Here is one of the great myths in American sports: we love the underdog. We don’t. What we love is greatness, in seeing people do things that have never been done before.
Which brings me to Jordan Spieth.
If you’re like me, you watched the British Open with great interest last weekend, through the wind and rain, over the burn and into the gorse. You watched right up until Spieth drew back his wedge into the valley of sin and rolled a putt from the fairway over a mound and past the cup on his 72nd and final hole of the tournament. And then you clicked off the Open once it went to a three-man playoff involving Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.
Once Spieth was out, so was I.
And so, presumably, were you.
First, a word on Spieth’s finish at the British, in which he missed a makeable par putt on the 17th green and yanked his tee shot left on 18. Right then and there, no matter what anybody says, he was feeling the burden of history. A choke? Technically speaking, yes. But even someone like me wouldn’t label Spieth a choker, an honor that is now indisputably reserved for Dustin Johnson.
Ah, poor DJ. First he three-putted from 12 feet on the 18th green at the U.S. Open to blow the tournament. Then, after shooting 10-under par during the first two rounds of the British, he went out in the third round, when everyone was blistering the course, and shot a 75, essentially losing six strokes to the field. He duplicated the performance on Sunday, posting another 75 that left him at minus-4 and all but buried in a pot bunker on the old course at St. Andrew’s.
Beyond that – and Spieth – the most memorable part of the Open may have come on the 17th tee on Monday, when Phil Mickelson hooked his tee shot onto the balcony of the hotel, evoking memories of Mickelson’s ill-advised tee shot on the 18th tee at the 2006 U.S. Open. The championship wasn’t on the line this time and Mickelson didn’t hit the hospitality tent, but, well, you get the idea.
At that moment in 2006, Mickelson was on the verge of winning his third straight major championship, following the 2005 PGA Championship and the 2006 Masters. Instead, he began a streak during which he went winless in the majors for almost four years, until the 2010 Masters.
All of this brings us back to Spieth, the soon-to-be 22-year-old who is the most captivating American golfer since Eldrick T. Woods.
Spieth blistered the field at the Masters, then won the U.S. Open. He came within a shot of qualifying for the playoff at the British, officially finishing in a tie for fourth. Just as the golf world was buzzing about Rory McIlroy, the 26-year-old Northern Irishman with four majors, Spieth burst onto the scene and triggered what could be a trans-Atlantic rivalry for the ages.
Independent of that, here’s what I want: for Spieth to continue blistering the field. Golf could use a talent like him. Players like Spieth are card-carrying members of Tiger Youth, spawned by the one-time greatness of Woods. The hope now for him should be to accomplish something near what Woods did – maybe more – which is obviously a preposterous expectation given Spieth’s limited resume.
But admit it: that’s what you’re thinking. That’s what we all are. No one is really interested in seeing Rickie Fowler win his major, a second or even a third. Not really. What we’re interested in now is in seeing whether Spieth can dominate the golf landscape – at least on this side of the pond – for a length of time that would get him somewhere close to double digits in major championship titles.
Who wants parity?
We clearly have a chance here for something much, much better.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.