Jordan Spieth's growth is astounding

March, 10, 2014

One year ago this week, when the PGA Tour was in the midst of its annual Florida swing, then-19-year-old Jordan Spieth had no official PGA Tour status.

Trivia question

Kevin Streelman made the Tampa Bay Championship (as it was then called) his first PGA Tour win in 2013. What other two players have also done that at this week's event? Answer below

He wasn't even in the field for the first half of it. Ranked outside the top 600 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Spieth parlayed a T-2nd finish in the alternate-field tournament the previous week in Puerto Rico into a tee time at Copperhead.

And while fanatical golf heads might have kept tabs on the happenings in Puerto Rico that week, it was the T-7th finish in Tampa that really started to gather attention. That week at Copperhead served as a springboard for Spieth to go on a run that hasn't really stopped since.

In commemoration of the first anniversary, we at Numbers Game would like to dive into a few of the most remarkable stats young Jordan has accrued since the beginning of last year. After all, we in the golf world will likely be talking about this player for a long time to come.

Fans of the game are treated to brief glimpses of brilliance by golf's young stars from time to time. But to see consistently great play out of someone who can't legally buy a beer in the United States is truly remarkable.

Spieth has 11 top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since the beginning of 2013. According to the Elias Sports Bureau data, that's tied for the most in that span with Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and Graham DeLaet.

Not overly impressed by that company? Consider this, then. Spieth has seven top-five finishes in that span. Elias tells us that the only player with more is Dustin Johnson -- and Spieth is tied for second with Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods.

Meaning, Spieth has more top-five finishes on the Tour since the beginning of last year than 10 of the top 15 players in this week's OWGR, including Adam Scott, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

And with a remarkable five first- or second place finishes in that span, Spieth trails only Woods (6) -- and is tied for second with Stenson and Dustin Johnson, according to Elias data.

After missing the cut in his first PGA Tour start of 2013 at Torrey Pines, Spieth ranked 810th in the world -- a mere 510 spots away from actually being on the PDF document emailed out by the OWGR folks every Sunday evening. He was less than an afterthought on the world stage at that point. The climb Spieth has made since then has been nothing short of astronomical.

A top-10 in April at the RBC Heritage moved Spieth into the top 200 for the first time. His first career victory at the John Deere Classic moved him into 59th from 120th. By the time the Presidents Cup finished, Jordan was a top-20 player. Spieth is ranked 13th in the world this week, between Bubba Watson and Steve Stricker.

As impressive as that is, Jordan nearly hit truly-rarified air in Arizona this February. Spieth was defeated in the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play last month by Ernie Els. Had Jordan won that event (a tall ask, but certainly not out of the question), he was projected to move into the top five in the world.

The PGA Tour's "all-around ranking" takes into account scoring, putting, eagles, birdies, greens in regulation, sand saves, driving distance and driving accuracy. In a nutshell, it includes most of the important things that go into a round of golf. In 2013, Spieth ranked third on the PGA Tour in the all-around ranking, behind only Woods and Stricker.

Spieth ranked in the top 20 in driving accuracy last year, but when he did miss the fairway, the numbers say it wasn't affecting him adversely. Spieth led the Tour in average approach shot proximity from the rough -- his approaches from the thick stuff were about 6 feet closer than that of the average Tour pro.

Much has been made of Jordan's competitive drive and ability to make clutch shots at such a young age. Despite ranking just 60th in strokes gained in putting for the 2013 season, his putting numbers were better in later rounds.

Jordan ranked T-102nd on the PGA Tour last year in first-round putting. Those numbers improved in each round of play -- T-95th in the second round, 21st in the third, and seventh in the fourth.

Trivia answer

Question: Kevin Streelman made the Tampa Bay Championship (as it was then called) his first PGA Tour win in 2013. What other two players have also done that at this week's event? ?

Answer: Gary Woodland (2011) and Carl Pettersson (2005).

If there has been one knock on Spieth's play in 2014, however, it has been what he has done on Saturdays. Twice this year, Spieth had at least a share of the 36-hole lead -- at both Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach. Spieth shot a combined plus-9 in those two third rounds, missing a staggering total of 13 putts of less than 10 feet. That has translated to a third-round scoring average outside of the top 150 on the Tour.

That hasn't stopped Spieth's popularity as a pick at Augusta, however. Las Vegas house odds have Spieth going at 25-to-1 currently to win the Masters. Only six players have better odds right now: Woods, McIlroy, Jason Day, Mickelson, Scott and Dustin Johnson.

Spieth makes his Masters debut this year. No player has won the Masters in their first attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.