Much like famous UK resident Harry Potter, the third and fourth years are a big deal for professional golfers.
While Potter was off reconnecting with his godfather and winning the Tri-Wizard Tournament in those formative years, some of the world’s greatest golfers have forged their steel in years three and four of their career.
By no great coincidence, World No. 1 Jordan Spieth has just begun his fourth season, which contains one win and three top 10 finishes in three events to date. In his third year of 2015, he was close to unstoppable, playing 25 events, winning five of them, finishing fourth twice, third once, and tallying 15 Top 10 performances. Of course, he also won The Masters and the US Open, finished second at the PGA Championship and fourth at The Open Championship.
Spieth’s third year looked a lot like the thirds for two of his contemporaries, No. 3 Rory McIlroy and all-time great Tiger Woods. McIlroy’s came in 2011 as he won twice, finished second twice, and third three times in 21 events, winning the US Open and placing in the Top 25 of the Masters (tied for 15th) and the Open Championship (tied for 25th).
Woods, even more so. He won eight times in just 21 events that year, with 16 Top 10 finishes, a win at the PGA Championship, a third-place tie at the US Open and a seventh-place tie at the Open Championship.
Rolling the clock back half a century finds Jack Nicklaus in 1964 without a Major win, but 24 Top 25 finishes in 25 events, including four wins and six second-place finishes. He finished second at the last three Majors of the year.
And seven years before that, third-year Arnold Palmer won four times in 31 events and finished seventh at the Masters.
Of those five men, all had clearly better seasons in their fourth years. McIlroy won five times, including the PGA Championship, and finished in the top 3 10 times in 26 events.
Woods won nine times in 20 events and started his epic Tiger Slam by taking the wins at the US Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship after finishing fifth at the Masters.
Nicklaus won five times and finished second four times in 23 events, notching a victory at The Masters. Palmer also won the Masters and finished in the top 10 a whopping 14 times in 32 events.
So what will Spieth have to do to keep it going? Handle the hype more than anything. Even McIlroy, who enjoyed his big season a mere five years ago, wasn’t blitzed the way Spieth will be almost solely because of his country of origin. Spieth’s home of America has already taken to its hero worship and that will only continue as he remains winning and No. 1 in the world.