Among the many glorious things about golf, this was paramount — the only statistic that mattered was the number you signed for.
Then again, we used to have persimmon and balata, too.
Times have changed, of course, even in the world of golf, so now it’s not enough to know that your particular favourite professional golfer hits fairways at a rate of, oh, say, 55%.
Nope, a long line of graduate students from the best American colleges have filtered their way into the world of sports to plot the overthrow of our beloved games.
Golf, like baseball and football, is now ruled by statisticians.
Heaven help us.
So, now if you are interested, you can find out to which side of the fairway said favorite golfer goes when he is errant and from which side — left or right — he is more likely to recover for par.
Look further and you can tell his putting stats from inside of 6 feet, from 10-15 feet, from 20-25, and likely if you look hard enough there is a statistic that tells you how many putts a guy makes while wearing black trousers as opposed to off-white.
Truly, it’s beyond silly, which is why you can enhance your enjoyment of the game simply by watching and putting trust in your powers of observation.
Push all the stats and all the glitzy TV graphics aside and study what unfolds before you. What you will come up with are assessments that don’t rely on numbers, opinions that cannot be quantified.
To wit: Jordan Spieth plays with more heart than anyone in the pro game. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, unless you have a statistical category that proves me wrong.
Just two days past his 23rd birthday, Spieth is only in his fourth year of professional golf and he clearly doesn’t know how to throw in the towel. Let’s hope that continues, because as blessed as we are to have so many talented players on the pro golf scene, too many of them are petulant and quick to go into “check-cashing” mode.
There clearly wasn’t a lot of fire in Dustin Johnson’s belly at this week’s 98th PGA Championship, disappointingly so.
And if Sergio Garcia’s pedestrian play at Baltusrol Golf Club (71-74, missed cut) reminded you of anything, it’s that no one in the last 20 years has been as quick to find the exit when things go wrong as the Spaniard.
But Spieth is special and while we used to say about Tiger Woods that he would always pull off one shot that no one else can hit, here’s my take on the kid from Texas: He finds a way to score, finds a way to play well on the days when his game is inferior, finds an inner strength always.
Spieth was spinning his wheels Thursday, 2 over through 15 holes in Round 1 of the PGA Championship. Yes, the body language that sometimes is unsettling (he yells at himself and reacts emotionally when a shot doesn’t go his way) was, as usual, a bit much, but it is offset by the fire that Spieth brings to the course.
He birdied the par-3 16th late Thursday, then the par-5 18th to turn what could have been a miserable day into something satisfying.
When he birdied five of his first nine holes Friday morning, Spieth had not only found a rhythm, he had thrust himself into contention. On trips of 70-67 he will enter the weekend 3 under. Several off the lead, but safely in contention.
“I’m striking the ball beautifully. Driver went a little astray, but overall I feel like I’m in a good position to make a run, I just need a couple good rounds,” said Spieth.
When he won two majors in 2015 and came within a few strokes of becoming the first player to capture the Grand Slam, Spieth put himself in an impossible situation. Nothing shy of winning three majors would make people happy and since he hasn’t won either the Masters or the US Open or Open Championship, this week’s PGA carries enormous implications.
Yes, Spieth has shown signs of letting the pressure get to him, at times snippy with the media and hard on himself on the golf course. But trust your powers of observation with Spieth and you’ll not be disappointed.
The kid plays hard and it’s great to watch.
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