Two years ago this week, I opined that Jason Day could supplant Jordan Spieth as the 2015 Player of the Year. Did I believe it? Maybe not, but then Spieth won the FedEx Cup and made the exercise moot.
In 2017, it’s Spieth’s turn to be the spoiler. Is he the 2017 Player of the Year over Justin Thomas? I don’t know if I believe it now, but I could in two weeks.
“I'm hitting the ball as good or better consistently as I've ever hit it,” Spieth said at the Dell Technologies Championship. “I'm very close to the level I played in 2015.”
- His 2017 resume: three wins, one major, the most memorable major Sunday, the shot of the year, holing from the bunker to win the Travelers and eight top 3s
- Thomas’ resume: Five wins, one major, big time closer at the PGA, a 59 to start the year and hot play to finish it
When you line up the resumes together, the gap seems smaller than first impressions. If Spieth were to win a second FedEx Cup, is it enough to surpass his friend (you know they’re friends, right?!) as Player of the Year? I think so.
“It's obviously been a great year thus far, but it's -- you don't want to say it's nothing,” Thomas remarked after his win in Boston, the pause in his thought offering his sense that the Tour Championship will be for more than just the FedEx Cup.
There is no doubt that the year has belonged to Thomas. The lid opened and the greatness poured out. Even with a mid-summer lull, no player has been in the consciousness of golf fans from the beginning of the season more than Thomas.
So, why Spieth? Because while you were paying attention to Thomas all season, Spieth was always right there. Like the greats before him, Spieth’s play makes him the most consistent threat to win. His start to the FedEx Cup Playoffs has now given him 15 runner-up finishes in his career. In 137 career starts as a professional, Spieth has finished 1 or 2 a staggering 21 percent of the time. That’s a top 2 every fifth time he tees it up.
In case you’re curious, Jack Nicklaus did it at a 22 percent rate. Tiger Woods? 33 percent.
Player of the Year isn’t a career achievement award, obviously, but the season Spieth is having can easily be overlooked because his consistency numbs us to just how good he has been.
This week, to an extent, is meaningless to the debate. Should Thomas win for a sixth time this year, it may seal the deal, but the trophy and $10 million on the line at East Lake next week could be enough to tip the scales.
It’s a course that favors Spieth’s game, and if he were to win it all, he’s the player of the year.