AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s as if Jordan Spieth mysteriously appeared through the Augusta National Golf Club azaleas the way Shoeless Joe Jackson walked onto that “Field of Dreams” from an Iowa cornfield.
The 2015 Masters champion is a 21-year-old timeless character who arrived in Augusta last year out of nowhere, or the Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas by way of the Texas Longhorns, depending on your sources.
This is Spieth’s leaderboard place after each of his eight rounds at the Masters over the last two years: 12, 3, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1.
The Jordan Spieth Family Foundation supports junior golf, military families and special needs kids.
Jack Nicklaus summarized it best.
“Jordan is so beyond his years,” the Golden Bear said in an official post-Masters statement. “I like everything about the young man. He’s polite. He’s humble. He handles himself so well, on and off the golf course.”
It’s as if Spieth (rhymes with bequeath) is the sum of golf gifts willed from the past.
Like Walter Hagen at the 1914 U.S. Open, Spieth led a Major wire-to-wire while 21 or younger. No one else has done that.
Like Augusta National founder Bobby Jones, Spieth has an impeccable gentleman’s regard for golf.
“It’s how the game was founded,” Spieth said Sunday. “It’s a game of integrity. There are no referees out there. We all respect each other. I don’t think in any other sport do you see two opposing teams that are complimenting after each shot or touchdown or whatever it is.”
Like nine-time Major winner Ben Hogan, this is one steely Texan.
Spieth brings back echoes of living legends, too.
Like Arnold Palmer, he’s a man of the people, grounded in family, including his 14-year-old special needs sister Ellie.
Like Gary Player, he’s in great shape.
Like Nicklaus, a very good high school basketball player, he’s a multi-sport athlete, having played baseball, soccer and basketball growing up. His 6-6 brother Steven plays basketball at Brown University.
But it’s the modern-day comparisons that ring loudest.
No one will ever be like Tiger Woods bursting onto the scene in the late 1990s and impacting everything from “Tiger proofing” course renovations and property development to booming TV ratings and exploding secondary ticket markets. But if Spieth keeps improving, he can reach beyond the PGA Tour to ignite a golf revival involving kids who get interested because a young guy is doing amazing things.
Any doubt about the Masters favorite in 2016?
Or maybe Bubba Watson will win, because, well, Bubba lately has decided to win the Masters in even-numbered years.
That’s great, too. Spieth needs a rival or two and the wackier Watson and jet-setting Rory McIlroy make for ideal contrasts.
Spieth on Bubba’s 2014 at Augusta, where Spieth as a 20-year-old Masters rookie crumbled into a tie for second place: “I was already hungry from last year having already had an opportunity and watched it slip away and watched Bubba win and everything that came with Bubba being the Masters Champion, and the announcements of it, going on the shows and whatever. I knew I had a chance to win that tournament.”
“I don’t know, as far as a rivalry right now,” Spieth said. “Look forward to getting in the heat of the moment with him a couple times in the near future and see if we can battle it out and test our games.”
Just what we want to hear.
Spieth has already made a Ryder Cup team, and already has 18 top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events.
His name will be all over the Record Fountain, the cherished Augusta National hexagon monument (and drinking fountain) that keeps tracks of winners and records just left of the No. 17 green.
As the sun set on Sunday’s lack of back nine drama, Watson helped Spieth slip into a green jacket. Next year, Spieth will do the presentation honors.
Or maybe not.
Jack Nicklaus, the first repeat Masters winner, simply put his own jacket on in 1966.
Chairman Hord Hardin helped back-to-back champion Nick Faldo with jacket duties in 1990 and Chairman Hootie Johnson was there to present repeat winner Tiger Woods in 2002.
At this rate, Chairman Billy Payne better be ready to take part in the 2016 ceremony.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff