Spieth downplays Tiger talk

One of the main arguments comparing Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods is how they both won seven times on the PGA Tour before turning 23 -- and Spieth won't reach that age until late July. Woods, though, did it in just 38 pro starts where Spieth took 77. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

PALM HARBOR, Fla. --The comparisons are inevitable, if not necessarily comfortable, for Jordan Spieth. Racking up tournament titles, majors and money, however, puts the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world in the company of Tiger Woods, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

As is typical, Spieth, 22, finds such talk flattering, if not altogether proper at this point, despite winning his seventh PGA Tour title on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- the same number Woods had at the same age, the most in golf's modern era.

Woods won seven of his first 38 starts as a pro while it has taken Spieth 77 tries to accomplish the same number of victories. And yet that isn't the reason the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion tries to steer away from such talk.

"I think it's an honor; it's something that if you can continue to do so, you're in elite company,'' Spieth said Tuesday during a conference call that was part of Valspar Championship media day. "But I don't think it's right. I don't necessarily feel worthy of it. I just can't imagine what he's done being duplicated. I'm obviously going to try my hardest to reach every goal and record that I'm capable of. Because that's what I love to do.

"But it's so different to compare. Somewhat different eras. And someone who really just transcended the game and took it to where we are today in a way that Arnie (Palmer) and Jack (Nicklaus) did in their time. I don't necessarily feel worthy of comparisons to him in that way. But it's cool to try and grasp some of the accomplishments we achieved year by year if you compare our ages.''

Perhaps Spieth is reluctant to travel down that road because he knows how far he has come in just a year.

In January of 2015, Spieth had not qualified for the Tournament of Champions, failing to win a PGA Tour event in 2014. He did capture the Australian Open and the Hero World Challenge at the end of the year, which were big boosts to his career.

It wasn't until his playoff victory against Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair at Innisbrook's Copperhead course in March that he captured his second PGA Tour title at the Valspar Championship.

That victory backed up what he did at the end of 2014 and served as a launching point to one of the top years in major championship history. After close calls at the Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open, Spieth won the Masters in just his second try. He captured the U.S. Open. He won the John Deere Classic and then went to St. Andrews for The Open, where he missed a playoff by a stroke. Then it was a second-place finish to Jason Day at the PGA Championship.

Spieth added a win at the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup, meaning a haul of more than $22 million for the year.

That helped him surpass both Woods and Phil Mickelson in Golf Digest's list of the game's top annual earners with an estimated income of $53 million. Woods had topped that list for each of the previous 12 years the magazine ran the numbers.

And those kind of comparisons will continue as long as Spieth keeps winning.

He'll have another chance next week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he will run into third-ranked Rory McIlroy for the first time this year. A week later it's on to the Singapore Open. Those two overseas events are just part of a hectic schedule.

After a week off, Spieth will play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am, followed by the Northern Trust Open. After another week off, he will play the WGC-Cadillac Championship and then defend his title at the Valspar Championship.

Then he is expected to play the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship and the Shell Houston Open leading into the Masters.

That's potentially nine tournaments prior to the Masters -- one area where Spieth won't be compared to Woods.

As for trying to build on a great 2015, Spieth said he's off to a great start by winning in Hawaii.

"We have goals,'' he said. "I need to contend in at least a couple of majors on Sunday. Obviously would like to continue that streak of winning or being in contention when it comes down the stretch on Sunday. We saw it twice went my way and twice it didn't. But I was in contention four times.

"That's the way it goes in majors. The Open Championship was a perfect example of how you can be in control and it can still not go your way. I'm aware of that; I just want to put myself in position this year.''