Ever since the arrival of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, there have been many false dawns in terms of America producing a talent capable of emulating their feats in the game.
Tall order you say, but, in Spieth, America has found a player with a game and a mentality to challenge for all four major championships year in year out. Put simply, his game is uncomplicated and his ambition is solely focussed on being the best in the world.
Sitting on that throne at the moment of course is our own Rory McIlroy. No doubt, he will have been very disappointed with his US Masters performance. Dubbed as the Grand Slam showdown, winning the US Masters this week was always going to be a big ask for McIlroy.
Unfortunately, the statistics don’t lie and, again, Rory will have to look at a number of factors in his game if he is to ever be competitive at Augusta. Chief amongst those are his ability to be able to putt consistently on the toughest surfaces he will face all year.
McIlroy’s game plan also needs to reflect his greatest strength: His aggression. At times, he looked too conservative on a course that favours aggression. Tiger Woods’s wins at Augusta have come largely to his success on the par five holes alone and, to date in his Masters career, McIlroy hasn’t found a way to play them well enough to be truly competitive.
Finally, McIlroy will have to look at his playing schedule leading up to the US Masters once more, because what we do know from McIlroy’s career to date is that he plays his best golf when he plays regularly and a two-week break prior to the Masters meant that his game wasnt sharp enough.
This past week, it was great to see the re-emergence of Mickelson and, more especially, Woods.
Mickelson’s left-handed game and creativity are made for Augusta and, even given the fact that he hasn’t been performing this year, its still great to see him compete at the highest level.
When Mickelson retires, he will have regrets about the majors that got away, most notably several US Opens, but it will be hard for anyone to ever match his creative shot-making skills and his public charisma.
It has been 10 years since Woods put on a green jacket, but last week he delivered a vivid reminder that he has not gone away. Though his performance wasn’t vintage Woods, he did show a much greater appetite for the game and his emergence onto the leaderboard on Saturday should be welcomed by all.
He looked almost at ease with himself, despite the fact he knew he wasn’t going to win. At 39 years of age, his window of opportunity is closing quickly. He may no longer be able to coast to wins, but the confidence he can take from the week should not be underestimated. Indeed, the Masters proved that he has regained much of his public status and only time will tell if he can re-emerge as one of golf’s most fearsome competitors. I certainly believe he can.
It also seems that the US Masters has finally created a transatlantic rivalry in the professional game — something we have all craved for some time — in the shape of McIlroy and Spieth.
McIlroy has had the upper hand on Spieth so far in their careers, but the show it seems is only just beginning.
McIlroy’s strength is his ball striking and his length and consistency off the tee.
Both men have brilliant mental strength, but Spieth certainly has the edge on the putting greens. Golf is always looking for big rivalries and McIlroy-Spieth is one we could be talking about for many years to come.