“The Handsome Hogan”

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Golfing phenoms who burst on the scene are like snowstorms: everybody wants to know just how much we’re in for, the moment the first flakes start falling.

And like forecasts of greatness, we’re often let down when the predicted “Blizzard of the Century” turns into a dusting.

I don’t yet have a good idea on how high the major championships will pile up for Jordan Spieth. But I know this much: he’ll be an easy guy to root for anytime he’s on my TV.

While Spieth made his wire-to-wire act look relatively easy this past week at Augusta, count me among the golf fans who was a nervous wreck come Sunday morning. While not invested in the outcome tangibly, I simply had no stomach to see this game dish out another cruel blow to such a likable kid.

Thankfully, Spieth took the ghosts of last year’s final round stumble, and whipped them 7&6 without so much as a wobble.

This kid’s got some serious sand. You don’t need me to tell you that. The best line of the week came from Crenshaw when he said meeting Spieth was “like looking at Wyatt Earp.”

Appropriate, since Wyatt Earp’s brothers Virgil and Marshall were ambushed and assassinated by outlaw cowboys a few months after the shootout at the O.K. Corral.  Unfazed, Wyatt set out with a federal posse to bring cold lead justice to the outlaws who did it, and they cut down the three men thought to be responsible – all without a scratch on Wyatt himself, only adding to Earp’s legend.

Jordan Spieth as golf’s Wyatt Earp? Oh hell yeah, Gentle Ben, you got that one right!

The measurables on Spieth are not much to gawk at. He’s the size of your average non-descript tour pro with a 33 inch waist and a white belt. He moves it nice off the tee, but not enough to lose your gum in mid-chew.

spieth_flopshot

But then again, there’s no tape measure for what he did Saturday evening, when his world was spinning fast. A knife’s-edge flop shot, from a downhill patch of tightly cropped organic astro-turf, with 3,000 hushed patrons sitting church-pew still less than 8 feet away from him?

Good grief, that shot is a sloppy fringe-putt some 35 feet away to mere mortals.

At just 21, the temptation is to assume he’ll only get better. I’ll resist that temptation. Let’s let him at least get to two majors first. Deal? The list of current “great” players who are stuck at “One” is already long enough.

All those other up and comers? Adam Scott. Graeme McDowell. Louis Oosthuizen. Charl Schwartzel. Keegan Bradley. Justin Rose.

One, one, one.

The greats of the previous generation? Fred Couples. Davis Love III. David Duval. Tom Kite. Jim Furyk.

One, one, one.

Only 15 men since 1953 have won 5 Majors in a lifetime. I like that number. Five. I think it’s a reasonable total throw up there as a forecast right now.

Spieth’s ability to putt the eyes out of a grasshopper is going to play well at any major championship venue going forward that uses a 4 1/2 inch hole as the target.

He’s only got about 20 good years left before he starts to taper off. So as long as he can have a week like that once every 5 years, this modern “Handsome Hogan” will go down as one of the all-time greats.

And if it does, I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of watching it.

spieth_flop2 2015 Masters 2015 Masters

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Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Five seems like a good number. Looking at his recovery shots on Sunday where he hit line drives below the tree line makes you think he would be a good candidate for a British Open. Also, growing up in Texas probably helped him develop the low shots needed in the wind. Its a good bet that US Opens and PGAs will be harder to come by where they often stretch the course to ungodly lengths.

  2. When people mention that spieth is not one of the long knockers on Tour, it makes me think of Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers. Gladwell theorizes that you don’t have to have the highest IQ, rather you only need to be at the level of smart enough, combined with opportunity. He uses Gates and Jobs as prime examples. I like to think of Spieth as long enough. Ridiculous putting is what won the Masters for him. Short games like his combined with the nerves of a cat-burglar will make him a formidible opponent for years.

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