By Ryan Mayer CBS Local Sports
As the eyes surrounding the golf world turn to the Old Course at St. Andrews this weekend in preparation for the Open Championship, the main name on the lips of golf enthusiasts is Jordan Spieth. The 21 year old has already wrapped up Masters and US Open wins, which puts him into an historically elite group already. But after winning the John Deere Classic this weekend (second win at the JDC) Spieth is quickly rocketing into the stratosphere of the golf world.
It’s not just the major wins that are defining Spieth – it’s his dominance overall in tour events this year. The win at the JDC was his fourth win of the year, which makes him the first golfer since Tiger Woods to win four tournaments before The Open.
Aside from piling up the wins, the tender age at which he’s doing it is something the golf world hasn’t seen since prior to World War II.
Spieth is among a group of young golfers that have been seen as a part of the changing of the guard from Phil Mickelson and Woods to the future of the game. However, Spieth has started to distance himself from the rest of that group. He and Rory McIlroy (who will miss this week’s Open with an injured ankle) are the two players many expect to battle for the title of world’s best for the foreseeable future. The comparisons to Tiger will continue to come fast and heavy because we haven’t seen a young golfer produce this same kind of success since Mr. Woods.
On the Tiger front, at age 21, Woods tour numbers were very similar to Spieth’s in terms of events played and finishes. In 1997 when Tiger was in his age 21 season, (he turned pro in 1996 but didn’t turn 21 until December 30 of that year) he played in 21 events winning 4, placing in the top 10 9 times, the top 25 14 times and missing only one cut. Spieth so far this year (he turns 22 on July 27th) has played in 18 events, won 4 (including two majors), placed Top 10 11 times, top 25 14 times and has missed the cut twice. Want more similarities? In 1997 we saw Tiger dominate the field at Augusta posting an 18 under for the tournament and winning by 12 strokes. While Spieth didn’t win by 12 strokes, he did tie Woods’ record at 18 under en route to a win. With Speith’s US Open win he’s done something Tiger couldn’t do at 21, win two majors.
Whatever you think of those comparisons is irrelevant since Spieth is here to stay. As he heads into the weekend date with the Old Course, Spieth chases another of the sport’s biggest names: Ben Hogan. Hogan is the only golfer to have won the Masters, US Open, and The Open Championship in the same calendar year. If Spieth can win this weekend, it sets him up for the unprecedented: the modern Grand Slam. Not since the Masters was founded has a player won all four of golf’s majors in the same year.
Whether he accomplishes the seemingly impossible or not, one thing is for sure, the sport is in capable hands.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.