Heir Jordan: Predicting Golf’s Unpredictable

Jordan Spieth is not Tiger Woods. He doesn’t need to be. The race for golf’s next big star is on.

Tiger Woods & Jordan Spieth.

Watching Jordan Spieth live up to the hype is exciting – but is the media’s pedestal unrealistic?
(Photo courtesy of Lehigh Valley Live)


Golf’s “Chosen One” – Spieth’s Rise to Stardom

It was the year 2010, and Jordan Spieth was about to play his first professional golf tournament. He was an amateur, receiving a sponsors exemption. This was the first time a non-professional was granted a sponsors exemption in fifteen years. Spieth was just 17 years old.

A year prior, 2009, Spieth captured his first U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Labeled the number one junior player in the country, the Dallas-native won his second U.S. Junior Amateur in 2011. Speith became just the second player to win two Junior Amateurs. The other player? If you guessed it, you were right: Tiger Woods.

Following his run as the nation’s top junior golfer, Spieth went on to play at the University of Texas, where he led the team to a national championship in 2012 – as a Freshman. It was the Longhorns first national championship since 1973.

Dominating every level of golf he participated in, the PGA Tour was the next step. Ultimately, what followed was a narrative that no golfer could live up to – not even a talent such as Spieth. Could he be the next Tiger Woods?

The Inevitable Hype & The Future of Golf

When any golf fan examines the top young talent on the PGA Tour, Spieth’s name will surely come up. How couldn’t it? He did just win the Masters, golf’s most prestigious event, for his third PGA Tour victory at just 21 years old. He handles himself on and off the course like a twenty year veteran, seemingly never too high or too low – the perfect balance for the sport. He has had the accolades, the attention, and the golf game to back up the media’s sensation for the last six years. In that same time period, Tiger Woods has struggled, and has not won a major championship since 2008. This must mean it’s Spieth’s PGA Tour now, right?

Of course not. And, that’s precisely the problem with the media when it comes to golf. It isn’t a sport where we are likely to ever see the dominance displayed over a fourteen year period that Tiger put on from 1996-2010. When tournaments are decided by one stroke over four rounds of golf, the margin for error is so small that anyone can “lose” their game on the PGA Tour. Within this up and down nature, golf fans have witnessed countless players who have fallen off the map. Trevor Immelman & Padraig Harrington are the two most prominent victims in recent memory. Over the last decade, Immelman (1) and Harrington (3) captured several major championships. Both are rarely seen competing on Sunday nowadays.

In addition, what about other players still in the prime of their golfing careers? The competition for Spieth is limitless. The following are past major champions and under the age of 40 (which is typically the benchmark age for high-level PGA Tour golf): Rory McIlroy (4), Martin Kaymer (2), Bubba Watson (2), Justin Rose (1), Adam Scott (1), Webb Simpson (1), and Keegan Bradley (1). This parity of talent will make it nearly impossible for one single player to dominate golf for the next decade – even a sensation such as Jordan Spieth.

For those who don’t follow golf as closely as others, and you have made it to this point in the article, here is an over-simplified golf/basketball analogy: Jordan Spieth is LeBron James, and Tiger Woods is Michael Jordan. Hence, the hype and comparisons are inevitable, but completely unrealistic.

Tiger Woods, like Michael Jordan, was truly revolutionary to the sport. Woods has brought a myriad of elements to the game of golf – just as many off the golf course as on it. He attracted a new and diverse set of golf fans from other sports, boosted TV ratings, and greatly increased PGA Tour purses. Most importantly, Tiger dominated the Tour for a decade-plus. The way in which Woods won golf tournaments united the entire sports world. Every victory was cherished, and non-golf fans connected with the sport in an unprecedented fashion.

In the year 2015, maybe the PGA Tour is in a great position, with a well-balanced field each and every week. Does the tour need a dominant player such as Tiger? If so, will it be Spieth, McIlroy, or a player to be named later?

Golf’s best young talent may be here, but Spieth will not transcend golf. Jordan Spieth may inspire the next Jordan Spieth, but he is unlikely to inspire the next Tiger Woods. These are two completely different golfers in very different eras.

Maybe, just maybe, golf doesn’t need a savior. But, hey, if you’re listening to the sports media, it sure does. And to that, I say: good luck Jordan, good luck.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

Speak Your Mind