Where does Jordan Spieth stack up against the all-time greats on his 24th birthday?
Jordan Spieth turns 24 years old today. Take any field – finance, marketing, other sports, whatever – and few, if any, can boast as impressive of professional achievements as Spieth can in golf.
Spieth is one leg away from a career Grand Slam after his Open Championship win on Sunday – he has a chance to complete the final leg at the PGA Championship in Charlotte. In total, Spieth has 11 PGA Tour wins, 48 top-ten finishes, and has finished second in three majors.
Not bad for a guy who’s still not old enough to rent a car.
It’s way, way too early to compare Spieth’s accomplishments to golf greats’ total body of work – but there’s no better time to measure how he stacks up against them before their 24th birthday.
Here’s how dominant Spieth has been at such a young age.
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Tiger Woods is the youngest player ever to win a career Grand Slam. He completed the feat at age 24 when he won the 2000 Open Championship.
But even Woods hadn’t accomplished as much in major championships before turning 24 as Spieth has; Tiger had two titles to to Spieth’s three.
With that said, Woods’ 24-year-old season was the peak of his dominance – he won the U.S. Open, Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2000. Admittedly, 24 is an arbitrary number – though technically speaking, Spieth has more major hardware than Woods did at the same age.
Tiger, however, edges Spieth in PGA Tour wins before their 24th birthday, 15 to 11. Overall, Woods had accomplished slightly more, but Spieth is absolutely in the same tier.
Like Spieth, Jack Nicklaus won three majors before his 24th birthday – the 1962 U.S. Open, the 1963 Masters and the 1963 PGA Championship. He’d go on to complete the career Grand Slam at the 1966 Open Championship at the age of 26.
While Spieth and Nicklaus boast a similar sub-24 major resume, the former has Jack beat in total Tour wins, 11 to eight. Nicklaus would go on to win an astounding 73 PGA Tour events, which ranks third all time. We’ll see if Spieth has that longevity in him, but it’s safe to say he’s off to a blazing start.
Nicklaus earned his first major win at the expense of Arnold Palmer at the 1962 U.S. Open; The King took second. As great as he was, Arnie’s rookie season happened in 1955 – when he was 25 years old. Palmer deserves a mention in any all-time greats discussion, but he didn’t start dominating until a bit later on.
On a similar note, Ben Hogan didn’t win his first major until he was 28. Hogan turned pro at age 17, but famously struggled early on – he went broke multiple times before notching his first win in 1940. It will be fascinating to see where Spieth’s at when he turns 28.
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The legendary Gary Player, who ranks third all-time in professional wins behind Roberto de Vicenzo and Sam Snead, won one major before turning 24 – the 1959 Open Championship. Player completed his career Grand Slam at the age of 29.
Player is more well-known for being one of the best older golfers ever than younger golfers ever – at the 1998 Masters, he became the oldest person to ever make the cut, breaking Snead’s 25-year record.
To find someone who holds a candle to Spieth’s youthful dominance outside of Tiger and Jack, you have to go all the way back to Young Tom Morris, who won the Open in 1868, 1869, 1870 and 1872 – he was 17 in 1868. That’s not to be confused with Old Tom Morris, whose best years came well after he turned 24. Again – the fact that we even have to go as far back as the 1860s shows how impressive Spieth’s run is.
At the PGA Championship in a few weeks, Spieth has a chance to further solidify his standing among the all-time greats.
But the truth is, he could miss the cut completely and still stack up pretty darn well against the legends.