Please Just Let Jordan Spieth Play Golf in Peace

Above: Jordan Spieth
Above: Jordan Spieth

Sunday at Chambers Bay, Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open by one stroke. A few months ago in Augusta, Georgia, the 21-year-old tied Tiger Woods’ course record by carding a -18 score over four rounds to claim The Masters.

He’s just the sixth player to win ever win The Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year. Woods was the last to do it, accomplishing the feat in 2002. Jack and Arnie did it in ’72 and 1960, respectively. Ben Hogan did it twice, in 1951 and 1953. Craig Wood was the first to go back-to-back in the first two majors of the season in 1941.

That’s pretty elite company for the No. 2-ranked player in the world, who was only the second player in history to win multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles, sharing the distinction with Woods. He was the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and his game would need to fall to pieces in order for him to not win Player of the Year honours this year given that he has three wins and seven additional Top 10 finishes halfway through 2015.

He’s going to be the talk of the golf world and the larger sports landscape as a whole for the next weeks and every time he enters a tournament. Heading into The Open, which takes place July 16-19 at St. Andrews, there will be roughly 4,831 “Can Spieth make it three straight?” piece and another couple thousand “What does it mean if he does?” op-eds riding shotgun.

Spieth is going to be the subject of umpteen speculative questions that become topics for debate in the next couple weeks:

Is he the next Tiger? Will he win more majors than Tiger? Is he going to be the one to catch Jack? Can he and Rory McIlroy combine to do for golf what Tiger once did? Who’s better: Rory or Jordan?

For the record, the answers to those questions are as follows: No. Have to wait and see. Have to wait and see. No. Depends on the day.

There is a tendency to turn everything in sports to make everything about chasing history and passing the last superstar to grace each respective sport. Everything on the golf course is about Tiger, just as everything for Tiger was about Jack, even though both deserved to be allowed to stand on their own success and be measured for their respective resumes, not how they compared to each other and their contemporaries.

Spieth hasn’t even played three full years on tour yet. He doesn’t turn 22 until late July. He’s exceptionally good at golf, but he’s also just a kid and rather than bombard him with questions about how his career will measure up against the all-time greats once he’s all through, it would be great to just let him tee it up from week-to-week and focus on the here and now. The attention is going to come naturally, but there is no need to escalate things.

Craig Wood, the first guy to win The Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year never won another major. The odds are good that Spieth isn’t going to replicate Wood’s performance in that regard, but who knows?

Rather than immediately jumping to “Can he catch Jack?” take a deep breathe and remember that only three men have won 10 or more major championships: Walter Hagen (11), Tiger Woods (14) and Jack Nicklaus (18).

Think about that – as dominant as Woods was from 1997 to 2008, he’s still four short of Jack’s total. Spieth has had an outstanding couple of months and a brilliant start to his career, but everyone needs to pump the breaks when it comes to hustling him into those First Take type conversations.

Let him catch McIlroy, the 26-year-old world No. 1 who has four major championship wins on his resume. Let him get to eight or nine before bringing up Tiger and Jack. For now, let him just keep playing golf.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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