Punch Shot: Biggest similarity between Tiger's and Spieth's games?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 12, 2016, 7:20 pm

Jordan Spieth has recently drawn comparisons to Tiger Woods, which even Tiger's old swing coach, Butch Harmon, agrees are fair to make. What part of Spieth's game is most similar to Tiger's when he was at his best? Our writers weigh in:


It’s hard to quantify, but Jordan Spieth shares with Tiger Woods a rare ability to rise to the occasion.

It’s been that way for as long as I’ve covered Spieth. 

In 2011, he had one final chance to join Woods as the only players to win multiple U.S. Junior titles. He won the championship match, 6 and 5. The following spring, during the NCAA finals at Riviera, the Texas freshman played Alabama’s Justin Thomas in a battle of Player of the Year contenders. All square on the 15th hole, Spieth holed a long approach shot (shocker) and won the match, helping lift the Longhorns to the team championship.

That was only the start. 

To win his first PGA Tour title, at the 2013 John Deere Classic, he holed a bunker shot on the last hole to force a playoff. To win his first major, at the 2015 Masters, he got up-and-down from an impossible spot long and right of the 18th green to preserve his four-shot cushion heading into the final day. To become the youngest player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win back-to-back majors, Spieth sank a slippery putt on 16 and smoked a 3-wood to 15 feet on the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay. To win the Tour Championship and become golf’s first $22 million man, Spieth curled in a 45-footer on the 11th hole for the final dagger.

Woods was the master at this, seemingly willing every important putt into the cup for a dozen years. In his short career, Spieth has demonstrated the same uncanny ability to summon the goods at the best possible time, when the competition is closing in, when the pressure is at its most intense. 


Jordan Spieth won for the sixth time in 10 months on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, lapping the field in Maui by eight strokes and sparking comparisons to Tiger Woods at the same point in his career.

Although Spieth doesn’t overpower golf courses like Woods did at this point in their careers, his putting, particularly in pressure situations, is the most obvious similarity.

Butch Harmon, who was Woods’ swing coach from 1996 to August 2002, said he sees much of the same composure in Spieth that was such a big part of Tiger’s persona during those early years.

“I never thought I’d see anyone who can make as many pressure putts as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods did,” Harmon said. “But Jordan Spieth is definitely right there. Jordan makes more long putts then anyone we’ve seen in a long time with the exception of Arnold Palmer.”

Spieth is second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting, but specifically distinguishes himself from the field, like Woods, on mid-range putts at key moments.

For the week at the Tournament of Champions he made 368 feet of putts, including bombs of 46 feet (No. 2 on Saturday), 33 feet (the second on Thursday) and 35 feet (No. 2 on Sunday).


We do Jordan Spieth no favors comparing him with Tiger Woods, but it’s unavoidable.

Spieth knows that, and he gives the best possible answer when asked, saying it’s premature to compare but he’s flattered because it’s his goal to move into the company of greatness.

Tiger knows the impossible standard he set, because he is compared with himself all the time now. He was so good, there’s a sense of doom trying to measure up, even for him now. But it won’t stop us. It’s human nature to want to compare excellence, whether it’s the best performance we’ve seen in a decade or the best steak we’ve ever eaten. It’s the way we’re wired.

How does Spieth most compare to Woods? It’s the putting. We all see that. Spieth has a gift on the greens. We talk about how Woods could dominate with power in his youth, but he demoralized players with his putter, with all the great putts he drained. Spieth can do that. Of course, Spieth will have to keep doing that before it’s really fair to compare him with Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the greatest clutch putters of all time. In the meantime, we’ll be unable to resist forcing the comparisons. 


The most striking similarity between Spieth and Woods is an innate understanding of timing. It’s knowing just when to go in for the kill, just when his closest pursuer might be reeling and can be knocked flat with a single swipe. It’s executing a risky approach shot, or converting an improbable up-and-down, or burying an 8-footer for par like it was a tap-in.

Spieth has had a few wobbles that we didn’t see from an early Woods – specifically, the 17th holes at both of the Opens last year. But overall his ability to seize the moment, especially when leading, is reminiscent of Woods. We see it when he is battling down the stretch or in a playoff, and it is equally evident at events like Kapalua, where he slowly grew his lead from three shots to five, and ultimately eight.

It’s shots like his approach to the 18th hole on Saturday, a low, running 3-iron that nearly rolled in for an albatross before setting up a closing eagle. It was Spieth telling the rest of the field, quite simply, that this was his tournament and no one else was permitted within arm’s length of the trophy.

We’ve seen similar shots recently from guys like Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, but the frequency with which Spieth hits the perfect shot at the perfect time draws comparisons to the player who did it better than anyone in recent memory.


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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry