Let Jordan Spieth's future determine his past

Jordan Spieth has plenty of time to be great. (Getty Images)
Jordan Spieth has plenty of time to be great. (Getty Images)

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There was Jordan Spieth walking off the 18th green on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass clapping for the fans who stayed around through a rain delay to watch him and Martin Kaymer finish up the Players Championship.

His applause for them might have been louder than theirs for him.

Such is life as a professional athlete, though -- especially one who just shot a final-round 74 to lose the Players by three.

"When you're at whatever I was, 14-under, and then the winning score is 13-under and, you know, I was there during part of the round, that's tough to swallow," said Spieth after his round.

It was, especially with the golf world begging him to step into those oversized "Heir Jordan" kicks waiting for him sans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

The Kid was brilliant all week, going 58 holes without a visible mistake (that is, a square on his scorecard) but he didn't close and, well, that's twice in two months that he hasn't shut down a monster tournament.

We don't have to project his next decade based on these last two tournaments, you know. We like to and some of us have bosses that require us to (I am not among these), but we don't have to.

I wrote after Augusta that Spieth needs to win soon as to not fall into the Sergio Garcia mantra of "always close, never a closer." I still believe in that but I don't believe what he does now necessarily determines what his career will be.

We love to pin labels upon stars (yo, LeBron) and the prevailing pins after the Players are "he definitely can't close!" or "dude, he's 20!" 

An alternative: How about we let what he does in the future determine whether the 2014 Masters and 2014 Players Championship were building blocks for greatness or stumbling blocks on the fast track to superstardom.

For now, let's just let them be really fun, really good performances from a 20-year-old.

It's funny how the narrative for, say, LeBron shifted from "he couldn't win when he was young!" to "he was just learning how to win when he was young!" only after he won two titles.

Let's not make the same mistake with Spieth. Only Spieth knows if he's being molded or if he's being ripped ragged and only the future will reveal that to us.

"It's not fun being that close and having opportunities and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off," said Spieth. "It's something that I don't feel like I've struggled with throughout my whole career, going back to junior days."

This isn't junior golf anymore, and Spieth knows that. Martin Kaymer dropping gutsy 71s on you in the final round at Sawgrass is a tad different than the chubby kid from Midland double bogeying the last hole for a 75.

Spieth says all the right things -- he's gutted by his performance and knows he held two immense titles, titles that could have potentially vaulted him to world No. 1, in his hands.

He'll have the rest of the year to keep putting himself in position and the rest of his career to erase those second place finishes with trophies.

We don't know yet what's inside of him but finding out is half the fun.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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