These days, Tiger Woods is rarely featured for his achievements on the course, and earlier this week there was more evidence to suggest his time is up when Jordan Spieth matched Woods’ record of seven PGA Tour titles under the age of 23. Spieth also matched another record: highest earner in golf, signing a huge endorsement deal with Coca-Cola shortly after his tournament win in Hawaii. The comparisons to Woods are flattering for the young Texan but there is so much more to him than being just a ‘young cub’.
When he first came on to the PGA Tour scene Jordan Spieth was best known for a national title at the University of Texas, having spent one year there before turning pro. A Dallas native who fulfils all the perfect American hero criteria – with a high school sweetheart, good Christian upbringing, and philanthropic endeavours – he was ready to become America’s golfer. Woods himself was once a model citizen, before one voicemail sent his career into a tailspin. But it is not just his persona which makes Spieth a hugely successful athlete.
Unlike Tiger, he does not cause shock and awe with shots that defy the laws of physics. Spieth possesses the key to golf: consistency. It was that level-headedness which brought him a green jacket at just 22 years old. At high school in Dallas he was not the stereotypical ‘jock’ who paraded around campus, or the prom king who shoved ‘nerds’ into lockers. He was the boy who just lived and breathed golf.
That time away from the limelight is what has benefited Spieth. A year amongst mortals in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) divisions kept him grounded and allowed him to learn how to fight his way to tough results. Woods on the other hand was on the nation’s radar from the age of two, appearing on the Michael Douglas Show in 1978.
Many of Woods’ issues can be attributed to the pressures he faced from his domineering and controlling father, who declared that his son was going to be a superstar right from birth and did everything in his power to ensure he accomplished just that. By 22 Woods similarly had a Masters title and several PGA tour wins under his belt but he was already an international superstar. Woods in many ways made an enemy of the rest of the tour, quickly announcing his talents and displaying a fearless and aggressive attitude.
In contrast, Spieth has become one of the most popular characters on the tour, forming close relationships with rivals Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson. Many of Woods’ former colleagues have spoken about his brash personality. His former caddie Steve Williams has not shied away from telling anyone who will listen about Tiger’s unethical exploits.
Woods is currently recovering from his second back surgery in nine months and is still a huge draw at tournaments around the world, regardless of his form. So, how will Spieth ensure that his career does not drive into a brick wall?
His slow and steady entrance into the media and marketing side of golf has allowed Spieth to retain some privacy and normality to his life. As well as this, the rise of Rory Mcllroy has absorbed some of the limelight and taken the Nike and EA titles with it, allowing Spieth to slip under the radar but still claim the World Number One spot.
Starting a professional career so early has taken its toll on Woods’ body but Spieth must ensure that he can avoid the injuries and surgeries that regularly plague most golfers.
Jordan Spieth has the luxury and freedom of being able to express himself on the course as well as relax off it. Tiger Woods was plagued with a constant battle to prove himself against the doubters and golf’s white elite who so wanted to see him fail. Now they have their wish; an ailing former star and a young gun Texan paving the way for a new golf dynasty.
Image courtesy of Ryan Schreiber.