Don't call Spieth's effort at St. Andrews a defeat
You could see it on Jordan Spieth’s face when the final use of his magical wedge spun the ball away from the flag and down the front of the 18th green towards the Valley of Sin. This incredible quest — five days and 72 holes at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf — was going to come up one stroke short, and for the first time all week he wore the look of defeat.
Perhaps it’s misguided to even think of it in those terms. To shoot 14-under-par, to finish one stroke off the pace in a golf major, to have battled not just the Scottish wind and rain but the pressure that comes with trying to become the first since Ben Hogan 62 years ago to win the season’s first three majors — how can that begin to be defined as defeat?
Spieth will fly home without the Claret Jug, but is he any less of a conquering hero after the performance he just delivered? I look at it this way.
If it’s not a weekly question, then at least once a month I am asked in SportsDay chats which of Dallas’ pro sports teams will win the next championship?
It’s a question that comes with the most fluid of answers as the Cowboys, Stars, Mavs and Rangers jockey for position in the standings or present their cases for future success. From now on, I think I shall simply answer it this way.
What is he now, if not an extra pro sports franchise — and a remarkable one at that?
For one thing, he inevitably answers questions by talking about “we” and “our team.” His first answer to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after Monday’s final round: “We gave it a great effort.”
That obviously includes his now very familiar caddie, Michael Greller. Undoubtedly his family and other advisors play a role in the Spieth team, as well.
Even though the chance of the single-season Grand Slam is gone, do you look at Aug. 13 as the date of the Cowboys-Chargers preseason opener or as the next chance to watch Spieth go for a major championship at Whistling Straits?
Spieth, who doesn’t turn 22 until next week, is very much a Dallas kid, even if he’s hardly an average one. Schooled on the not-so-elite fairways and greens of Brookhaven Country Club, Spieth doesn’t take to Twitter that often, but when he does it’s frequently to comment about the Cowboys or Mavericks. He retweeted news of Dez Bryant’s signing last week even as he was preparing to battle for this championship.
Spieth wore a gray pullover all week at St. Andrews, perhaps a tribute to Ben Hogan (always outfitted in gray and white) even as he fulfilled his massive Under Armour contract.
Is Spieth embarking on a career that will one day rival Hogan’s? It’s too soon to say, of course, but here’s what I believe we can say.
If you’re trying to figure out where Spieth will rank among Dallas-Fort Worth golfers (a list that is topped by Hogan and Byron Nelson), he should have a resume that looks something like Lee Trevino’s when he is done. I think that’s closer to Spieth’s floor than his ceiling. And all Trevino ever did was stare down Jack Nicklaus and win six major championships.
When you’re talking about a 21-year-old just getting started, it’s crazy to get too worked up about these projections. But when you win a Masters and a U.S. Open and miss the British Open playoff by a stroke in one three-month stretch, you’re off to a heck of a start.
For sure, Spieth has become a major local sports franchise that fans cheer on a regular basis, and that’s something that wasn’t true of Hogan or Nelson simply because of the times and technology. Even in Trevino’s era, if a golf tournament was shown for two hours on a Sunday, it was a special event.
With Spieth, it’s going to be nearly shot-by-shot coverage for four days in major championships as it was for Tiger Woods in his prime.
In many ways, the pro teams give us rent-a-players from around the country, even the globe. Spieth provides local fans with someone who’s truly one of their own.
Spieth fell just short at the British Open. He will think about that four-putt double bogey on the 8th green for some time. But he’s also got a good 20 years to generate a lot of Texas pride with that gifted putting stroke.
“Going forward I’m as confident as I was coming in here,” he told ESPN Monday afternoon.
The great quest is over. The journey has just begun.