Comparing Jordan Spieth's and Tiger Woods' First 77 Starts on the PGA Tour

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 29: Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth talk together on the 17th hole during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on January 29, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jordan Spieth, now with seven wins (including two majors) under his belt, is starting to field questions about comparisons to Tiger Woods in press conferences. Spieth, eternally modest as he is, of course resists such comparisons and talks about how the two play in different eras.

But what of the Jordan Spieth/Tiger Woods comparisons? Let’s take a deeper look.

Jordan Spieth has started 77 PGA Tour events as a professional golfer. He is presently 22 years, five months old. Tiger Woods started his 77th PGA Tour event at The Players Championship in March 2000. He was 24 years, two months old at the time of his 77th start.

Thus, it’s worth noting first of all that Woods was nearly two years older than Spieth at the time of his 77th start.

Woods turned pro in August 1996, with his first start coming at the Greater Milwaukee Open at the beginning of September. Jordan Spieth turned pro in December 2012. His first start as a professional came at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January 2013.  

Let’s look at the pair’s performances in terms of cuts made, top-10 finishes and major victories.

Tiger Woods, 2000
Tiger Woods, 2000Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Cuts made

Woods: 76 of 77 (98.7 percent): One of the singular elements of Tiger Woods’ early playing career was his ability to make cuts, turning 72 into 69 on days when he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. The one missed cut: the 1997 Bell Canadian Open.

Spieth: 65 of 77 (84.4 percent): Jordan Spieth’s cut-made percentage is entirely respectable. Still, he’s missed more cuts in majors (three) than Woods did in all tournaments.  

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jordan Spieth of the United States poses on the 18th green after winning both the TOUR Championship By Coca-Cola and the FedExCup at East Lake Golf Club on September 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Top-10 finishes

Woods: 49 of 77 (63.6 percent): Tiger Woods has tallied nearly 20 percent more top-10 finishes than Jordan Spieth. Woods tallied seven top-10s in majors during the 77-start stretch.

Spieth: 34 of 77 (44.1 percent): Jordan Spieth has finished inside the top 10 in nearly half of the major championships he’s entered. He also has a penchant for top-10 finishes in FedEx Cup playoff events and has recorded 16 second- or third-place finishes.

Tiger Woods, 2000 U.S. Open
Tiger Woods, 2000 U.S. OpenJamie Squire/Getty Images

Wins

Woods: 17 of 77 (22.1 percent): A big difference between Tiger Woods after 77 starts and Jordan Spieth: Woods has tallied more than twice as many wins.

Woods' wins: 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic; 1997 Mercedes Championships, Masters Tournament, GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic, Motorola Western Open; 1998 BellSouth Classic; 1999 Buick Invitational, Memorial Tournament, Motorola Western Open, PGA Championship, World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational, National Car Rental Golf Classic/Disney, The Tour Championship, World Golf Championships-American Express Championship; 2000 Mercedes Championships, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Bay Hill Invitational.

Spieth: 7 of 77 (9.1 percent): 2013 John Deere Classic; 2015 Valspar Championship, Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, John Deere Classic, Tour Championship; 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Jordan Spieth, 2015 Masters
Jordan Spieth, 2015 MastersRoss Kinnaird/Getty Images

Major wins

Woods: 2 of 12 (16.6 percent): 1997 Masters; 1999 PGA Championship

Spieth: 2 of 11 (18.1 percent): 2015 Masters; 2015 U.S. Open

Rather than a painful catalog of the statistical similarities and differences between the two golfers, here is a pair of “scouting reports” based on each golfer’s stats during the three-year period.  

Here’s what a scouting report on Tiger Woods in 2000 might have said

Absolute bomber off the tee: among the fastest swings on tour. One of the best drivers of the golf ball in recent history. Hits a ridiculous three-quarters of greens in regulation and pours in birdies and eagles. Has worked to become a decent sand player and scrambler. Elite putter. Feasts on par fives. Tour best in par-three and par-four scoring as well. Best at bouncing back from a bogey in the game.

Here’s what a scouting report on Jordan Spieth, currently, might say

Fantastic scrambler and putter. Brilliant from the rough. Not among the longest hitters on tour but a serviceable driver of the golf ball. Average club head speed. Not a leader in greens in regulation, but overall soundness of tee-to-green play is indicated by his high strokes gained: tee-to-green numbers. Elite birdie-maker with a knack for scoring. Among the top 15 percent on tour in proximity to the hole. Struggles somewhat with wedge play. Arguably the best putter on tour from distance and among the best from traditional birdie ranges. Tour leader in par-four scoring. Bounces back from bogeys well.

So, while there are major differences between the two golfers' games, their “major” performance (two) wins are similar. However, it’s worth noting that Tiger went crazy in the majors shortly after the period in question, winning four in a row from the U.S. Open of 2000 to the Masters of 2001.

Also, Woods’ win rate was more than twice Spieth’s, and his cut-made percentage was otherworldly at the time—well beyond what Spieth (or any other golfer) has approached in recent years.

Ultimately, though, as Butch Harmon recently stated, the comparisons between Woods and Spieth are warranted.

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