Spieth looks long term, rookie honor under belt

Jordan Spieth during the 2013 Presidents Cup, following his rookie-of-the-year season on PGA Tour.

Jordan Spieth during the 2013 Presidents Cup, following his rookie-of-the-year season on PGA Tour.

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Give Jordan Spieth credit for a lot of things, among them his very sharp sense of gratitude. Many might have overlooked how Spieth earned his way into this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, but not the kid from Texas.

He knows he got the spot because Brandt Snedeker was hurt. What’s more, Spieth knows he got into the 2012 U.S. Open because Snedeker withdrew with an injury, too.

“I owe him a Christmas present, I think,” Spieth said.

Nice move, young man, but it should come as no surprise because Spieth has re-defined the expression “making all the right moves” since leaving the University of Texas early in his sophomore year.

His rookie-of-the-year prize might have been the biggest no-brainer of the 2013 PGA Tour season, given that Spieth played so superbly he earned a spot on the Presidents Cup team. But always, it’s advisable to embrace a little perspective and in Spieth’s case, that means casting a wide net over the last 10 PGA Tour rookies of the year. If you do that, then Spieth is in crowded company, because eight of them recorded victories in their rookie season and Keegan Bradley (2011) and Todd Hamilton (2004) won twice; only Rickie Fowler (2010) and Marc Leishman (2009) did not.

Spieth finishing eighth in the FedEx Cup standings? Impressive, but Bradley (2011) was fifth and Brandt Snedeker (2007) ninth when they were rookies.

As for talk about the “sophomore slump,” let the record show that Bradley in 2012 won again and finished eighth in the FEC standings and the three ROY winners before him held their own in their second seasons. John Huh won in 2012 and was 25th in the FEC standings and while he didn’t quite match that in 2013, he did well with two top 10s and 65th in the standings. Fowler went from 19th in the FEC standings in his 2010 rookie season to 28th the next year, while Leishman actually improved in 30 sots in the FEC standings in his sophomore season.

Spieth, however, is hardly focused strictly on backing up his rookie season. He’s all about long term, about growing into his game and his career, not reliving the incredible 2013 success.

“It’s great to look back at what happened,” he said, “but all in all, I think the way to have success is to not dwell too much on the past and focus on the best players in the world that I’m playing against now week in and week out.”

One thing is absolute, however. Spieth favors his lot in life right now more than where he was a year ago at this time. Which was where?

“I had (final exams) in English and rhetoric,” he said of his last days at the University of Texas. “I had a big paper and then I had a test, both (subjects) of which are being very useful to me now.”

• • •

For all of senior writer Jim McCabe's weekly pro golf news and notes items, click here.

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