Let's avoid the inevitable Spieth-Woods discussion

Bob Harig [ Source: ESPN ] - February 16, 2017

Jordan Spieth owns many accomplishments in his young career, but he hasn't claimed victories in consecutive official PGA Tour events. He could change that this week at the Genesis Open after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday. Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports1. The inevitable, yet unfair, comparisons

Jordan Spieth's victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was the ninth of his PGA Tour career, another in a long line of impressive feats for a two-time major winner who won't turn 24 until July.

His win meant a sprint to the record books, where only Tiger Woods had as many titles by the same age. Of course, it took Spieth 100 PGA Tour starts to get there -- an impressive number in itself. If Spieth keeps up that pace and plays 400 PGA Tour events, he'll be well on his way to 40 victories.

After Woods won his ninth -- at the 1999 Memorial Tournament -- he went on an incredible run that would see him win 30 tournaments and seven majors during the next four years. In his 100th start, he won 28 PGA Tour titles.

"I think less of the comparisons than I have in the past, but it's an honor, it really is an honor,'' Spieth said following his victory at Pebble Beach. "But getting to where you are the first guy, even including Tiger, to do something is maybe the next goal. But that might be pretty hard.''

And unfair. Such comparisons really do a disservice to both players. It's tough to envision anyone doing what Woods accomplished. And yet, what Spieth is doing is excellent on its own.

2. Spieth's improvement

The knock on Spieth has been that he doesn't perform well if he doesn't putt well. And that is not exactly true. Spieth's all-around game is what helped him win five times, including the Masters and U.S. Open, in 2015. Sure, there are times when it seems he makes everything -- or at least his share of putts beyond 15 feet.

But it's about way more than that. Spieth "only'' won twice on the PGA Tour (and also won the Australian Open) in 2016 because his long game fell off. After the Masters, he didn't contend in another major, either.

Check out the differences in statistics for greens in regulation, strokes gained-approach shots and strokes gained putting for the past three seasons.

Greens in regulation: 2017 (1st); 2016 (145th); 2015 (49th)
SG-Approach: 2017 (4th); 2016 (87th); 2015 (11th)
SG-Putting: 2017 (38th); 2016 (2nd); 2015 (9th)

This year is a sampling of just four tournaments and 16 rounds. But you can see his 2015 season was not all about putting.

3. Friendly advice for Tiger ...

PGA Tour pro Steve Wheatcroft had a good sense of humor last week after hearing about Woods' back spasms keeping him out of two more tournaments.

4. ... and then the irony.

Wheatcroft, unfortunately, was forced to withdraw from the Pebble Beach Pro-Am just a day later because of illness.

5. More advice for Tiger

It has been said before, but is even more appropriate now: Woods needs to lower his own expectations as well as those of all who follow him. It does no good to say you are hoping to "peak'' for the first week in April or that you "show up to win'' whenever you play when you haven't competed for more than a year. And now, some two weeks later, after the back spasms have not subsided, that doesn't make the situation any better.

Woods' mindset has made him the champion that he is, and so it is understandably difficult for him to change his mantra. And yet, he sets himself up for failure when he doesn't take a longer view and allow for the inevitable struggles along the way.

Jason Day said it best after the opening round at Torrey Pines, where Woods shot 76 playing alongside Day and Dustin Johnson.

"I said it over the last couple days, we can't just break down everything he did today, because it's been 17 months [since he competed],'' Day said. "Let him go a year, let him play and go from there.''

Great advice.

6. Big John, bad John

John Daly remains one of the game's most popular figures, often in spite of himself. The latest example occurred Sunday at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Florida, where Daly withdrew on the seventh hole of the Champions Tour event because of back problems.

Injuries are part of sports, and Daly has suffered his share. But what made the withdrawal worse is the fact that Daly was coming off consecutive bogeys and he threw his putter into a lake behind the green, according to a linksmagazine.com report. Although there was no video, the author posted a photo of Daly's putter with the grip above the water line.

While golf is a frustrating game and players sometimes lose their tempers, it is a common occurrence for Daly, who has more withdrawals and big numbers than we have time to count. And it might be good to keep in mind just how great a second chance the Champions Tour is: no cuts, easy courses, guaranteed paychecks.

7. Taking advantage

Rob Oppenheim's story is well known in golf. He missed his PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season by falling $392 short of the top 25 cutoff -- and wasn't able to make up the ground because the Web.com Tour Championship was canceled because of a hurricane.

But Oppenheim has gotten into a few PGA Tour events, and had a sponsor exemption to play at Pebble Beach -- where he was in the same group as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Oppenheim tied for eighth -- which means he earned a spot in this week's Genesis Open. And if he can earn enough FedEx Cup points in his PGA Tour starts to surpass the 125th finisher last season, he'll be fully exempt for next season.

8. Ryder Cup changes

The tweaks that captain Jim Furyk made to the U.S. Ryder Cup points structure were sensible, if not a huge difference. The big one was reducing the amount of points earned at major championships in 2018 from two for every $1,000 earned to 1.5 for every $1,000 earned. At regular events, it is one for every $1,000 earned. The reason was that a player finishing in the top five of a major could, in theory, earn more points than a player who won a regular PGA Tour event, something Furyk believed should be changed.

He also altered the so-called "Billy Horschel'' rule to make the last captain's pick following the BMW Championship, not the Tour Championship -- where Ryan Moore got the pick in 2016 and had to scramble to make plans to get to Minnesota. Now such a pick -- and the team -- will know at least a week earlier, and two weeks earlier if there is an off week between the two tournaments.

9. Turn around, look

Justin Rose got himself a nice selfie with Justin Timberlake at Pebble Beach on Saturday. This shot very nearly went in the hole for an ace. Timberlake settled for a tap-in birdie.

Source: http://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/18691760/quick-9-let-avoid-inevitable-jordan-spieth-tiger-woods-discussion

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