Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods have become inseparable, joined at the clip at which each took over the golf world at the outset of their careers.
Spieth won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Sunday in a dominant fashion that once more evoked memories of Tiger in his youth. It was Spieth’s seventh PGA Tour victory, two of which have been majors, several months before his 23rd birthday. At a similar age, Woods had seven victories, one of them a major.
The comparisons are irresistible, a way of charting Spieth’s progress against the incomparable standard set by Woods. They’re inevitable, perhaps, but are they prudent?
Woods, at the same stage, was on the cusp of a dominant decade that seemingly rendered his eclipsing Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors a formality. A tough act to follow.
A more appropriate question: Wouldn’t it be better simply to enjoy Spieth for what he is, fresh air in an often fetid sporting world (to wit, the Bengals-Steelers game Saturday night) and a reason to look forward to watching how the story unfolds in a sport too frequently capable of curing insomnia?
Spieth, like Woods (again, the comparisons), has a way of retaining our interest even when the outcome is in doubt. This one was over Saturday, when Spieth nearly made an albatross on the 18th hole, settled for an easy eagle, and opened a five-stroke lead.
NBC’s Peter Jacobsen noted that Spieth has taken on an aura reminiscent of Tiger. “I think the great players have always created their own atmosphere,” he said. “They create their own stage. Go back to Trevino, go back to Nicklaus, go back to Hogan and certainly Tiger Woods. Jordan Spieth does that. He does it with a smile and he does it with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement. He creates it and I think the other players feel it.”
The final round of the Tournament of Champions was largely devoid of drama and became a rout when he birdied 15, 16 18 to to win by eight strokes. Yet there is appeal watching the best player in the world in dominant form, setting a tone for the year ahead.
Let history be the guide here. There were any number of Bear Apparents, the next Nicklaus. Ultimately there was only one Bear. There will never be another Tiger, either.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to compare," Spieth said after the tournament. "It’s awfully early. We’re very excited about where we’re at and the start to our career as a team. What Tiger’s done, I can’t ever imagine it done again."
Their paths don’t cross much these days, but they do parallel, and that’s where it ends with Spieth and Woods. Spieth isn’t rewriting Tiger’s story, he’s writing his own. Let’s see how it plays out.