I probably won’t get enjoy the opportunity to meet Jordan Spieth. I’m retired and I just don’t travel in those circles anymore.
However, seeing and listening to him on TV makes me think there isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t instantly like him. He is clean-cut, well spoken, polite, respectful, intelligent and articulate. He is Archie Andrews, Beaver Cleaver, Huckleberry Finn and Indiana Jones all in one. More than anything, he can really play golf.
From a purist point of view, he doesn’t fulfill the dream of seeing a top player drive the ball like Palmer, Norman, Nicklaus, Hogan, Snead or Nelson. He doesn’t hit irons like Faldo, Miller, Trevino, Hogan, Nelson or Knudson.
However, he pitches the ball like: Floyd, Ford (Doug), Seve, Jose Maria and Runyan. He putts like Casper, Jones, Nicklaus, Woods and Locke. However, more than any other attribute, he has the course management skills of: Jones, Nicklaus, Hogan, Woods and Faldo and he has that unknown quality of being able to salvage victory out of no possible chanc.
No possible chance is defined by a process that mortal people like me go through when analyzing a situation. We apply experience, logic, history, reason, common sense, judgment and rationale We are cerebral, deep thinking, consistent, reliable and wrong.
Remember hearing this: “Well Rossie, what’s he got”?
“Well Dave (Marr) if he gets this on the green, he has hit a great shot.”
Marr: “It’s up; it’s moving toward the hole, it stops close for a tap-in. What a shot.” Did you ever hear one person on TV ever say “Rossie, do your glasses work okay?”
These are the best players in the world and when they are in the last group on Sunday, they hit great shots under these circumstances. That’s why they win.
Rossi and I drink the same milk. I never won anything of consequence and, although Bob Rosburg won the PGA Championship and five other tour events, he is best known as a wonderful putter and a TV commentator, perhaps because he viewed difficult shots as “no possible chance.”
Walter Hagen was probably the first of the swashbucklers. Slash one somewhere down the fairway, swipe one near the green, chip up or in, sink a putt or two and count your winnings.
Paul Runyan won 29 tour events (nine in one year) by driving the ball 225 yards (20 per cent less than other players at the time), an amazing feat for a person who stood only five-foot-four. Seve succeeded through his short game prowess as did Doug Ford, Ben Crenshaw and Gary Player.
Last is the ability to think golf. In my opinion, four players stand head and shoulders above all others in their ability to determine how best to play a golf course. They are Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
They also have that indescribable thing called intuition. They see events before they happen in a way most people can’t comprehend after they have happened. In the case of superstar athletes, only a few have had proprioception to a degree that they can perform superhuman results almost at will.
It seems as if Jordan Spieth has this quality. His introspection into the problems he faces in certain pressure-filled instances is different than other people. Wayne Gretzky saw the game in a far different way than any other hockey player.
Bobby Orr was a better player (in my opinion, the best), but more from a purely talented perspective. Gretzky’s vision allowed him to be considered one of the best or even arguably the best hockey player ever with fewer skills and less talent than Orr. Spieth is similar.
Having said that, Spieth also has the smile of good fortune, not unlike a person who wins a lottery for hundreds of millions of dollars. What particular vocation, effort, skill, knowledge or talent has the winner exhibited that will project them into a lifestyle joining that of very accomplished people?
Take for example the recent events that unraveled on the 13th hole of The Open. Spieth, who had played some excellent golf, began the round with a three-stroke lead and after nine holes of play was tied with Matt Kuchar.
After 12 holes they were still tied and after 13, Kuchar was one stroke up. He played the next five holes in one under par and lost by three. How is that even possible you ask?
Well, Grier Jones lead the Hawaiian Open by two with five holes to play and shot two under par to lose by one to Jack Nicklaus. Everyone knows about Jack Nicklaus. Nobody ever heard about Grier Jones since.
In Spieth’s case he hit a drive on 13 a long way off line ,but still within shouting distance of the fairway. The ball then struck a spectator in the head and bounced up over a massive sand dune, down the other side coming to rest in a prison of Scottish flora and turmoil.
Calculations by Roger Maltbie, roving TV reporter, indicated that Jordan’s ball was approximately 90 to 100 yards from the centre of the fairway, a result that would make Ben Hogan go into stomach convulsions.
Now, here’s the interesting part. TV announcer and one-time fantastic player, Johnny Miller whined repeatedly that Spieth, after declaring his ball unplayable, should return to the tee to play his next shot. Spieth never once indicated any desire to do so. His sole focus was to find a way to advance his ball toward the green in as few strokes as possible trying attain a score of four or five.
It’s an innate intuitive talent that is rarely given. He thought if he could leave 13 just one down, he could win the OpenChampionship.
Thunder rolled and a lightning bolt flashed, a greater power than mankind decided to intervene. Just as Jordan Spieth faced certain disaster for his untimely, horrible tee shot he was provided with what might become the biggest break of his career.
Remember, the last time Spieth faced a guaranteed victory was when he a held significant lead in the Masters and plunked his way into the pond on 12.
These occurrences have an unsettling way of destroying young ambitions and careers. They have a way of becoming ear worms nagging away at inappropriate times, changing history. Spieth was in a position on the first tee to become the second-fastest person ever to win three majors and here he was, knee deep in a hay field, on the side of a dune a long way from the green facing one of the most reliable competitors on the PGA Tour.
Was he about to let the pressure of the moment erase all of his hard work? Would he succumb to ridicule as a person who failed to finish again?
As he wandered around the countryside hoping for a miracle location to drop his ball, it suddenly occurred to him that one of his options was to take the ball back as far as he wanted on a straight line between him and the hole.
So, miracle No. 1 was hitting a spectator at exactly the correct angle which, in theory, is a circle striking a circle. It did so with enough force and trajectory to enable a collision resulting in an unplayable lie some 40 yards further from the fairway. If the ball had missed the patron, Spieth’s chances to win might have been diminished.
Miracle No. 2, he determined that in going back along the line, keeping the original spot and the hole in the same straight line, he could drop his ball on the driving range.
Miracle number three: the driving range was the location of multiple equipment trucks. When the rules officials determined his drop location, he was then behind several immovable obstructions and was entitled to further line of sight relief. In total, he had a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie and no penalty for relief from the immovable obstructions.
Miracle No. 1 is an act of greater powers. He hit some poor person and his ball went into a position that allowed the driving range to be considered as an option.
Miracle No. 2 is the fact the driving range wasn’t marked out of bounds. This is inconsistent with just about every similar situation in the history of championship golf. A driving range isn’t part of the course. The driving range is part of the property from which play is forbidden, end of story.
Blend into the mi, a bunch of equipment trailers which once again scream a warning to the rules officials that this area is out of bounds for safety reasons.
Earlier in the tournament, Jason Day decided he could acquire a better angle and shorter shot into the ninth green if he hit his tee ball down the tenth fairway. Instantly the R&A ruled that this jeopardized the safety of players and patrons and declared an on-the-property out of bounds; something they detest doing.
An equipment park/driving range should be off limits to players during their round. The only conceivable reason might be that it is so far from the playing surface that nobody ever dreamed someone would want to take a drop on it particularly the eventual winner.
Jordan Spieth might have the introspection to understand the rules and know the game well enough to capitalize on a situation, but how do you control the velocity and angle of striking a patron in the head to receive the bounce that resulted in an unplayable lie that turned out to be less unplayable than if it missed the guy?
How do explain that in this tournament, at this strategic moment, that this particular player with all his skills, expertise, talent hits the most condemning of tee shots and catapults it into forgiveness for past failures and perhaps an abruptly-terminated career into one of the greatest careers of all-time?
It is Jordan Spieth, an extremely good player who has a charmed streak to go with it and that’s what makes a hall of fame career. He got some very big breaks. Instead of a choice to drop on a line between him and the hole in waist high rough or within two club lengths in a similar mess or return to the tee to face the same tee shot he just hit 60 yards off line, he catches a break.
He could have made a six or worse and been branded not able to close, but instead, he reversed his slide and becomes one of the greatest closers of all time.
Jordan Spieth is a special player. Enjoy watching his career unfold.