Jordan Spieth Has to Win Another Major to Validate Superstardom

May 11, 2015
Jordan Spieth Masters.jpg

You’re not necessarily a superstar just because you won a Masters. See Craig Stadler, Trevor Immelman and Larry Mize for details.

But Jordan Spieth, at 21, is already getting the superstar treatment. You tie the all-time Masters scoring record of 18 under par (after having gotten it to 19 under, the only golfing soul who’s done that), lead the tournament wire-to-wire and win by four the year after you finished runnerup in your first Masters — yeah, you’re a superstar.

Spieth is golf’s Mr. Perfect, almost too good to be true. He is good-looking, has a nice smile, is as pleasant and polite as can be (a la Rory McIlroy) and is even smart, all leading to the Tour nickname that he detests: Golden Child.

Everyone loves Jordo (my nickname for him, which most likely will not catch on). I offer one note of caution: To validate superstar status, you’ve got to win another big one, preferably sooner than later.

Surely, young Mr. Spieth is going to win more majors. Well, we said the same thing about other players too. There are no guarantees in golf. Isn’t that right, Anthony Kim?

A lot can go wrong to derail a superstar — injuries, swing changes, equipment changes, an unraveling personal life and complacency due to fame and money, to name a few. That’s a lot of potential kryptonite for our would-be golfing supermen.

My list of the current 10 Best Players Without a Second Major (based on how they’re playing) shows that nothing is ever Dead Solid Perfect (in words coined by sportswriting legend Dan Jenkins).

The rankings:

1. Jordan Spieth. The best clutch putter and the best short game in golf. Impervious to all things.

2. Justin Rose. Elapsed time since 2013 U.S. Open: 23 months. He’s 34, his recent Zurich Classic win means he’s won at least once on the PGA Tour for six straight years and he seems poised, still, to do great things.

3. Adam Scott. Elapsed time since 2013 Masters: 25 months. He did what no other Aussie has done, win a Masters. With 11 wins, two since his breakout Masters, he looked ready to vault toward the Hall of Fame. It’s been a slow 2015 season, though, and with the departure of hard-edged caddie Steve Williams and the looming anchored-putting ban, the clock is ticking. Loudly.

4. Jim Furyk. Elapsed time since 2003 U.S. Open: 143 months. Furyk’s recent Heritage win showed that the 44-year-old still has a winning touch. He’s got 17 wins and suddenly renewed hope for a second major.

5. Louis Oosthuizen. Elapsed time since 2010 British Open: 58 months. King Louie made a double eagle at Augusta National in 2012 but then unluckily lost the Masters after Bubba Watson pulled that playoff shot out of his rear end. Coulda, woulda, shoulda…A quiet man who was sidetracked by the weight of fame, he’s playing good golf again.

6. Graeme McDowell. Elapsed time since 2010 U.S. Open: 59 months. G-Mac has had four European wins and one U.S. win since Pebble Beach, a near-miss at a second Open at Olympic Club plus a special Ryder Cup moment. He’s always been streaky. Now he’s just waiting to catch another wave.

7. Zach Johnson. Elapsed time since 2007 Masters: 97 months. He’s either an overachiever or terribly underrated (the latter, I believe) with 10 wins. His game is the most like Spieth’s of anyone on this list, but he has never had a near-near-miss at a major. The tougher the setup, the better his chances.

8. Webb Simpson. Elapsed time since 2012 U.S. Open: 35 months. As with Scott, the anchored-putting ban could be an issue. Simpson went conventional this year and — early warning alert!—ranks 160th in strokes gained putting. He was also a Ryder Cup flop last year after shamelessly begging his way onto the team.

9. Keegan Bradley. Elapsed time since 2011 PGA Championship: 45 months. Since then, Bradley owns only one win, in Akron, when Furyk handed it to him with a horrific finish. Another guy whose transition to the short putter — he ranks 130th in putting — remains in question. A superstar derailed, for now.

10. Charl Schwartzel. Elapsed time since 2011 Masters: 49 months. Once a can’t-miss phenom, he has won twice in Europe and Asia since his Masters victory but not in the U.S. In 2010 he led the Tour in putting. He now ranks 176th and, even worse, is 178th in greens hit in regulation. But at 31, he’s way too young to count out.

So as glorious as Spieth’s future appears, keep in mind that many majors are won by players who aren’t superstars, they’re just players who happened to play their best golf during the week it counted most.

Jordo, you’re on the clock.

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