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Pro Golf: The Year of Spieth

Jordan Spieth just ended any debate of whether Jason Day could steal Player of the Year from him. The 22 year old won the TOUR Championship and in doing so took home the FedEx Cup at East Lake Golf Club. He solidified that this was his year.

Jordan Spieth with the Tour Championship trophy (left) and the FedEx Cup trophy (right)

Jordan Spieth with the TOUR Championship trophy (left) and the FedEx Cup trophy (right). (Photo from theguardian.com)

Jordan Spieth came into the week struggling since he claimed the #1 spot in the official world golf rankings after the PGA Championship. In the first two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs he would miss both cuts — an unusual miss for the typically consistent Spieth. In the third event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship, he would finish a modest T-13th.

Jordan Spieth said he was motivated going into the TOUR Championship. He was frustrated by his recent play not being up to his lofty standards. He was also motivated from watching Jason Day dominate the past couple weeks, as Day won two playoff events, each by six shots. Jason Day with his victory at the BMW Championship would leap past Spieth and Rory McIlroy for the #1 spot in the official world golf rankings.

He said he approached the TOUR Championship as if it was a major championship, and it certainly paid off. Spieth has played better when the pressure has been on all year. Pressure seems to have a way of focusing him. Spieth is able to just stare down putts and make them right when he needs them. A couple of putts in the final round of the TOUR Championship, left playing partner Henrik Stenson in disbelief. The biggest one being at the 11th hole after Stenson was in tight for birdie, and Spieth just poured it in.

So just how great of a season was it for Spieth?  To start, in the majors (the Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship) Speith set the record for lowest score in relation to par, at 54-under-par. That record broke Tiger Woods’ record of 53-under-par he set in 2000. However, Tiger won three majors that season, while Spieth took home the Master’s and U.S. Open in 2015.

He is also just the one of six players to have won five or more times in a season since 1980.  In addition to his two major wins and the TOUR Championship, he also won at the Valspar Championship and he won the John Deere Classic. So of the 25 events he entered, Spieth took home the trophy at a 20% clip. He also added 15 top-tens and four runner-up finishes. His level of consistency has been incredible, and he always seems to be in the mix on Sunday.

Jordan Spieth also set the all time record for earnings in a season with $12,030,465. You add in the $10 million bonus for winning the season long race to the FedEx Cup, and he has made over $22 million just on the golf course. That doesn’t even take into account the millions of dollars Spieth has made in endorsements, in particular from Under Armour.

Is it the greatest golfing year in history? No, that belongs to Tiger Woods in 2000, as you can see here…screen-shot-2015-09-27-at-6-32-30-pmHowever, this might be the most impressive season ever. Let’s start with the fact that, again, he is only 22! He had only one win on the PGA Tour before this year, and he just comes out at the first major of the year and wins wire-to-wire. Then Spieth goes to the U.S. Open and finds a way to win that one as well, due to clutch shots down the stretch. He got about as close as you can get to the Grand Slam, in close finishes at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. He also closed the regular season with the most amount of FedEx Cup points in its history.

You then have to look at what Spieth had to work with as far as distance. Spieth is just about average in driving distance on the PGA Tour. He is giving up 15-30 yards a hole to the longer hitters, yet is still able to compete at a high level with the long drivers. When you look at Tiger in 2000, he could absolutely overpower any golf course. He was the best driver, iron player, short game player, and putter on tour to go along with it.

The PGA Tour now has so much more parity then it did in 2000. The number of quality players that aren’t afraid to contend is off the charts. Guys like Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, and Henrik Stenson just to name a few of the many legit talents on Tour. To win two majors and five times overall, while adding a FedEx Cup is a much bigger feat in 2015.

Jordan Spieth (left), Rickie Fowler (middle), and Jason Day (right) walk down the fairway at the BMW Championship.

Jordan Spieth (left), Rickie Fowler (middle), and Jason Day (right) walk down the fairway at the BMW Championship. (Photo from pgatour.com)

Jordan Spieth doesn’t have the same golf talent that Tiger Woods had, but he has the same mental talent.  What I mean is he can outthink his opponents. He is also just as tough because he will never fold under pressure, but he will make his opponents fold. Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods may be the two best overall competitors in golf of all time.

With a season like this, it makes you wonder how he will follow it up, or if he can follow it up. I don’t think Spieth would be too upset if he had the same year again next year.  Who wouldn’t?  Spieth did point out the fact he thought his ball striking could improve. Even though he played well this weekend, he didn’t really ever seemed pleased with a lot of his iron shots. Spieth says he also tends to hit a lot of shots right because he fears going left the most. Hitting both fades and draws more consistently will help him be able to shape shots to get at any hole location, especially since he doesn’t have a super high ball flight.

Spieth did admit he could get stronger as well. He is much bigger than Rory McIlroy, but Rory can consistently hit it 20 yards past him. Finding more club head speed could go along way for Jordan Spieth becoming a total, complete player, and be able to put it in the same area code as Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Dustin Johnson.

As far as short game, however, there is not much room to improve. He is the best putter on tour.  His shots around the green are pretty sporty as well, and it was on full display at the TOUR Championship. He basically scrambled to a win in the FedEx Cup Playoffs finale, with all his great par saves. If he keeps his short game this good, it is going to be a nice 2016, and career for Jordan Spieth and his fans. He is only getting better folks, scary for his competitors, but fun for us to watch.

Jordan Spieth on the 16th hole at East Lake

Jordan Spieth getting up and down from the bunker on the 16th hole at East Lake during the final round of the TOUR Championship. (Photo from golfdigest.com)

Maybe the most impressive thing about Jordan Spieth is his maturity and humbleness at such a young age. After winning the FedEx Cup he said he was going to share the money with the people that helped get him there.

“What it allows me to do is, it allows me to now even more so, take care of the people that have given me this position and allowed this to happen. Like I always say, it is a team effort. A lot of behind the scenes work goes in when we’re at home, when we’re in the early stages and on course here.”

Spieth would continue…

“It’s fantastic. I have an opportunity now, with a year like this and a bonus like that, to celebrate and to share it with the people that have made it possible. And that’s kind of the plan. Our team did an unbelievable job this year. Everything was exactly how we needed it to be to peak at the right times. If we can continue to do that, then we’ll have more seasons like this.”

You stay classy Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth winning fedex cup