Jordan Spieth's ankle played a part in his bad final round at Torrey Pines.
Jordan Spieth proved something Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines every great golfer before him had already learned.
It's not going to be there every week.
The young man, barely old enough to grow a beard, played like a very talented 10-year PGA Tour veteran last year and through three of his first four events of 2014. In reality, though, he was a boy among men and made sure folks playing and watching the game would take note of what he was accomplishing.
And even though the pride of Texas sounded a pair of real clunkers (75-75 on the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open, punctuated by four bogeys in his last five holes), this kid is for real. He is already a force in the game and will become a major player before very long.
He was spectacular on Friday, beating Tiger Woods unmercifully with a nine-birdie, no-bogey round of 63. Saturday was a different story when he made four bogeys and a double in a 75. Sunday was another four-bogey round of 75, and he dropped down the scoreboard like a rock midway through the back nine.
The fact that he hurt his ankle Friday partially explains how a guy who had been playing so well could suddenly go so bad.
And here's another statement you can take to the bank: As good as his 2013 was, his 2014 has all the prospects of being more spectacular.
In case you've forgotten, Spieth was the guy who started making cuts on the PGA Tour at age 16. And he started the 2013 season with no status on either the Web.com or PGA Tour. He got into early-season events through sponsor's exemptions, but quickly started piling up top-10 finishes.
In the end, as a 19-year-old, Spieth won the John Deere Classic to become the youngest winner on the tour in 82 years and fourth-youngest winner ever. From nowhere, he finished the season 22nd in the Official World Golf Rankings and became the youngest player to make the Presidents Cup team. Oh yeah, he made almost $4 million. And the kid posted nine top-10 finishes—amazing.
Pretty special by any measure, but what makes Spieth even more special is how he competes and how he loves to compete. The young man is trying to make "that" shot every time he swings the club, but he's proven to be smart and savvy enough to know when the best strategy is do the best you can in a given situation and live to compete another day.
He did not distinguish himself in the majors last year. He didn't get into the Masters but will be there this April. Though he missed the cut in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, Spieth did tie for 44th in the British Open and learned what it's like to play in one of the four most important tournaments of the year.
Spieth hits it long enough, and he hits it plenty straight enough. He's fearless on the course and will never be confused with one of those players who is afraid to go low. A 63 playing with Tiger Woods this week and a 62 playing with Phil Mickelson in the Deutsche Bank Championship last year prove that.
It seems as though there's always a teenage phenom who is deemed "the next Tiger Woods." Rory McIlroy was the latest to be saddled with that crown. Of course, McIlroy did supplant Woods at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, but found the rarified air of No. 1 a little too nervy for his taste.
Don't expect Spieth to start feeling lightheaded as he moves further and further up in the PGA Tour hierarchy. The two best players in the game coming down the stretch last year were Henrik Stenson and Spieth.
The young Texan posted four top-20 finishes (two top-10s) in the FedEx Cup playoffs and then finished second in the Tour Championship. And he was a solid contributor in the United States' win in the Presidents Cup.
Does he have more to learn about professional golf? Absolutely he does, and that process started last year when he played better than most of those players who had more experience. There's no better way to learn than to have success in the process.
He'll need to take care of that injured ankle, but once he does, look for his name high on a leaderboard near you. It's something we're all going to get used to.