LAKE FOREST, Ill. – While it's easy to get caught up in Jordan Spieth and his amazing rookie season, it would be hard to consider the best by a pure rookie in recent times. Only two years ago, Keegan Bradley won the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship, and probably should have been selected for the Presidents Cup team.
And then there's Tiger Woods.
Spieth is assured of becoming the first player since Woods in 1996 to start a season with no status on any tour and reach the Tour Championship. The 20-year-old Texan secured special temporary membership with a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico and a tie for seventh at the Tampa Bay Championship, giving him unlimited exemptions the rest of the year. He became a full member by winning the John Deere Classic.
The surge continued with a playoff loss at the Wyndham Championship, and his tie for fourth in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Woods was 20 when he turned pro in late August, fresh off his third straight U.S. Amateur title. He had seven exemptions to earn his card, and during that stretch he tied for fifth in what is now the John Deere Classic (losing a 54-hole lead to Ed Fiori), tied for third in the B.C. Open that was cut short to 54 holes by rain, and then won twice. He beat Davis Love III in a playoff in Las Vegas, and beat the late Payne Stewart at Disney. In between, Woods was third at the Valero Texas Open.
Going from nowhere to the Tour Championship in seven events? Woods still considers that one of his finest achievements.