• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

'A ton of inner confidence' in the bag as Texan fuels the hype

There must be times when a young, gifted golfer feels a bit like a batch of stock being prepared for the January sales; they're always being labelled.

Jordan Spieth became the youngest tour winner in 82 years following his maiden victory in the John Deere Classic. Picture: Getty Images
Jordan Spieth became the youngest tour winner in 82 years following his maiden victory in the John Deere Classic. Picture: Getty Images

Heir to the throne, rising star, the next big thing? You name it, Jordan Spieth has been tagged with it.

Over in America, the 20-year-old's escapades on the PGA Tour continue to have the golfing media on the other side of the Atlantic panting and drooling like bloodhounds in the height of the mating season.

Victory may have eluded him in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Monday night - Zach Johnson relegated overnight leader Spieth to second with a final-day flourish - but it was yet another significant signal of intent from the latest poster boy of this Generation Next.

His runners-up finish at Kapalua continued the trend he established during a rousing rookie year in 2013. From 23 starts, the talented Texan racked up nine top-10 finishes, including a maiden victory in the John Deere Classic which led to him, at the age of just 19, becoming the youngest tour winner in 82 years.

Spieth coined in almost $4m, earned a captain's call-up to the US Presidents' Cup team and inevitably waltzed off with the PGA circuit's rookie of the year award. As instant impacts go, it was up there with some of the best. Phil Mickelson had seven top 10s in his first 23 starts as a PGA Tour rookie, Rory McIlroy managed six in 16 and Tiger Woods chalked up nine from 21. Spieth hit the ground running and continues to hurtle along at a fair old lick.

As an amateur stand-out, he was tipped for great things, of course, but the speed of his ascent has still been astonishing. So far, the results have kept up with the potential, something that doesn't always come easy for those during the often perilous transition from the unpaid game to the professional ranks.

Those of us who were in attendance at damp, dour Royal Aberdeen for the 2011 Walker Cup match between GB & Ireland and the USA got a glimpse of Spieth's abundant qualities as he picked up 2½ points from a possible three.

The hosts may have harnessed the boisterous September conditions on the north east coast better to emerge with a 14-12 win but Spieth, and a number of his US team-mates from that weekend, have, by and large, left their GB&I counterparts trailing in their wake in the couple of years that have followed.

While English duo Tom Lewis, who won on his third professional start in 2011 but then endured a prolonged slump, and Andy Sullivan are the only two members of that winning side to have full European Tour cards, the Americans, in contrast, have made sizeable strides.

Harris English won twice on the PGA Tour in 2013 while Russell Henley captured a first title in the Sony Open. Throw in Peter Uihlein's trailblazing successes on the European Tour over the past 12 months and the class of 2011 continue to prove their class. Spieth is the latest to earn top marks.

"The thing I like about Jordan's game is he hits all the shots," cooed the reigning Open champion, Mickelson. "He hits cuts. He hits draws. He brings it in low. He shapes the ball into pins. He has the ability to go really low."

Spieth took a gamble on himself and the courage of his own convictions is now paying off handsomely. When he suddenly jumped ship from the safety of his second year at the University of Texas into the treacherous waters of the professional game during December of 2012, Spieth didn't have a tour to play on.

It was a risk, but there have been bountiful rewards. Given his shimmering amateur cv - he was twice a US Junior champion and made the cut in six of eight PGA Tour events he was invited to - he wasn't going to be left to lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

A series of sponsors' exemptions came his way and he grabbed at them like the bogeyman lunges at your ankles when you step out of bed. Spieth certainly didn't suffer any rookie heebie jeebies. A share of second in March's Puerto Rico Open in just his third start put him on the way to earning special temporary member status. By July, he had secured a two-year exemption as a tour champion.

"Turning pro, when I did not have a card, there were a lot of voices saying, 'wrong decision'," he recalled. "I would just say, honestly, I have a ton of inner confidence."

When the PGA Tour scrapped the qualifying school - only qualifying for the second-tier Web.com Tour takes place now - the main grumble was that, without this instant route to the top, even some of the best college players would have to spend at least a year on the minor tours. Spieth, seizing on his opportunities, showed that genuine quality shines through, however.

Spieth has been labelled many things during his rapid rise. As the hype continues to grow, American golf's next big thing has his eyes on the ultimate tag; a major champion.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

204294