In the ultimate hero vs. villain showdown, Jordan Spieth and Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. make up the final Sunday pairing for the 2014 Masters. Although some of the biggest game hunters (Phil, DJ, Keegan, Duff Daddy, and Sergio to name a few) decided to emcee the proceedings, there are a multitude of titillating storylines unfolding before our eyes, including Spieth’s dance with history.

The pre-Masters build up largely focused on Tiger and his balky back. And while nobody has written Tiger’s obit–yet–it’s more and more likely he’s never going to be the same as he was, and quite possibly, he may be done as the best player in the game a lot sooner than we had anticipated. If that’s the case, there’s going to be a massive void to fill in the hearts and minds of consumers fans. Enter our 20 year-old knight in shining armor – Jordan Spieth.

We’ve mentioned (at an exhausting level) how ridiculous and unprecedented the Jordan Spieth story is. The guy’s rookie year read like that of an OWGR top-25ish player (aka Bill Haas, Member FDIC):

2013 Season Jordan Spieth Bill Haas Events Played 23 25 Made Cuts 18 19 Top-10’s 9 9 Wins 1 1

Bear in mind, lest you somehow forgot, this is a guy that turned pro after one year at Texas with no status on any tour and promptly earned temporary membership by BALLING out on his initial sponsor exemptions, before securing full PGA Tour membership over the course of the 2013 season.

In fact, he became the seventh person in Tour history to go directly from amateur to PGA Tour member without the need for Q-school or reps on another pro tour. More telling, especially now on the eve of perhaps a historic Masters win, is the fact he also won Rookie of the Year in 2013, joining only Tiger as guys to both bypass Q-school and win Rookie of the Year.

The comparisons to Tiger justifiably flowed quickly and naturally this off-season, though they’ve always seemed overly wishful and optimistic. Nobody can be Tiger circa-1997 with that breathtaking move and complete dominance over the field. Yet here we stand–Spieth’s playing in the final group of Masters at the age of 20, looking to become the youngest champion in the history of the Masters. Tiger’s greatest feat was probably tricking us all into thinking how easy winning majors was. In a similar fashion, Speith has desensitized us to his strong play and being in contention most every week—as a 20 year-old! He probably doesn’t have the top gear Tiger did (we may never see it again), but he’s damn good and this is damn special. A win tomorrow would legitimize his place right alongside Tiger (arguably golf’s GOAT) through their age 20/21 seasons. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to happen for a loooong time. And the cool thing is, we get to imagine what it will be like if Spieth can keep it up.

Jordan is very capable of lapping the field tomorrow, and also capable of going Sunday-Rory-circa-2011. Either way, this is his stage, and nothing written above needs to be edited, regardless of the final result. For once, I can say with confidence that an incredibly talented American athlete is not over hyped. A win tomorrow, and the hype may actually catch up to the talent, and the résumé. I could not be rooting for him more than I am. He’s the hero we deserve, and the hero we need right now.

Random Thoughts:

  • Despite the (at times) nauseating marketing campaign, Rickie is a huge favorite at NLU, a true ambassador for the game, and a hell of a businessman. We touched on his swing changes back in January, and the change is reaping dividends much earlier than expected. Rickie gets a lot of hate, but his label as overrated isn’t his fault. He’s a very good, not great player, and his class is second to none. The PGA Tour (and Puma) markets him as a superstar, and his accomplishments pale in comparison to the rest of the guys you’ll find in the “These Guys Are Good” campaign, but that doesn’t mean he’s Camilo Villegas.
  • Have to think CBS was faced with some challenges this year with the broadcast. The growing popularity of the live feeds on The Masters app and website present a challenge for CBS producers, as viewers are demanding live coverage. I’m used to the networks showing canned footage (from a minute or two prior), but normally they acknowledge it as such by saying “while so-and-so was playing on 16, here was what was going on over here.” Today they made no such distinction. For instance, I’m not sure they showed any of Spieth’s shots on the pivotal 13th hole live. Increasingly I was turning to my computer for the action, not my TV.
  • The other challenge has to do with Tiger’s absence. For the last 15+ years, CBS has centered their Masters broadcast around one man. Whether he was leading or not, Big Cat’s position on the course dictated when producers went to commercial break, when other players were shown, etc. Tiger drove ratings and CBS gave everyone what they wanted, for better or worse. This year Tiger’s absence created a vacuum and it felt like the broadcast was somewhat rudderless today – shifting aimlessly from one contender to the next all afternoon, never taking control of the narrative. Beyond that, they ignored Fred Couples for much of the afternoon, had trouble tracking the ball on the camera work, and put forth a relatively clunky broadcast by their stellar standards (if this was NBC it would be expected).
  • Hans Jonas Blixt, UN Weapons Inspector, flashed some serious stones today. His short game chops were on full display for the entire back nine, starting with him nearly holing out for the par of the year. Curious to see what he wears on Sunday.
  • Can Kuchar’s dad hop on the bag tomorrow for old time’s sake? Please?