Last month Sports Illustrated unveiled its 12 candidates for its eponymous Sportsman of the Year award (or 11 because, let’s be real, American Pharoah is a horse, not a person). As you’d expect, Jordan Spieth made the cut — thanks to his historic run at the Grand Slam, winning the first two majors of the year and the FedEx Cup, along with being named PGA Tour Player of the Year, among many other accolades and achievements in 2015.
Zach Johnson wrote an essay over at Golf.com, making a strong case that Spieth, one of the leading candidates, is most deserving of receiving SI’s coveted award.
Johnson looked back on playing with Spieth in the first two rounds of the PGA Championship when he reflected on the phenomenal shots he witnessed the 22-year-old Boy Wonder pull off throughout 2015.
It was only after playing with Jordan the first two days of the PGA Championship that his 2015 finally sunk in for me. Jordan was 6-under, per usual, when caddie Damon Green and I looked back on each round we shared with him in 2015. During each round, like clockwork, he made an incredible shot. Some chip or some putt or some approach he hit was the best shot I saw that day. He was consistently the most exciting player on Tour, from his first win at the Valspar Championship, to donning the green jacket, all the way to the Tour Championship he won by four shots.
But, in Johnson’s mind, it’s how Spieth conducted himself after he missed out of a playoff at the Open Championship by one shot to lose his chances of keeping the elusive Grand Slam dream alive. And he sure makes a strong argument for Spieth in the way that he conducts himself on and off the golf course, regardless of the outcome.
All that being said, it’s what happened at St. Andrews, where Jordan actually lost, that makes him Sportsman of the Year in my mind. We must remember the award is given not only for athletic achievement, but also for sportsmanship.
It took some of the best golf I’ve played in years to win the British Open. Jordan had narrowly missed the playoff for his third major of the year by just a single stroke, his history on temporary hold as I won the 3-hole playoff. As I walked off the 18th green at St. Andrews, with thousands of people crowded around one of the most famous settings in golf, the first peer waiting to see me was Jordan Spieth, wearing that classic smile and embracing me in congratulatory hug.
I’m never going to forget that classy move, and I’ll never forget his 2015.
And I’m sure Spieth will never forget the classy gesture that Johnson has now made in return by taking the time to write this essay.
You can cast your vote here. The winner will be announced on December 14th. #teamspieth