It wasn’t the Shot of the Year just because Jordan Spieth so artfully leaped into the moment.
It also was because it was Jordan Spieth.
As Spieth’s bunker shot trickled into the hole Sunday and I leaped off my sofa – after all, don’t we all want to be like that guy? – I had the confirmation I needed about where professional golf is and where it’s headed.
I wasn’t watching the U.S. Open the previous week because of Brooks Koepka. I was glued to it all day because I was hoping one of the big names would come out of the pack and make it more interesting.
And then I laughed out loud when people started talking after the tournament about whether Koepka should be the favorite for The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Because golf is so desperate for someone to replace Tiger Woods as its No. 1 attraction, the pundits want to anoint just about every player who wins a major. That’s why Spieth was so celebrated two years ago when he won two majors and nearly a third.
But we need to understand the difference between potential greatness and a hot streak. We need to understand the difference between Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka.
Look, Koepka is a nice player with a nice story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading last week about how he evolved to where he is today.
But Spieth is special, and not just because he joined Woods as the only players to win 10 times before turning 24.
There’s something about this guy that keeps you glued to the TV. Even when he’s dumping the Masters into Rae’s Creek, he is magnetic.
I watch these guys partly to learn, and I learned a ton Sunday.
Spieth didn’t have it, especially on the green, where he usually is automatic. He clearly was messed up mentally as normally routine putts failed to find the bottom of the cup.
It started to affect him in other areas. Needing a birdie to win and a par to force a playoff, he left his wedge short on the 18th hole at TPC River Highlands and had to get up and down from the bunker to play on.
Then came the memorable playoff, which started on the 18th. He looked distraught when he double-crossed his drive into the big tree on the left and this time had 227 yards left instead of a wedge, but he did what the greats do – he managed to get it to a spot where he still could make par.
That’s why we watch. That’s why golf needs this guy. As he prepared to knock it out of the bunker, I thought to myself, “He might make this.”
And then he did, and I about lost my mind. Who does that?
But he made it even better with his reaction. I get so tired of these guys stoically acknowledging the crowd after doing something amazing. How about a little emotion out there? The shot was great, but Spieth whipping his club and leaping into caddie Michael Greller made it even more memorable.
That’s the kind of stuff that’s going to get our great game back to the lead story of SportsCenter. Remember when Tiger was winning all the time? Remember how excited ESPN would get about that every Sunday? We have a chance for that again.
I’m not kidding myself about Spieth – he’s not Tiger. No one out there is Tiger. If Spieth gets to even double digits in major championship victories, that would be tremendous.
But he has the personality and chutzpah to have us checking the leaderboard every week to see how he did … and be disappointed if he’s not on it.
The game is in good hands if Jordan Spieth is leading the way. I don’t think it’s a leap to say that. Look at the airtime golf got Sunday.