Jordan Spieth had a return to relevance over the course of 2021 after two years of struggle. The American endured a dramatic decline after winning the third major of his career in 2017. Spieth dropped to 92nd in the world rankings after missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at the beginning of 2021. The signs looked ominous for the 28-year-old and his bid to compete at major tournaments as well as making the American Ryder Cup team.
However, Spieth found his form on the course and returned to a semblance of the player that appeared to be on the trajectory to becoming the next all-time great in 2015. He reeled off impressive performances to finish in the top five of the Phoenix Open and Arnold Palmer Invitational before he enjoyed the perfect homecoming in Texas.
Spieth Ends Drought
Spieth endured an 83-tournament drought without a win on the PGA Tour, lasting 1,351 days before he claimed the Valero Texans Open crown. It was vintage Spieth at the peak of his powers, producing a six-under round of 66 on the final day to beat out Charley Hoffman. The victory eased the pressure on his shoulders and allowed the American to play with freedom once again. It was evident in his performances at The Masters and the British Open where he finished in tied-third and second respectively. Although he failed to win the Green Jacket or the Claret Jug, his displays were a step in the right direction for a player that appeared beleaguered by issues on the course.
Spieth’s brand is huge for the game as he was considered the heir apparent to Tiger Wood as the face of the sport. Golf does not enjoy the same widespread appeal as the NFL, NBA or even the MLB in the United States, and the Premier League in the United Kingdom. More than others it needs superstars to increase its brand recognition and with followers of the game. Without Woods, golf also has to look at other avenues of garnering interest. Woods was the face of the game on consoles, and without him, there’s not a huge figure to generate the same buzz or have games disappearing off the shelves.
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Entertainment elements are vitally important in increasing audiences of golf, but the vital aspect is performances on the course. Golf is enduring a period where no player has dominated in the mould of Jack Nicklaus or Woods. You can argue that is good for the game that the titles are spread evenly around the PGA Tour, but in terms of branding, all sports need a superstar. The NBA has LeBron James, the NFL has Tom Brady. Golf requires a Spieth that is firing on all cylinders and winning titles with ease that he appeared to be on the precipice of doing until his Masters collapse in 2016.
The American has shown signs that he can return to that player, but will need a strong end to 2021 and a brisk start to 2022 to take momentum into the majors. Augusta has been a defining course for Spieth. He was the shining light of the game when he won the Green Jacket in 2015, but a year later his collapse on the back nine shattered his aura. Spieth has arguably not recovered since then, despite his British Open triumph in 2017. Redemption at The Masters has eluded him so far, but for once he may have the momentum to take into the competition.