I’ve never seen someone so dedicated to winning, or look better doing it than Jordan Spieth. And if that’s not incentive enough for the rest of us…then why bother?
I confess that it was as compelling a sports event as any I’ve ever seen. The last five holes of the British Open Sunday left very little to consider over one’s passion to finish first.
At the risk of poking the bull one more time, I want to share my feelings about the performance 23-year-old Jordan Spieth gave in winning his third major title in just four years as a professional.
And I say ‘poking the bull’…because there’s already been enough said (or written) about the case for “winning” in recent weeks, and the number of readers who’ve taken occasion to write and make the case for ‘sporting grace’ over ‘sporting superiority’.
Well, if you watched Spieth on Sunday your comments are misdirected if you’ve been writing to Press Pros. You should be writing to him…because if ever there was one who thumbed his nose at finishing second – or demonstrated that he didn’t care about the feelings of those who might eventually finish second – it was Jordan Spieth and the way he played those final five holes.
After hitting the ball out of play with his tee shot on 13, he somehow miraculously recovered to bogey that hole, falling a shot behind Matt Kuchar. Now Kuchar had never won a major PGA tournament, and if you noticed, NBC (or televised the tournament) immediately started the narrative about how his family had secretly flown in overnight to be there in case he came from behind Sunday to win his first ‘Major’.
Nice feel-good, only, no one bothered to share that script with Spieth.
You have to be an athlete of some ilk, or have that kind of confidence, to understand what must have happened inside Spieth after that bogey on 13. Because, he immediately tied for the lead on the next hole with a near hole-in-one (he birdied), and then jammed in an eagle putt on 15 to literally choke the life out of Kuchar’s prospects for winning.
Then, he finished birdie, birdie, par over the final three holes to complete five under for the final five holes to win. And, you could tell that there was no contemplation given as to winning being secondary to graciousness and helping Kuchar to the finish line. Jordan Spieth, as with any true competitor, was playing…TO WIN!
You could tell by the emotion. You could tell by the obvious adrenalin when he managed to ‘salvage’ that bogey on 13. And, having staggered through the first nine holes…you could tell by his determination to lift his performance on the final five holes. Knowing that his skills were superior, he was dedicated to prove, once again, that he was a champion. It was exhilarating to watch!
To be sure, these were professional athletes; these are men whose very lives and reputations rest on their performance on a given day. Their careers rest on their performance in a given tournament, as with Ken Venturi when he won the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 1964. Venturi actually won 14 tournaments in his career; but he’s best known for winning that lone major on a day of suffocating heat when he fought dehydration to win.
So yes, these are professionals, but still, they’re the inspiration and models the next generation watches and by which they set their own personal life goals. Spieth grew up wanting to be like Tiger Woods. And Woods grew up wanting to become, and to be better than, Jack Nicklaus.
As an aside, I wonder how many thought it was arrogant of Spieth to dangle his feet over the side of the bunker on the 18th green while he posed the Claret Jug for photographers? I wonder how many snorted in contempt at the $1.9 million winning purse that Spieth carts back to Texas with him? I personally won’t.
Rather, I rest in the satisfaction of knowing that he’ll probably handle his money well over the length of his career and never become a ward of the state, or the federal government, and thereby a drain on the taxpayers. He won’t need Social Security.
Of course, there can only be one winner in an event like that, but there’s plenty of incentive when the total purse is 10.5 million dollars, a pretty good pool for which to compete. And even with that much money…I didn’t see any poor sportsmanship. And is that not a microcosm for the rest of society and a trillion dollar economy?
If winning begats winning, which seems to happen in sports, is that a life lesson for the rest of us that’s so hard to accept and embrace?
Or, do you still think it would have been a better example had Jordan Spieth thrown in the towel after his tee shot on 13 and simply conceded that a nice guy like Matt Kuchar deserved to win a major at least once?