It’s all but unanimous; ask almost anyone. Jordan Spieth, 21-years of age and, statistically at least, the fourteenth-best golfer in the world, is one impressive young man. At just over six feet in height and weighing in at a buff 185 pounds, he has all the physical attributes required of the 21st century athlete playing sport at the top level. Mentally, he (mostly) displays the maturity of a grizzled veteran. And his idiosyncratic method – containing a rarely-seen double-overlap grip and a distinctive roll of his left foot through impact – has already proved itself sound enough to compete with even the most accomplished performers.
A victory on the PGA Tour, notably successful appearances in both the Presidents and Ryder Cups, plus top-4 finishes in this year’s Masters Tournament and the Players Championship represent an already comprehensive proof of Spieth’s competence and calmness under pressure. Not an up-and-comer any more, he has arrived, as many experienced voices have already noted.
“Jordan's got it upstairs. He knows how to play golf,” says six-time major champion Lee Trevino who, like Spieth, lives in the Dallas area. “He learned in that Texas wind, like I did, so he kind of shuts the club and holds on to keep the ball low. He knows where it's going, so no reason he has to change. Maybe if it turned out he needed more height or distance to handle Augusta (National), ok then maybe change. But he went after them pretty good at The Masters.”
“I just can’t pick out a specific strength or weakness in Jordan’s game,” agrees former Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, lead commentator for Channel Seven here at The Australian club this week. “But I do see a fire in his belly. I love the fact that he shows that. I’m cool with players showing some emotion – including anger – at times. I think you have to have that inside you. To me, repressing emotion only inhibits a player’s natural talent and flow.”
Given all of the above, it is no surprise to see the young Texan at the top of the leader board after an opening round of 67, four under par, at the Emirates Australian Open. Tied third last week at the Dunlop Phoenix event in Japan – his first event after a five-week break from competition – Spieth made six birdies to set alongside a brace of dropped shots. All in all, it was a typically assured performance from a golfer surely destined for superstardom – and, just maybe, a first Australian Open title.
Still, for all that he is looking down on the rest of the 152-man field, Spieth wasn’t fully satisfied with his day’s work. A bogey on the penultimate hole and a missed ten-foot putt for birdie on the last green left a feeling of slight frustration, even if, as he acknowledged to the assembled media, playing in the afternoon wave had proved to be maybe a shot or two easier than in the morning.
“I feel like I left a couple of shots out there,” he said. “Finishing bogey-par instead of par-birdie was a little disappointing as I could be sitting here six under par instead of four under. Overall, however, I played solid and I putted great. My driving wasn’t quite up to the standard I would like though. But when I missed fairways it tended to be in spots from where I could play to the greens. I was a bit fortunate a couple of times. This is a challenging course and there is trouble out there.”
Nothing, one suspects, he can’t handle though.