Upon second thought, it was not a monumental win.
Jordan Spieth initially thought it was, Sunday’s victory at the Valero Texas Open that finally halted a puzzling, frustrating winless drought creeping up on four years. During that stretch, he appeared so lost at times inside the ropes that some people – foolish people in retrospect – wondered if he’d ever win again.
No doubt Spieth’s confidence was tested. How much did he believe in himself, believe that he would eventually find the way out? Would he be patient enough to work through the process? He had never experienced this kind of slump before. He tried to find the proper perspective. “It’s not like I lost my Tour card,” he said. “I just wasn’t winning three times a year.”
Actually, he wasn’t winning at all.
For a player who had won 11 PGA Tour events (and two Australian Opens) before reaching his 24th birthday, the lack of success was jarring. It hit him particularly hard earlier this year when he failed to qualify for February’s World Golf Championships event in Bradenton, Florida, having dropped all the way to 92nd in the world rankings. It was a humbling moment.
“It really stung.” Spieth said. But he accepted his absence and used it as motivation to work his way back up. He reinserted himself into contention on recent weekends but was still having trouble reaching the finish line. He struggled to convert a couple of 54-hole leads.
Finally, on Sunday, he did.
And so that’s why, less than a minute after his last tap-in putt wrapped up the title at TPC San Antonio, Spieth described it as “monumental.”
A day later? With time to think about it?
Not so much.
“Probably a little aggressive of a term,” Spieth said. “I did say it, but I didn’t really think that. …
“I think it was more that I just wanted that monkey off my back of it just being a while out of the winner’s circle. I felt the progression coming, and I was patient with it.
“But you get one 54-hole lead, and everyone thinks you’re supposed to win right away, when you haven’t had a 54-hole lead in a long time. It was just more like, all right, everybody chill out. I’ve done a really good job closing in my career. I’ve never doubted that ability.”
Perhaps that’s why Spieth was not overly emotional after his win. Oh, his wife Annie was, her sunglasses shielding her tears of joy. Spieth did seem to hug his wife an extra few seconds after the win, and perhaps that was his biggest display of emotion.
But the reality of the situation is that Spieth did not have time to celebrate. After all, this is Masters week. No time to revel in recent glory; he needed to focus on ways to produce the next one at his favorite tournament. He arrived at Augusta National at noon on Monday, already wearing his game face.
Maybe that’s why winning at Valero felt more natural than monumental. It was nice, a confirmation that he’s on the right path. But it’s also a mere steppingstone to what he hopes is the true indication that he’s back where he belongs – and that’s winning majors.
Prior to Sunday, Spieth’s last win was the 2017 Open Championship. It was his third major; he was 23 at the time, and only Jack Nicklaus had won three of golf’s four majors prior to reaching 24. Spieth can complete the career Grand Slam next month at the PGA Championship.
But for this week, it’s all about the Masters, a tournament he won in his epic 2015 season and has knocked on the door several other times. At the end of the day, like all the greats, it will be majors won that Spieth will be judged on.
And now that the drought is over, Spieth can rightfully return his focus on achieving the highest of highs, as opposed to simply overcoming a long four years of career lows.
“I’m 27, and a lot of people’s careers get started at 27 in this sport,” Spieth said Monday from Augusta National. “Phil [Mickelson] was, what, 31, when he won his first major and had a major championship career after he won his first major, and four or five years, still my senior.
“So there’s a lot of ways to look at it. I think for me, it’s not forcing into kind of the here and now and more just taking the patient route and taking the momentum route and just try and do something just a little bit better this week than you did the week before; trust something you didn’t trust the week before and pull it off and gain that confidence. Just head down, almost like one shot at a time — but that even goes into practice sessions.
“I like the progress that I’m making. I don’t feel that I have the control of all facets of my game that I want to have yet, but I feel like I’m working the right direction. Will that make a difference this week? Don’t know. But I’m going to work at trying to just be a little bit better than I was last week.”
If he succeeds? Well, it might just very well produce his second Green Jacket.
And if he uses the word “monumental” again? Well, this time he wouldn’t need to walk it back.