IF JORDAN Spieth’s win on Sunday offered a glimpse of how the future of American golf may look, this week should offer further clues as to whether Tiger Woods is likely to be part of that landscape or if his phenomenal success is a thing of the past.
Spieth was very impressive in shooting a final-round 63 to win the Australian Open by six shots. It was the 21-year-old former amateur No1’s second career title and lifted him up to 11th in the world rankings.
It’s a great tournament to win. I know from experience how tough those courses are, and Spieth joins a top-quality cast of former winners that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Gary Player and, 12 months ago, current world No1 Rory McIlroy.
Spieth has long been tipped for success, having become only the second multiple winner – after Woods – of the US Junior Amateur title, the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour for more than 80 years, and the youngest runner-up in Masters history earlier this year.
He looks the real deal to me. He is very confident, attacking, never appears to nervous, and knows exactly what he is doing. In short: he can play.
Rickie Fowler is still ahead of him, but those two and Patrick Reed look like the future of the PGA Tour and the likeliest successors to Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk.
The eyes of the golfing world will be on Woods this week, when he plays his first event for four months, since failing to make the cut at the PGA Championship in August.
Woods is hosting the Hero World Challenge, an elite 18-man tournament near his Florida home, and I’ll be fascinated to see how his technique has changed since starting work with swing consultant Chris Como.
STACK AND TILT
I believe Como’s methods are rooted in the “stack and tilt” camp, in which the left side bears the weight. It goes against what my father taught, but golf is always evolving and I’ll be interested to see what he does with Woods.
These end-of-year events are unpredictable. There are no FedEx points available, so players – Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are among the field – are more relaxed and there is less importance placed on winning.
Woods is bound to be rusty, but it must be special to have your own tournament and the 14-time Major winner will have been preparing for this one. He will go out expecting to win and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he did.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam
WORLD TOP FIVE
1. Rory McIlroy 11.64 ave pts
2. Henrik Stenson 8.13
3. Adam Scott 8.03
4. Bubba Watson 7.68
5. Jim Furyk 7.08