By Rick Vacek
Back in 2015, Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post described Jordan Spieth thusly:
Scan him up and down, and you search in vain for a defining feature. The colorless hair, the medium build, the solid repeating mechanism that is his swing, none of it explains him. It’s not until you get to the squinty Clint Eastwood eyes that you find a clue.
Maybe the closest you can come to explaining what he does on a golf course is to call him a great mentalist. You get the feeling that when he’s zeroed in, he can bend spoons by looking at them. … Along with that quality of mind comes temperament. “The situation absolutely doesn’t bother him,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee observes.
Contrast that to what another TV analyst, Nick Faldo, said about Spieth last week on a CBS podcast:
“The one thing he has to be careful about is how much emotion he is expending on the golf course. He analyzes every single shot, and that can take a lot of energy out of you. We all fall for it. We hit nine great shots, and then we fluff one and react to that one miss. Why did that happen?
“He has to take more out of his good shots. He has such great ability. The way this game is you only hit maybe 20 percent or so good shots and the rest is dealing with negativity. He’s working twice as hard as he needs to be.”
So what’s the difference? Could it be that Spieth was winning two and nearly three majors two years ago, and this year he has missed the cut in three of his last five events? Because I sure can’t find any difference in his approach.
Was he intense in 2015? Yes, I do recall him getting upset when he hit a bad shot. It just didn’t happen as often as it’s happening these days.
Was his approach very deliberate back then? Yup. Waiting for him to finish his discussion with caddie Michael Greller and finally hit the shot still is a regular invitation to change the channel or hope the network switches to someone else for a minute or two.
So just as it obviously was premature for all of us – including me – to anoint him as a dominant player in 2015, I think we need to play wait-and-see with his relative struggles this year.
But this is how this applies to you and me:
Do you have a consistent approach on the golf course?
Are you the same player when things are going poorly out there as you are when you’re playing well?
Do you have the same routine before every shot, chip and putt?
Does your mental game make you better or sometimes hurt you?
I don’t endorse everything Spieth does. Even when he was winning majors, I thought he needed to dial it down when things didn’t go his way. And I can’t stand slow play.
But I do endorse this: He has remained true to how he handles things. And the way he handled his meltdown on No. 12 at Augusta last year was an excellent example for every young player looking for the right way to play our great game.
You could do worse than telling your kid to emulate Jordan Spieth. But do you want your kid to emulate you?