Jordan Spieth is back on top of the golfing world. And everyone, from the media covering the sport to the fans following it, has a choice to make.

Do we crank the hype machine back up for the talented Texan? Do we roll back out the comparisons to golfers of the past, be it a Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? Do we get riled up with the major tournament math again? (He has three majors already? He could have 10 by 30! Maybe 15 by 40! Or even 20!)

Here’s another idea: Jordan Spieth is a wildly gifted player. How about enjoying him for being just that?

Those gifts were on display in the sequence that thrust the 24-year-old Spieth back into the spotlight. At last weekend’s British Open, Spieth, down a stroke with five holes to play after leading the first three rounds, caught fire. He birdied 14, eagled 15, birdied 16 and 17 and stormed past a foe in Matt Kuchar, who played well but was simply outmatched by a former world No. 1 who was playing at the top of his game. He posed with the claret jug, celebrating his third major, while fans watching on television scrambled to put into words on social media what they had seen.

It was remarkable, but it wasn’t all that unfamiliar. It was just two years ago that Spieth was looking every bit as dominant as he did last weekend at Royal Birkdale. He blitzed the field at The Masters en route to his first major, prevailed down the stretch to edge Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen at the U.S. Open to make it two straight, then held a share of the lead late at the British Open and finished runner-up at the PGA Championship, coming just a few shots away from sweeping all majors in one year.

It was one of the best seasons anyone had seen a player turn in, and the golfing world did what is to be expected. It freaked out. Suddenly, Spieth wasn’t just an impressive young golfer. He was the next star, the Next Tiger. He was being tabbed as the most dominant golfer since Woods, on his way to challenging Nicklaus’s hallowed record for major championships in a career. Fans and media members starving for another larger-than-life figure to serve as a juggernaut every major Sunday picked Spieth, ready or not, as their man. CBS Sports did it. SB Nation did it. USA Today and did it. Even other touring golfers bought in.

“We are looking at the next Tiger or Jack. @JordanSpieth is amazing to watch.” Chesson Hadley tweeted in July of 2015.

It was over the top, and it was unfair. It was unfair to Spieth, who was in only his second season of playing all four majors, and it was unfair to players like Woods and Nicklaus, who were seeing their own accomplishments cheapened by widespread assertions that their equal had arrived. And when the narrative changed, when the couldn’t-miss golfer began to miss, the hype vanished. Spieth lost two straight shots in the water to lose the lead in his next Masters, finished 30th or worse at three of the next five majors, and words like “choke” and “slump” began to fill the headlines. Seemingly overnight, the Next Tiger was suddenly a forgotten man.

He isn’t anymore. Not after a finish for the ages in England re-ignited talk of Spieth’s career path. But what’s the crime with observing the player Spieth is now, rather than the player he could potentially be later on?

What he is now is a special player. He can hit any shot on the course and his consistency is matched by few on the PGA Tour. He’s long and straight, and an excellent putter with an icy nerve. He’s built for Sunday drama, with a penchant for delivering big shots in big moments. He operates with a calm demeanor, is outgoing and humble when speaking, but also possesses a fiery side that will lie dormant until a big putt or holed-out bunker shot allows it to erupt.

He’s fun to watch, and he’s good — good enough, certainly, to suggest there will be more moments like this year’s British Open’s to come. But if they come less frequently than some over-eager pundits are expecting, it shouldn’t be viewed as a waste or under fulfillment of a unique talent. Plenty of golf’s greats have run hot and cold at majors. Lee Trevino won six majors and was hardly a lock for the top 10 in his career. Seve Ballesteros won five. Phil Mickelson has won five. And there are more like them, golfers who will be remembered for how great they were, not how great they fell short of becoming. And there’s a reason for that — golfers like Nicklaus and Woods, who were in the hunt in almost every major they played, were the exception, not the norm.

Jordan Spieth is 24 years old and he’s already won three of the four majors a golfer can win. Now that he’s back on top, the right thing to do is to appreciate a prodigy at the peak of his game and enjoy the player he’ll become, without creating a standard for what that player will be.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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