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Jordan Spieth: The rookie golfer who lived a fairy tale

Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 27 Sep 2013, 10:24 IST
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Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

It is a fairy tale, the kinds of which even the protagonist, floating in the dense comfort of its misty clouds finds difficult to believe. Not very long ago, Jordan Spieth was an amateur golfer polishing his clubs with the Longhorns at the University of Texas.

The man from Dallas was thrust into a dream last year, when he tied for 21st to finish as the low amateur at the US Open. Encouraged by the taste of it, Spieth gave up the comfort of college in the pursuit of golfing luxury when he turned professional towards the end of last year. Less than a year later, the 20 year old is basking in the reflection of a full tour card and nearly $4mn in earnings. The journey has been an exhilarating ride for both Spieth and the spectators following the rousing performances of the rookie golfer.

In the first week of June 2012, Spieth had just helped the Longhorns win their first NCAA title in 40 years. The team made an emotional journey back to Austin, but after a long night Spieth had to wake up in the wee hours to drive for the US Open sectional qualifiers. The Texan missed out in the playoff even as he extracted as much as he could out of travel weary, sleep deprived body. The consolation of being the first alternative turned into a major cause for celebration when Brandt Snedeker made space due to a lingering rib injury. Spieth took the opportunity with both hands to announce his credentials to the world.

Despite his impressive successes, his decision to turn professional in December was not without risk. Spieth was depending on sponsor exemptions and there is a limit of seven, which meant that the Texan only had a narrow window to work his way into the PGA Tour. It appeared more likely that while Spieth could present himself at a few events, he could do no more than add some curiosity value. And then go back to slogging around the Web.com tour which serves as a development tour for the PGA.

But destiny had a different road mapped for the fledgling golfer. After getting his year off to a missed cut at Torrey Pines, the season turned into a brighter hue by March. He surprised himself with a couple of top ten finishes, the first at the Puerto Rico Open and the second at the Tampa Bay Championships. Spieth proved he was no wet behind the ears golfer, when he did another top ten finish at the RBC Heritage in April.

The string of successes helped Spieth earn the status of Special Temporary Member, which meant that he no longer had to worry over sponsorship exemptions. Players with an STM status are allowed unlimited sponsor exemptions on the US PGA. At the time of turning professional, Spieth told this to reporters, “the decision to turn pro was a difficult one, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing at the highest level and accomplishing the many goals I’ve set for myself on and off the course.”

One of those many goals was the desire to earn a full PGA tour card for 2014. As fate would have it, Spieth really did not have to wait that long. Freedom came looking for him right after the Independence Day weekend. The 6’1” Texan earned his spurs in emphatic style when he became the first teenager since 1931 to clinch a title on the PGA tour. In a tense sudden death playoff against David Hearn and defending champion Zach Johnson, the young man showed incredible calm to take the John Deere Classic on the fifth playoff hole.

Life hasn’t been the same ever since. Spieth ended up producing a stellar rookie season, the kind of which was last seen when we were introduced to a certain Tiger Woods. When he tied for second with Steve Stricker at the Tour Championship in East Lake it was Spieth’s ninth finish inside the top ten, an astounding result for a man in his first season as a professional. The result enabled him to climb to seventh on the Fedex Cup standings sailing ahead of even Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

Impressed by the young man, Fred Couples honoured Spieth by making him a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup. “I think this is Jordan Spieth’s time,” Couples said, “He’s a kid who can shoot 65 on any given day.” However, the most impressive number from an outstanding season of golf is how well the young man finished tournaments. In eight of his last eleven events, Spieth reached the clubhouse with a round in the sixties.

No wonder then that the 20 year old, just 19 for much of the season, leads the tour in top ten finishes (nine) tied with Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker. Jordan is currently ranked 21st and if he continues his consistent ways life in the top 20 is not too far away. But then, the man who is a lock on the “Rookie of the Year” award will want to watch out for the pitfalls of life on the tour. It will be interesting to see if he will continue to blaze his way to glory or meander in the manner of Sergio Garcia. The tales are just beginning for Jordan Spieth.

Published 27 Sep 2013, 10:24 IST
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