Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open by unraveling less conspicuously than his challengers, by controlling his competitive detonation to little more than a brief hiccup.
While others were blowing gaskets and popping lug nuts all over Chambers Bay, Spieth made only a minor (double bogey) detour at No. 17 on his way to claiming the big silver trophy.
And after the drama had subsided and the whining finally had been carried off by the breeze coming up from off the Narrows, one bit of incredulous data stuck out in my mind from a weekend at the Open:
Jordan Spieth, the composed and unruffled master of the monster that was Chambers Bay, is only 21 years old.
Do you know how old that is? That’s the same age as Justin Bieber. That’s four years younger than Taylor Swift.
It wasn’t only that Spieth played so intelligently, and under such unwavering control, but that he was able to dodge the hazards in his media sessions as deftly as on the course.
He has the face of a high school junior who has to shave about once a month, but his composure is rare among even the veterans in the field.
Imagine the pressure on this kid during the back nine of Sunday’s round, which, because of the tight leaderboard, had to be more intense than when he won the Masters by four strokes in April.
Consider that Tiger Woods also won his first major, the 1997 Masters, at age 21, but it wasn’t until more than two years passed that he won his second, the PGA in 1999.
Spieth has won as many major championships in less than three months as guys such as Johnny Miller, Curtis Strange, Greg Norman and Ben Crenshaw won in their entire careers.
And get this: After he defeated the best golfers in the world, he was quick to point out that he really wasn’t playing that great.
“We didn’t have our best stuff tee to green,” he said afterward. “There’s certainly things that I can improve on from this week. I can strike the ball better. I can get more positive. I can improve in all aspects of my game.”
That’s frightening. But also surprisingly self-aware.
“The execution wasn’t quite 100 percent on, but it was enough to where if I missed the shot it would be close and it would be in the right location to make par,” he said. “And that’s all we had to do here.”
When told how few golfers in history had similar accomplishments to his, Spieth said it gave him “goose bumps.”
He is the youngest player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, and joins the likes of Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods to do this at any age.
“Those names are the greatest that have ever played the game, and I don’t consider myself there,” he said. “But (I’m) certainly off to, I think, the right start in order to make an impact on the history of the game.”
It’s strange, then, that I’ve been asked how well he will serve as the new “face” of professional golf. Does he have the charisma to heighten fan interest?
His game is one of consistent excellence, and is that less compelling than the flamboyant risk-takers?
He’s not the showman of a Palmer or Woods, and he may or may not develop a more expressive persona with age. The hope is he just continues to be himself.
It took fans quite a while to warm to Nicklaus, whose biggest shortcoming, in the perspective of many fans, was that he simply wasn’t Arnie.
And the phlegmatic Ben Hogan mostly just went out and won championships without being considered a darling of the fans for most of his career.
I would argue that the opportunity to watch anybody, regardless of age, going for a Grand Slam in a calendar year seems pretty compelling.
This kid is sharp and he’s savvy. He’s distinguishing himself with excellence rather than pretense.
And even though he claims he needs work on his game, at times his rounds are nearly flawless. He has shown himself to be bright, likeable, and mature to an almost unbelievable degree.
I think that makes Jordan Spieth the perfect new face of golf.
Even if it’s covered mostly in peach fuzz.