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updated: 4/14/2014 8:36 PM

Spieth doesn't need to be next Tiger Woods

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  • Jordan Spieth made a run Sunday at the Masters, displaying guts on the course that is unfathomable for someone his age.

      Jordan Spieth made a run Sunday at the Masters, displaying guts on the course that is unfathomable for someone his age.
    Associated Press

 
 

It is human nature, evidently, to desire a crown for the next king before the throne is vacated.

It happened with Muhammad Ali. It happened with Michael Jordan. It's happening now with Tiger Woods.

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There have been 10 variations of "the next Michael Jordan" since His Airness retired, and not a one of them turned out to be so.

Since Woods was pronounced dead and buried four years ago -- Woods was Player of the Year and won five times in 2013 -- there have been at least five versions of "the next Tiger Woods."

One man placed on high a couple years ago was Rory McIlroy, a terrific player who will turn 25 in a couple weeks and has won six times on the PGA Tour.

By his 25th birthday, Tiger Woods had won 24 times.

McIlroy is a sensational player, capable of winning any week, but consistent greatness eludes all but the immortals, and it's entirely normal for a great golfer in his prime to be good one week and terrible the next.

Woods, when he wasn't in the middle of a swing change, was never that. He threatened to win every time out and won at a rate that will never be equaled. It is absurd to put another name in a single sentence with him.

From the British Open 2006 through the BMW Championship at Dubsdread in September 2009, he went 4-for-12 in majors with four seconds. Overall, he won 25 of 46 starts. That's a 54 percent win rate.

Think about that.

"Most of us don't win even once a year. It's very, very hard to win a golf tournament," Justin Rose told me a couple years ago at the Ryder Cup. "You have to get used to losing a lot, unless your name is Tiger Woods."

Rose is the 11th-ranked player in the world. At 34, he's had a sparkling career. He has 5 Tour victories.

Tiger Woods has had 10 seasons of 5 wins or more.

Which brings us to Jordan Spieth, who at 20 years old is already top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking made a run at the Masters on Sunday and displayed guts on the course that is unfathomable for someone his age.

Spieth isn't going to be a great player. He's already a great player.

But he's also been called "the next Tiger Woods," a title impossible to wear or endure.

"You've spoken about someone totally unique in the game in Tiger Woods," said World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie, on Golf Channel Sunday night. "You have to be careful if you say 'the next Tiger Woods.' There's only one Tiger Woods. Let's get that squared away."

Rather than compare Spieth to the greatest of all time, Montgomerie said we ought to focus on what Spieth did over the weekend at Augusta, and what it means for his future.

"What Jordan Spieth possesses is maturity far beyond his years," said the 50-year-old Montgomerie. "My daughter is 21. To think of a child out there at that age at the Masters, competing under that pressure and handling himself so well under the spotlight with the whole world watching, I admire him tremendously.

"He is ahead of the game mentally, and his mental toughness is remarkable."

Spieth is already great on the course. Off the course at the BMW last fall, Spieth was polite, respectful and well-spoken for a player of any age.

During a round, yes, he has a temper and shows his emotions in a fashion you would expect from a 20-year-old. The criticism he took Sunday for that is unfair and irrelevant. He's not hurting anyone but himself if he can't leave a shot behind and move on to the next, which is much easier said than done for most human golfers.

At the same time, he went blow-for-blow with a green jacket holder, Bubba Watson, creating a dramatic and thrilling back nine Sunday with a match-play feel.

And if you didn't find that breathtaking, sorry, but you have no understanding of the most difficult course on the planet, where a single swing -- or putt -- at any time can cost you the golf tournament.

As he grinds his teeth over the next few days and months, Spieth will remember a select few putts, precious few approaches and one tee shot on a par-3 that might have made the difference.

Someday, he will win the Masters, but he doesn't have to wait until then for kids to hope that they will be the next Jordan Spieth.

You can be certain it's already happening.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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