Spieth In Fine Form As New Year Starts
For about a month now, I’ve been casting about for things to write that didn’t directly connect with the act of hitting a golf ball. It was all about the game of golf, but not about hitting the ball, or about somebody special hitting the ball. When the tours go on hiatus, however brief, one’s mind turns to issues such as golf taxes, soil erosion, pro shop design, and a million other side considerations. But this week, it’s a happy New Year for anyone who likes the “hit the ball” aspect of the game, and anyone who has favorites in the first tournaments of the new year.
The men of the PGA are having it a little cushy this week, but I’m not complaining. If I wanted that kind of life, I should have practiced harder – and been someone else. The Tournament of Champions, a title that sounds as if it should take place at the end of the season, is going on in Kapalua, in the South Seas – poor guys. While other prestige golf venues up north, such as Hazeltine, site of this year’s Ryder Cup, are covered with snow, Hawaii has opened its 80 degree arms to the tour to start things off. Jordan Spieth, not there to catch scenery or do the hula, has responded with some of the most flawless and exhilarating golf shots a devotee would ever want to see or dream about,.
Spieth is now 24 under heading into Sunday, with a lead of 5 strokes. Â Patrick Reed, in the runner-up section, has played such great golf this week that we should be hailing his triumph by now, but Spieth came to Hawaii with a magic act. It’s as impressive and irresistible as the Tiger of old. All the greats have a presence, an atmosphere around them that intimidate the immediate environment and command the course itself, but Spieth has never had that. He’s just a nice, smart guy who plays golf brilliantly much of the time. The Nicklausian, Woodsian, Palmerian presence, he’s developing after the fact – win first and look great as a result. There’s a lot of money and prestige in that approach.
Spieth was wicked in so many ways coming through the third round, with a short game that appeared as though it couldn’t fail, and a mean putter that spelled a likely one-putt at almost any distance. For the rank amateur, hitting the stick on the second shot of a par 5 was mind-boggling enough – I’ve always wanted to do that. Just think, two under the best score I’ve ever registered on a single hole, and a lot under what I usually shoot. Not only that, but he still made the eagle from ten feet away. I could have three-putted there, just from fright for a bogey. I tell you, when people like Spieth and Reed get going, it’s a parallel universe.
The beginning of the major tours has a refreshing and refreshed feeling to it. I’ve had just enough rest from the weekly slugfests, enjoying the new players and saluting the veteran champions, even if they are only in their early twenties, like Spieth. I’ve toured the world with the PGA and LPGA, if only in my imagination, and it was good to come home for just a few weeks, and talk about taxes, pro shops, alligators and the weather report. But I’m ready for action again, and Jordan Spieth, barring some epic fold, looks like he will draw first blood this year. So, it’s a happy new year to us all – get ready for stroke play, match play, Europe versus U.S. and a million geographical variations, Ryder, Curtis, Solheim, Green Jackets and Claret Jugs – links and lawns, beaches and bunkers, divots and disasters. Let the game begin.