01/11/2015

It was the only sensible outcome.

Jordan Spieth won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and it wasn’t particularly close. Spieth finished 30-under-par, eight shots better than Patrick Reed. In doing so, the world number one became the third fastest player to seven wins and the second ever to reach 30-under par in a 72-hole event.

Spieth turned in an incredible performance that somehow we all saw coming. He dismantled the par-fives with 12 birdies and two eagles. He drained his trademark long putts. On 18 on Sunday, a 663-yard monster, Spieth knocked his approach to five feet as cool as you like, then buried the birdie. It’s all so simple for him.

He’s shown us time and time again, so now we both expect and aren’t surprised when it reaches the absurd. And 30-under is absurd.

The Plantation Course always plays easy. The low-scoring brings PGA Tour golf back on a high note in the comforting Maui setting. Good vibes produce good scores. So it was this weekend. Fourteen players made it to at least 15-under-par. Five were -20 or better. Spieth, obviously, was in a different class.

Perhaps we should cease all discussion, at least temporarily, about the 22-year-old’s age, maturity or even precise game. All factor into this amazing run he’s been on for the last year. But another more crucial truth is emerging each time Spieth tees up—he needs to win.

Now, I’m not one to grab onto vague descriptions or intangible traits. The English language has far too many good words for us to struggle to find them. So when someone says an athlete is “clutch” or has an “it” factor, I cringe.

That being said, how else can you describe Spieth? He has an insatiable desire to win every tournament he plays in. You saw it not only at the Masters, the US Open and the Tour Championship (in my opinion, his best win of the season), but also the John Deere Classic and now the Tournament of Champions. Winning is becoming habitual for Spieth. He can’t not do it. He needs to win the same way Tiger Woods needed to win. No other result was acceptable.

It’s a trait that snuck up on us. Because Spieth is so well-mannered and yes, mature, we don’t think of him as a killer even as evidence mounted that proved otherwise. Consider the 18th hole again. Spieth fatted a three-wood on his second shot.

He shouted at his ball to go to clear a hazard ahead. Never mind the shot was inconsequential. Spieth hadn’t turned off just yet. He was relieved to see the dimpled sphere roll into the fairway.

Maybe that was a little luck for a man who knew he could do no wrong. If so, I bring you back to 13. Spieth, with a five-shot lead and five holes to play, was staring down a 20-foot, downhill birdie putt. He wasn’t happy with where he ended up nor with the result of the ensuing stroke. Spieth’s ball rolled just right of the hole despite threatening the cup the entire way. He gave his signature exasperated look.

The guy doesn’t know anything else. I had been mulling over Spieth’s 2015 as the calendar switched to 2016. The same thought kept coming back to me. We need to appreciate this season more because there’s a decent chance he may never repeat it. The expectations are heading to a place where Spieth can’t possibly live up to them.

Then again, maybe he can.