May 15, 2014 in Breakfast Ball
With balls in the air at Jordan Spieth’s jumping off point, the HP Byron Nelson, now seems as good of a time as any to address the firestorm that has erupted around the 20-year-old.
A 16-year-old Spieth first emerged onto golf’s collective radar at the HP Byron Nelson in 2010. The high school junior shot a third-round 67 to put himself in a tie for seventh, six shots back of the leader, a then-22-year-old Jason Day. Day and Spieth would both shoot final-round 2-over par 72s with Day claiming — until the Match Play this year — his lone PGA Tour victory.
Following that week in Dallas, Day jumped to No. 79 in the rankings and Spieth debuted at No. 864. Fast forward four years and both are in the top-10 in the world — Day at No. 6 and Spieth at No. 8.
Heralded as two of the game’s brightest young stars, neither has put a signature win on their résumé, but not for a lack of opportunities. For Day, both the 2011 Masters and US Open were realistic chances for him to break through as were those same events two years later in 2013. Instead, a trio of runner-ups and one third are as close as the Aussie has come to major glory.
Spieth, playing many of the major venue courses for the first time in competition, has had similar close calls over the past few months, most notably the Masters and Players Championship where the Texan held leads during the final round. Both times, however, Spieth failed to close. Whether that be a result of his own shortcomings or the fact that he may have simply been outplayed, he chalks up the experiences to just that and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t deserve his time.
“I don’t really care about the criticism,” Speith told Jason Sobel of GolfChannel.com on Tuesday, “because the people criticizing and even the people supporting me, there have only been a few people that have been in the positions that I’ve been in at my age, being able to try and compete the first time at these events and win them.
“I’m disappointed in myself, because I feel like I could have pulled them off. But I could(n’t) care less what anybody really thinks.”
He’s right. And as Sobel wrote, no one not named Woods or McIlroy can hardly begin to understand the positions he’s put himself in or the criticism he draws because of his near misses. The fact that he’s put himself there to win the biggest events in the game have been the Spiethian Catch-22. Missed cuts and demotions to the Web.com Tour are chalked up to being 20-years-old and the growing pains of adapting to life on Tour. Contending in major championships, real and contrived, and failing to win them have put him in the gallows for a public whipping.
“Experience comes from failure,” somebody famous most likely said, so why not give him a couple years to grow into his game, both mentally and physically? The almighty Tiger didn’t win his first major until he was 21; Rory not until 22. Spieth still has three chances this year. A Masters and a Players didn’t go his way, but it’s not like he shit the bed, excuse the expression.
The pertinent and fair thing to do with Jordan Spieth is to wait and see. He’s miles ahead of most of his contemporaries in terms of experience and talent, so why push it? Those two characteristics could allow him to become the next big thing in golf or they could let him down and he could flame out. Time will tell, so let’s allow it to.
As if it’s not ridiculous enough that we’re waiting for Spieth to become the next whoever, we already have the next Jordan Spieth in the field this week.
17-year-old Scottie Scheffler is a Dallas native who has filled up a junior golf résumé similar to Spieth’s, will play his college golf at Texas and is playing in this week’s Nelson four years after Spieth debuted on the PGA Tour. ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett put a piece together ahead of this week’s tournament that’s worth a read.
The next Jordan Spieth?
Scheffler knows the comparisons to young PGA Tour phenom Jordan Spieth are natural. Both put up impressive junior golf résumés playing out of clubs in Dallas. Like Spieth, Scheffler won three straight state titles, doing so at Class 4A Highland Park. And like Spieth, Scheffler is a U.S. Junior Amateur champion, winning last year (in his final year of eligibility) at Martis Camp Club in California. The Dallas resident is the No. 1 junior golfer in the country.
The Nelson was Spieth’s first PGA Tour event in 2010. It will also be Scheffler’s first foray inside the ropes against some of the best professional golfers in the world.
Just as Spieth did prior to turning professional, Scheffler is headed to the University of Texas to play college golf.
Scheffler tees off at 2 p.m. off the 10th tee with Hudson Swafford and Kevin Kisner.
Final thing today comes from a story you may recall made some waves around the same time as Spieth was playing in the Byron Nelson for the first time in 2010.
Erica Blasberg, an LPGA golfer, committed suicide in May of 2010. The ensuing few months were something out of a movie. I wrote about the death and gave some details when it first happened, but this week the latest developments of the case were ruled upon by a jury in Nevada. Story via the Las Vegas Sun.
A jury in Nevada cleared a Las Vegas physician Tuesday in a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from the May 2010 suicide of LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg.
Jurors who heard five days of civil trial testimony deliberated less than an hour before finding Dr. Thomas Hess had no liability in the death of a woman who according to testimony harbored deep feelings of unhappiness even as she became a college golf star and a photogenic rising talent on the women’s pro tour.
Hess, who testified earlier Tuesday that he had a “flirty” relationship with Blasberg, wasn’t in the courtroom when the jury finding was read. He has maintained that he and Blasberg were friends, but didn’t have a romantic relationship.
Hess’ attorney, Kim Irene Mandelbaum, declined immediate comment after the jury finding was read in Clark County District Court.
Earlier, Mandelbaum urged the jury of four men and four women to remember that Blasberg’s suicide letter said not to blame anyone.
Blasberg’s parents, Mel and Debra Blasberg, who are divorced and live in Southern California, said they were disappointed in the finding but glad to have aired their concerns in court.
If you’re interested in some more background, I recommend this December 2010 profile from Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck.
Since Breakfast Balls have been a little spotty over the past week or so, I’m going to pass along a few videos today to make up for it.
First, to honor the NBA Playoffs reaching its apex and the sadness that comes when the conference finals wrap up and we don’t get Inside the NBA anymore, we need as much Chuck as possible.
And with the World Cup on the mind as well, especially given the awesome Inside US Soccer’s March to Brazil series that just debuted, I’ve concocted an excuse to show US Women’s National Team star Alex Morgan hitting a golf ball at Houston’s TopGolf location and celebrating the nice contact.