Up Swing: A Look at Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth's Masters journey started similarly to that of Tiger Woods. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler
Jordan Spieth’s Masters journey started similarly to that of Tiger Woods.
Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler

By Jay Betsill

Jordan Spieth emerged on the Professional Golfers Association Tour scene in May 2010 as an amateur when he was awarded an exemption into the Byron Nelson Championships in Las Colinas. That followed in the footsteps of the Dallas tournament’s previous exemptions such as Tiger Woods.

The then Dallas Jesuit High School star became the sixth-youngest player to make the cut at a PGA Tour event, going on to finish in a tie for 16th place. He was offered another exemption into the tournament in 2011, when he again made the cut and finished in a tie for 32nd before heading to Austin to play for the University of Texas.

He would spend three semesters in Austin before turning pro at age 19 and it was not long before he tasted victory on the PGA Tour. Two weeks before his 20th birthday, Spieth won the John Deere Classic in a three-way, sudden-death playoff on the fifth playoff hole against defending champion Zach Johnson and David Hearn. After holing out of a greenside bunker just to reach the playoff, he would go on to become the fourth youngest PGA Tour winner and the first teenager in 82 years.

Spieth was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and selected to the United States President’s Cup team by captain Fred Couples. But perhaps more important, his tour win earned him entry into the Masters.

His debut at the Masters introduced him to sports fans who don’t necessarily follow golf as he played in the final group on Sunday with eventual-champion Bubba Watson. Spieth finished in a tie for second, becoming the youngest runner-up in Masters history.

He won his second pro tournament at the Emirates Australian Open and in the final round shot a course-record 63 to win the title by six strokes. In the process, he stole the show from Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. A week later he dominated Woods’ Hero World Challenge and set a tournament scoring record of 26-under par.

That set the stage for this year’s appearance at the Masters. Following a win at the Valspar Championship and back-to-back seconds at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and Shell Houston Open, he came into the Masters as the hottest player on the planet. What followed was a tournament of historical proportions, as he would become the first wire-to-wire winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976.

“This was the ultimate goal in my golf life,” Spieth said while clad in the green jacket.

In addition to tying Woods’ all-time Masters scoring record, 18-under, Spieth became the second youngest behind Woods to win the event.

“Last year was pretty surreal, but not winning it was probably the best thing to ever happen to him and certainly all of that experience came into play all week,” Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller said. “We talked about how cool it was to hear those roars and to see Tiger and Rory making charges and you want to play against the best at the Masters, fortunately he was able to close the deal.”

The relationship between Spieth and Grellar, who left his job as a sixth-grade math teacher to caddie for Spieth, has been well documented. Grellar was the first person Spieth thanked after receiving his green jacket. “You kept me strong and you were the reason the dream came true,” Spieth said.

Following Spieth’s triumph at Augusta National, Jack Nicklaus released a statement on the latest Masters winner:

“Masters champion. I think Jordan Spieth is a great person – just as Rory McIlroy is – to carry the mantle for the game of golf…There are some terrific older players who have been terrific for a long time, but actually this might be the time for the young guys to take over.”

Spieth is expected to play in both the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth and the AT&T Byron Nelson in Las Colinas the last two weeks of May.