Jordan Spieth, Not Rory, is the 'Next Tiger'

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By JIM O'SHEA
College Contributor Network

2014 was "The Year of Rory" in golf. And rightly so. The Northern Irishman won three tournaments in a row, including two majors, and the PGA Tour and European Tour Players of the Year. After his win at the PGA Championship, many called it the beginning of the "New Era."

But McIlroy is not the one who will be leading the post-Tiger Woods era. Instead, look for another young superstar to lead the next stage of the PGA Tour with an aging Woods. His name: Jordan Spieth.

The 21-year-old did something McIlroy also did this year, but it went widely unnoticed due to its timing. Spieth won back-to-back tournaments in early December and they were not cupcakes as some "offseason" tournaments are.

First, he took down the continent of Australia (not literally) in his Australian Open victory. It was his first-ever time playing an Australian Tour tournament. And man, did he show up. And it was even more impressive what he did when it mattered most on Sunday.

Spieth shot an eight-under 63 to take the win by six shots. McIlroy, on the other hand, shot a 76 to finish 15 strokes behind. Another major champion, Adam Scott, finished the round even-par and nine shots behind Spieth.

Shooting -8 on Sunday and winning a tournament by six shots is impressive enough. But the extremely windy conditions he did it in makes it even more Tiger-esque. Spieth called it "the best round [he has] ever played."

And McIlroy was even more impressed by the young Texan's performance. The number-one player in the world took to Twitter to say, "You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn't even sniff 63.... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!"

Very impressive, indeed.

But maybe even more impressive is what he did in the week that followed. Spieth flew back to the States and took no time off. He competed in Tiger Woods' annual tournament, the Hero World Challenge, in Windmere, FL.

The 18-man field may not look like much and it does not count in the FedEx Cup standings. But, Official World Golf Ranking points are given out and for a reason. Patrick Reed, who came in at #26 in the OWGR, was the lowest-ranked player in the event.

And Spieth did not just complete the two-week sweep, but he did it in incredible fashion. He did not shoot worse than 67 in any round. He set two tournament records, lowest total score at 26-under 262 and largest margin of victory at ten. He beat 18 of the 26 best players in the world by ten shots!

Well, look no further than the tournament host and the face of golf since he lapped the field at 21-years-old at the Masters in 1997. Tiger Woods put on the green jacket after a tournament-record 18-under won it by what was another record 12 strokes.

But it is not just that Speith can blow away the field like Woods. It is also how he does it on Sunday when it matters.

When Tiger has had the 54-hole lead, he has converted it into another trophy 49 out of 53 times on tour. And he has only blown a lead going into Sunday once in a major. Spieth so far is two out of three in his career in the same circumstance and if the last two have shown anything, it is that it will take a tremendous performance to overtake him on Sunday.

And besides the 14 majors Woods has won, another impressive stat is that he has never missed more than two cuts in any year as a professional. Spieth is also one that is basically a lock to play the weekend in every tournament. In the 2013-14 campaign on the PGA Tour, he played in an absurd 27 tournaments, more than Woods has in any season, and went 24/27 in made cuts.

Golf Digest may have been spot on in its September cover when it had a picture of Spieth and the words "The Next One" under it. Spieth enters his second calendar year as a full PGA Tour card holder and the expectations have never been higher. The 21-year-old is the No. 9 player in the world and can join none other than Woods as the only players to own the No. 1 spot at age 21.

What will 2015 bring in the golf world? Well, in the words of Buzz Lightyear: "To [Spieth] and beyond!"


Jim O'Shea is a junior at Syracuse University studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism. Born and raised in Houston, TX. He's an avid Texans and Texas Rangers fan. Also golf is his favorite sport. Follow him on Twitter: @JimOShea4
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