The Old Course at St. Andrews hosts The 144th Open Championship this week, with Jordan Spieth gunning for the third leg of a potential calendar year Grand Slam. Ordinarily, the tournament known as the British Open in the U.S., provides a unique style of course. However, after the goofy golf we saw at Chambers Bay in the U.S. Open, St. Andrews may look like a normal layout. Even though Spieth is trying to deflect comparisons between himself and Tiger Woods, it's impossible not to start looking at the similarities early in their careers. I agree with the latest and greatest that those parallels shouldn't be drawn until his body of work in more complete. But after two consecutive major championships and two other wins this season, not to mention the absence of Rory McIlroy due to injury, it's impossible not to at least be tempted to put Spieth's record side by side with Tiger's. Their overall records are similar, but Spieth has already won more majors than Tiger had at the same age. It's easy to remember that Woods won the Master's in record fashion in his first full season on tour, but it was another two years before he recorded his second one at the 1999 PGA. Of course, that started an incredible run of five major wins in six tournaments, including the Tiger Slam, an unprecedented and almost impossible feat to duplicate at any age. What impresses me about Spieth, and is the biggest similarity I see between him and Woods, is the ability to focus and close out victories. To win seventy-nine times on the PGA Tour takes more than just physical ability, and Woods has plenty of that. Will Spieth, at the age of thirty-six, be winning enough to be named PGA Player of the Year, as Tiger was in 2013? Or will a healthy McIlroy and any number of other twenty-somethings create more parity than Tiger saw in his prime? It obviously remains to be seen, but for now I'm excited for the game of golf and for a great young player like Jordan Spieth. But I'll leave you with this thought: How many guys have come onto the Tour in the last sixty years, started hot and were supposed to the be next Hogan, the next Palmer, the next Nicklaus, the next...well, you get the picture. David Duval? Jerry Pate? Ben Crenshaw? Bobby Nichols? They all had a modicum of success, even a major title or two. But it takes something incredibly special to climb to the top of the game and stay there long enough to post big numbers. Even Phil Mickelson, now with five majors, was thirty-three before winning his first, despite a stellar career where he has now amassed forty-two tour victories. As for Spieth, let's check back in say, maybe ten years.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK
Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel",
available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.