There’s a lot of buzz around the NFL Draft at this time of year and there’s one phrase that seems to get thrown around a lot at this time of year – “Generational Talent”.
In the golfing world there a few who fit into that mould, today’s Masters Contender one of them.
Jordan Spieth has taken the PGA Tour by storm, ever since joining the Tour in 2013, on a Special Temporary Membership and the now 11-time winner certainly likes playing this event.
It was only a matter of months after joining the Tour that Spieth won, beating David Hearn and Zach Johnson in a play off at the John Deere Classic, a fortnight before his 20th Birthday. Spieth became just the third teenager to win on Tour and the first since 1931, highlighting just how special he is.
Last year, a week before his 24th birthday, Spieth won his third major title, the Open Championship and is now just a PGA Championship win away from the coveted Grand Slam.
In 2014 both Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt had a chance to buck the trend that has been in place here since 1979. Bubba Wastson denied either of the pair winning the Masters on their first start, leaving Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) as the most recent debutant to win here.
A year later though, Spieth learned from those lessons on his first visit to Augusta and blitzed the field, shooting 18-under-par to win by four strokes from Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.
That 270 winning total tied the record set by one, Tiger Woods in 1997. Spieth also became the first wire-to-wire Masters Champion, since Raymond Floyd in 1976.
A year later, Spieth was once again in contention on Sunday, after leading through the first three rounds and it looked for best part of the week that he was going to defend his title, something that rarely happens here.
Spieth has birdied his final four holes of the front-9 on Sunday to open up a five-stroke lead on the field, but the back-9 was a whole different story.
Bogeys at 10 and 11 preceded what would be the biggest nightmare hole of Spieth’s career. He put two holes in the water at the Par-3 12th, making quadruple bogey and dropping to a tie for 4th.
Whilst this was all going on, Danny Willett was quietly going about is business, making birdie at 13 and 14 to take the lead.
Such is Spieth’s mental toughness he managed to bounce back with birdies at 13 and 15, giving him a slim chance to still win. He needed to birdie two of the last three holes to tie Willett but missed an 8ft putt for birdie at 16 and bogeyed 17.
He still finished T2 that year, when really he could have collapsed and tumbled down the leaderboard, again reaffirming his mental strength.
Spieth also came back last year, finishing in a tie for 11th this time. He was T4 going into the final round and just two shots back, but a final round 75 saw him fall out of contention.
On his first three starts here, only Bubba Watson and Danny Willett had got the better of him and whilst last year wasn’t his best effort, he still played plenty well enough to suggest he loves this course.
Why he can win the 2018 Masters
At this stage, after just running you through his exceptional Masters Record it would probably be quicker to tell you why he can’t win this year.
If Spieth finds a Putting stroke between the final round of the Houston Open and the first tee here on Thursday, the rest of the field is in danger.
Through three rounds at the Houston Open this week, Spieth ranks 1st in; Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Strokes Gained: Approach and also Sand Saves. On top of that he ranks 3rd in Proximity to the Hole, so why is he sitting in a tie for 13th?
Well, he currently sits 88th in the field in SG:Putting this week, something that doesn’t allow you to contend for titles.
So far this season, Spieth ranks 9th in SG: Tee-to-Green and top-25 in all of; SG: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Off-the-Tee, his downfall however is that he ranks 172nd on Tour in SG: Putting.
This is unlike Spieth, who has ranked 60th or better (twice in the top-10) in SG: Putting by the end each of his first four seasons. There is of course still time for him to put it right and maybe a return to Augusta greens will help him do just that.
We have seen recently, with Rory McIlroy’s win at Bay Hill, what can happen if a golfer who is striking the ball well can get hot on the greens for one week and you certainly wouldn’t want to bet against Spieth doing just that at The Masters.
Generally a player who makes plenty of putts he has no right to, it is surely a matter of time before he finds a stroke that works once again.