Jordan Spieth enters elite territory with win no. 10

Jun 25, 2017; Cromwell, CT, USA; Jordan Spieth reacts after chipping out of the sand for a birdie during the first playoff hole of the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2017; Cromwell, CT, USA; Jordan Spieth reacts after chipping out of the sand for a birdie during the first playoff hole of the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Jordan Spieth may be lucky but he’s also very good – as good as Tiger and Jack.

Jordan Spieth crossed into new territory in title totals with 10 with his victory last week at the Travelers Championship. He’s the second youngest golfer to get to that number.  And that’s not all.  It’s even more impressive when you look at the history of the PGA TOUR and U.S. professional golf since it has been played in the U.S.

Since 1895, when the first U.S. Open was held, 114 golfers have won 10 tournaments or more.  Most of them fall into one of three categories. They are either PGA Tour Champions golfers, retired golfers or they have moved on to the great golf course in the sky. Spieth, with win number 10 is reaching into elite levels of professional golf.

At the Traveler’s, after his hole-out for victory, he talked about his play last week versus the weeks leading up to it as well as the difficulty of leading all four rounds.

"My ball striking has been rock solid for a while now. It’s just about when are those putts going to start going in, and they did for the first few rounds, and didn’t quite today and that happens, but it’s tough. It is tough when you don’t have somebody ahead of you to chase. The other two events, I was feeling fantastic around the greens and on the greens. This week, you know, it was like I said, it was getting there. It was moving in the right direction."

Spieth credited his caddie, Michael Greller, for steadying him when he got off focus and for starting the celebration when the big bunker shot dropped.

“Michael did a great job keeping me in (it),” Spieth noted, adding that when he is leading for four rounds, it’s like chasing a ghost.

"We’ve got a good record of 54-hole leads. It’s the position we want to be in. We’re okay with chasing that ghost. Today was a little harder than some of the other times, but all in all, a win’s a win."

Related Story: Michael Greller, the man behind Jordan Spieth

He jokingly explained that he had taken a lot of grief from other PGA TOUR players for his chip in at the John Deere which got him into a lengthy playoff that he eventually won for his first PGA TOUR victory.

"The John Deere one, potentially going off the green or into the water or whatever.  I think this one went in with good speed. I’ll have to see it later. So, I’ve got that going for me."

He did not expect to make the shot.

"You never think those are necessarily going in. You try to make the right contact to get it somewhere within a five-foot circle, which is, I think, my expectation on that. Then when it went in, I mean, that was a tremendous bonus."

Their side bump celebration was one for top lists in player and caddie excitement.

“I was actually a little surprised by jubilation from Michael,” Spieth added.

"Normally he’d just kind of have his hands up or something, right? He’s more reserved. He was screaming, and it made me want to scream louder, and then he jumped. And, fortunately, we didn’t like high-five jump. We both went kind of for the little side bump. But it was cool."

Spieth said the ground actually shook due to the crowd noise.

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“That was as loud as I think I’ve ever created. It’s up there. Sixteen at Augusta the year we won was really a loud one, too,” he recalled. ”Boy, I mean, I really wish that I didn’t make it exciting. The goal was boring golf.”

One reason Spieth is called Golden Child is that he seems to get the breaks when there are breaks to be had.  On Sunday, the holed bunker shot wasn’t the only one.

His tee shot at the 13th just stopped short of the water.  It caught up in the rough.

“If I was in play I was going to be happy,” he said. “In mid-air I thought it was in the water, and it held up.”

On the 15th, his ball stopped in the left rough, narrowly avoiding the water a few feet away. He explained the shot this way:

"I thought I actually hit a really good hybrid. I thought it was the right play. It is going to roll just short of the green, and that’s a simple pitch. I wasn’t trying to hit it on the green today. It kind of hooked and there was no wind."

It just wasn’t the boring golf he intended to play.

“I was extremely surprised on both of those,” he admitted about the shots on the 13th and 15th. “This was probably my luckiest win for sure, absolutely, with the breaks I got today.”

While some may call him lucky, when you look at his victory total, it looks more like skill setting in rather than luck visiting him from time to time.

The number of PGA TOUR players, still active, with exactly 10 PGA TOUR titles includes only Sergio Garcia and Jason Day.  And here’s what’s really surprising. Other than Garcia and Day, there are only 13 golfers, if you include Tiger Woods, still playing PGA TOUR events, who have won more.

So right now, in his fourth season, Spieth tops all but 13 active players in titles.

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Those ahead of him include, Justin Leonard and Zach Johnson with 12 each; Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, and David Duval with 13; Dustin Johnson with 15; Jim Furyk with 17; Ernie Els with 19; Davis Love III with 21; Vijay Singh with 34 and Phil Mickelson with 42.

Of that list, Woods isn’t playing right now, and we don’t know if he will again.  That leaves 12 golfers ahead of him.

With Duval and Leonard spending more time in the booth or as analysts than playing, it’s really 10. Taking out Stricker, Love III and Singh, who qualify for the PGA Tour Champions but play both tours, it’s seven who are ahead of Spieth on the win chart.  Three of those, Mickelson, Els Furyk, are older than 45.

After last week’s Traveler’s Championship, Spieth moved ahead of Bubba Watson, who has nine. He’s been ahead of K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Brandt Snedeker and Mike Weir who have eight; and Retief Goosen, Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose who have seven.

As was touted on the telecasts last week, Spieth was the second youngest to get to 10 victories.  He’s slightly older than Tiger Woods was and slightly younger than Jack Nicklaus was when they reached the 10-victory mark.  Woods was 23 years and 6 months, and Spieth was 23 years 10 months.  Nicklaus was 24 years old.

In addition, Spieth has already bested PGA TOUR victory totals of very well-known players. That would include someone like Henrik Stenson, who has 11 European Tour victories, but just five on the PGA TOUR, and Nick Faldo, who is has 30 on the European Tour and six in the U.S.  Some of theirs count on both tours.

In other words, Jordan Spieth is as good as we all thought he might be, even thought it might look like he’s just lucky.

Next: Jordan Spieth's very fine day at the Travelers Championship

We won’t see Jordan Spieth again until The Open Championship, July 20-23 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, where the oddsmakers still see him chasing Dustin Johnson. What do you think? Do the oddsmakers have a handle on the Spieth-Johnson balance of power?