News & ToursAugust 16, 2015

Jordan Spieth just became No. 1 in the world. And yet he leaves Whistling Straits in second place

HAVEN, Wis. -- With his performance at the PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth became the official No. 1 ranked player in the world.

Yet, Spieth's Sunday will be remembered for falling short.

It seems miscalculated, perhaps even cruel, to catalog Spieth's play this week as a disappointment. Despite the misfortune of teeing off in harsh conditions on Thursday afternoon, Spieth kept himself in the tournament, a sentiment most of his fellow late-wave competitors could not say. (Oh, the mind wonders what Spieth could have done if he started in the morning.)

Even while Jason Day made a mockery of Whistling Straits, Spieth was very much in the Wanamaker running, his hopes ultimately dashed by Day's tremendous lag-putt at the 71st hole.

Speith finished with a final-round 68, good for second place. This standing bestowed Spieth his summer-long pursuit of the No. 1 ranking, displacing Rory McIlroy from the spot.

So why does it feel like Spieth is leaving in disappointment?

Because, he is.

View image |

"Major championships are what we're remembered for in this sport," said Spieth after his round. "It's what I imagine all of our dreams were as kids, to play professional golf and to compete and try an win major championships."

Golf is the rarest of sports where the lines of success and failure are tenuous, ambiguous and ever-changing. Brooks Koepka's T-5 finish will be noted as success. Same for Branden Grace's third-place showing. Spieth beat both, yet, somehow, leaves Wisconsin with a less-positive connotation.

For the year, Spieth captured two major titles. He tied for fourth in the British Open to go along with the PGA Championship's silver medal. He was four shots shy of a Grand Slam.

That's quite the season. Hell, that's quite the career.

But, as Spieth is finding out, when you're the face of your sport, anything less than a championship is defeat. LeBron James can attest as much.

"You could look at that from a negative view of what could I have done, or you could look at it where maybe one putt and I would only have one major this year," Spieth said. He's right. Just as James is a Ray Allen shot away from owning just one ring.

But history doesn't count the barely-mades. It's the near-misses that are remembered.

And make no mistake, he was close.

Look no further than the 11th hole on Sunday. Day's tee shot appeared to be headed for deep rough, which would likely negate a chance to reach the par-5 in two. Instead, Day's ball found the fairway, leading to a birdie.

Spieth, on the other hand, saw his second-shot approach fall just short of rolling into the green, catching a railroad tie and ricocheting into heather. On a hole that was statistically the second-easiest of the day, Spieth took par.

"It's not easy," Spieth commented in the media tent. "It takes a lot out of you. I'm tired right now. I mean, I left it all out there. I'm tired from the majors this year because of what it does."

The FedEx Cup remains on the PGA Tour schedule, as does the fall's Presidents Cup. Spieth will be a main player in both.

"This year isn't over, I've got a lot of big tournaments coming up. But the four biggest are finished now until April."

When you're a golfer of Spieth's caliber, those are the only four that matter. And the assessment is simple: Did you win?

For Spieth on Sunday, that answer was no.


More from The Loop