Lessons From Augusta: Jordan Spieth

In the 2015 Masters, Jordan Spieth emerged as golf’s next great champion and ambassador. Since he was a junior, Jordan has long been viewed as an elite player, but at only 21 years of age, he’s making waves not seen since the early days of Tiger Woods.

Perhaps the most universally popular Masters Champion in recent memory, Jordan appears to have the “It” factor on every level. His maturity beyond his years and genuine nature make him perhaps the most likable player on the PGA Tour. Oftentimes, in sports we incorrectly deem such pleasantness to be a weakness, but not with Spieth. Ben Crenshaw, an ardent supporter who marvels at Spieth’s talent, likened the young Texan’s steeliness to Wyatt Earp. In having the opportunity to watch Jordan up close last week, I would agree he definitely has something special within his competitive makeup. In following his stroll to the first tee at Augusta and interaction with the other competitors, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Seve Ballesteros. When questioned about his relationship with his fellow players, Seve was once quoted as saying, “I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I’m thinking, I’m going to bury you!” That’s exactly what I saw out of Spieth.

Ben Crenshaw, an ardent supporter who marvels at Spieth’s talent, likened the young Texan’s steeliness to Wyatt Earp.

At Tiger’s best, everyone knew he wanted to obliterate the competition. Part of keeping that edge seemed to be staying a healthy distance from others to maintain that aura of invincibility. Tiger made us believe, perhaps you couldn’t be a good guy and an assassin. In Spieth, however, the nicest guy in golf just might also be the Terminator.

Aside from his mental aptitude, Jordan also has a few swing characteristics that some people might deem to be outside of the norm for a high-level player. His unusually weak, palm-based grip, excessively bent left arm at top of swing and “blocked” finish would make most amateurs and some coaches think a fundamental change might be in order. With Spieth, however, you can’t argue with the performance. This example presents the perfect opportunity to learn a little more about what “Really” is most important in any golf swing.

When evaluating or coaching a player, at any age, remember there really are no “absolute” so-called fundamentals in golf, but rather styles, preferences and “ranges” that can yield desired results. When studying yourself or others, instead of immediately directing attention to commonly perceived idiosyncrasies, start by asking 3 basic questions:

1. Does the player exhibit the ability to produce a correct and repeatable bottom to the golf swing?

2. Does the player create enough speed to challenge the course and compete with his or her peers?

3. Does the ball flight exhibit a predictable height and curvature?

If the answer is “YES” to all of the above, the player has within their current skill set the ability to play championship level golf. If the answer is “NO” a coaching adjustment is necessary to shift the pattern within a more reasonable level of performance.

Everyone loves watching a classically pretty swing, but real artistry occurs when the player utilizes the tools and instincts unique to them to produce an original expression of excellence.

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