Spieth’s ‘psycho card’ provides the perfect subplot in the Tiger tale

Mark McGowan
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Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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The latest episode of the Tiger Woods comeback saga was always going to be about the great man himself. The other 19 players – even if they’re all among the top 25 or 30 golfers on the planet – essentially became filler when the announcement dropped that Tiger was going to be the 20th man.

Still, it’s a big task for even Woods to carry a four-hour broadcast for four days straight, so when Jordan Spieth tapped in for par from about 12 inches on the final hole, I knew I’d have something to write about other than just assessing Tiger.

Spieth’s par would see him head for the scoring hut and sign for a four-under 68 to lie tied for third and one shot back.

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Nothing unusual about that, right? I mean, he’s one of the best golfers on the planet, a three-time major champion and there are only 20 players in the field, so normally I’d agree, but this was a four-under in the most Jordan Spieth way imaginable.

The par on the last was just his fifth of the day and his first since the seventh. As impressive as it was to see Matt Wallace recently birdie nine straight holes on the way home during his third-round 60 at the DP World Tour Championship, that paled in comparison to the sort of wild ride that Jordan Spieth takes viewers on.

Two of his five pars came on his first two holes, and over the following 16, he’d make just three more with two eagles, six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. That’s what makes Spieth so incredible to watch. The ability to seamlessly go from elite tour pro to something resembling a 10-handicap in the blink of an eye means that with Spieth, no lead is ever secure, and few deficits ever too great.

Tiger Woods’ return rightly dominated the narrative on day one of the Hero, but even in this 20-man, silly season event that will see Woods climb at least 300 places in the world rankings, even if he follows his opening 75 with three rounds in the 90s, there are subplots aplenty. And whenever Spieth is playing, he’s guaranteed to be a subplot at worst. Put himself anywhere near contention, and he’s usually the main story.

Even after one of the most psychotic cards in a Spieth career littered with psychotic cards, Tiger will be the big story on day two. And the 15-time Major champion looked reasonably good on his opening round. The actual numbers on Woods’ card were always going to play second-fiddle to the way he looked on course. How he swung the club, how he walked, how he climbed the hills and came down the descents would be dissected in microscopic detail, and to the admittedly untrained eye of this writer, he looked pretty good.

The game is rusty, that much we knew. But though he later admitted to being in pain “everywhere…My leg, my back, my neck,” he moved with relative ease, swung relatively freely and threw in plenty of good shots even if he managed to mangle a reasonably good card over the closing five or six holes.

Tiger’s future as a competitive golfer is going to be taxing. Each and every time he tees it up, it’s going to be an exhaustive grind. Five-hour rounds will be preceded by four-hour warm-up sessions and four-hour recuperation sessions. It’s going to hurt like hell, but that’s who he is. He’s a competitor and if that’s the price he has to pay to get back to doing what he loves best, he’ll gladly pay it.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, however, and there’s still 54 holes to go, but the signs are promising. Another major run, or better still, another major win will have made it all worthwhile for the viewers and all worthwhile for Woods himself.

And I saw enough yesterday to retain hope that major championship number 16 arrives before the Tiger retreats back into his gated jungle once and for all.

For the rest of this week at least, he’s taking baby steps and that’s enough for a legacy actor. Let’s see if Spieth can continue to lead the supporting cast.

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