that stretch and captured three Majors and a Tour Championship. Spieth won eleven times on the PGA Tour by the time he was 23 years old.
This game can be a very fickle bedfellow even for the most brilliant of its lights.
Last week, Spieth entered the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with a two-shot lead that he would relinquish to Daniel Berger. Spieth shot a respectable closing round 70 to finish in a tie for third.
The week before he had a share of the third-round lead at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix before faltering on Sunday with a pedestrian 72 leaving him in a tie for fourth. It was his first Top 10 finish since last June.
We like our heroes to be humbled. But we love them when they rebound and overcome adversity. Since winning the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Spieth has gone winless on the PGA Tour. The very notion of that back in 2017 was unthinkable. It is golf. It is life.
The magnifying glass that Spieth has been under must have been excruciating but throughout all of his failures, he has remained forthright, polite and engaging (not easy things to do when dealing with the constant questions that generally ask “why do you suck?”).
Spieth has admitted to not knowing where his driver is going (all Tour players have a “miss”; i.e., they know where their bad shots tend to go) and that he’s “got some scar tissue”. Very few players would treat a slump like this with the grace and honesty that Spieth has.
In another display of Spieth’s character, he has remained with his swing coach, Cameron McCormick who has been his teacher since he was a child. Most every “expert” has suggested that he should change coaches. Not Spieth.
Nor did he lay the blame for his poor play on his caddie, Michael Greller (the only caddie he has ever had), as so many players have done and would do.
Spieth was once again a front runner this week at storied Riviera Golf Course at the Genesis Open. At the halfway mark he was in a tie for 3rd at 7-under par, 4 shots behind Sam Burns. Three early birdies moved Spieth into a tie for second before 3 back-9 bogies in brutal windy conditions in Saturday’s third round and 2-over par 72 left him on the periphery of contention, in a tie for 11th.
Spieth was solid on Sunday but was never able to mount a challenge carding an even par 71 finishing in a tie for 15th. The week would belong 30-year-old American, Max Homa who bested Tony Finau on the second hole of sudden death for his second PGA Tour win. It was another heartbreaking close call for the supremely talented Finau who has a slew of them but only one win to date in his career. If Finau can learn to win he may open the floodgates to huge success.
Spieth’s play though over the last 3 weeks represents a real return to form and will prove a significant step back on the ladder to victory.
The measure of a person is not how they handle victory but how they deal with defeat. Not how they celebrate in triumph but how they overcome in disaster.
The one-time wunderkind is now becoming the Comeback Kid and the writing is on the wall that his four-year drought will soon be over.