Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jordan Spieth Comes Home

My Apologies
Well, my Joe Namath impression failed. I guaranteed a win for Spieth over a difficult 3 game stretch. Bad timing, trying to introduce all you NFL fans to the PGA - during the worst season in years. Although we hit 2 winners last week -  I'll stop telling you to bet him every week. He is at home in Texas the next two weeks. We didn't end up with a winning ticket yet. But, there is way more to the story. The conclusion is well worth watching.

As Luck Would have it.
If you're like me - Mud bowls are fun once in a while. But, you would rather see crisp routes run on astroturf and perfect spirals thrown high in the air for touchdowns. It's the same for golf. Watching an approach shot sail hundreds of feet into the air and land a few feet from the hole is a thing of beauty. Not as much fun when they bounce off the green and land in the rough 30 feet away. The Legends on the PGA tour made a living doing 3 things well. Hitting Fairways, Hitting Greens and Putting. Up and Downs from the Bunker are important - but only if you didn't do one of the first two right. This season you can get them all right and still finish 35th. As we move into week 13 of the PGA season - luck continues to play way too much of a role in the outcome of tournaments. 

Changing of the Guard
In spite of firm greens and high winds - there is more to the story. Tiger woods and a host of other marque names are either out with injury or simply failing to dominate. Tiger Woods made Golf cool 15 years ago. Those kids who thought so - are on tour now. Lots of them! They all have the advantage of knowing everything about swing theory and ball flight that their predecessors had to discover on their own. But as Sean Foley has proven - coaching Tiger Woods - technical expertise is not enough. Woods has wasted the last few years on technical snake oil. He'd have 3 more majors if he just relied on his knowledge of the game instead of reinventing his swing. So being Young, Talented, and having Technical Expertise is not enough in the long run. But a lot of these kids have been playing for years and are learning the ropes on tour quicker than anyone expected.

Paying your Dues.
Once you have all the mechanics in place - then you learn how to play golf on the PGA tour.  When to go for it - when to lay up. Walking miles of fairway with a microphone recording your every whisper. That's not a problem for most rookies. They don't don't even get coverage for 5 or 10 years - if ever. 150 play every week. How many names do you know? Jordan Spieth has been under the microscope from the gate - before he was even a PGA member. Keeping your head straight and your emotions in check for 4 days straight is a mental and physical marathon. They don't get golf carts like we do. This newcomer has been paying his dues since the age of 11. That's when he won his first junior amateur. Then he excelled in the NCAA. Now he's doing them same on the PGA tour. All before he's old enough to order a beer or rent a car.

Jordan Spieth - Seriously

Is that the Face of a Kid Playing Around?

The answer is twofold. First of all YES. He loves this game and has fun playing it. At the same time NO. He will shake your hand, sincerely admire your accomplishments, and then embarrass you in public. He did exactly that to Tiger, Phil and Matt Kuchar - all before he was old enough to drink. When paired with Tiger and Phil, he bettered them both by 8 strokes. Kuchar called him a "Little Kid". Spieth Crushed Him - Head to Head - in Match play the next day.

He's Got Game
Joe Montana didn't have the arm strength or other attributes to make him a first round draft pick. But he had the will to win. Spieth dos not always lead the PGA in stats - but he too - has that special quality you cant teach or practice. He has Game.  

Uneven Playing Field
Unlike Montana, he has been thrust into the spotlight faster than any athlete in sports history. Last year, before he even had his tour card - he was given Prime time Tee Times, Won his first PGA Tourney, earned an invite to the Masters and was Chosen for the Presidents cup.
Unlike Montana - he's not playing on the same field every week. He's never seen half the courses he plays on. Competing against veterans who've been winning on them for decades.

19 with a Bullet
He turned 20 after his first win. The kid has been pushed through the Media Machine faster than soft lead through a gun Barrel. Amazing his head hasn't changed shape. He has the youthful good looks of Ricky Fowler, but his wardrobe doesn't cater to 12 year olds. He is as gracious as Steve Stricker - But with the calculating edge of a Hitman.  I think he will come out on top - because above all - he is a student of the game. You get to the head of the class quick - doing homework when the other kids are playing. All PGA players work hard at their craft. I just think he may be more solely focused than anyone else right now. That, and the fact that he was raised right - is the only reason he has handled the unequaled attention he has received in a very short period at a very young age. He has learned to be cautious, and Lay up when needed. But he is not playing for second place either. That makes him dangerous. I think his strongest asset though is the rare combination of Confidence and Humility. 

Valero Interview
In this weeks pregame interview  - I listened closely. Had the attention went to his head. Where was his head at? When asked about the high expectations the media has predicted for him - he passed the test. Instead of boasting - he pointed out that other young players have several wins on tour this year. He is still looking for his first. That's maturity and class speaking. You can't teach that.

Valero and Beyond
This weeks Texas Venue features narrow fairways and lots of trees and hazards of you miss them. Great place to dominate if you know the course. He does. Also an easy place to choke if you make a few wrong moves. So, rather than guaranteeing a win. I will guarantee only one thing. Now that you know his story. If you enjoy rooting for a talented underdog. Watch him on Sundays - you wont be disappointed. The Final Round is broadcast each week on NBC or CBS starting around Noon. 

The Masters - Just Another Week?
Spieth was interviewed this week about his upcoming Masters debut. He referred to it as "Just another week." Was that Bravado or disrespect? No! It was survival. Unlike Patrick Reed - He did not call himself Top 5 or boast in any way. He was just keeping things in perceptive. Anytime you see your opponent as bigger or better than yourself - you have lost. After all, on any given Sunday - on the PGA - you are not playing the Field you are playing the Course.

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