‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Forgive me for busting out a little Tennyson to get us into the Valentine’s Day spirit, but this is an applicable quote for golf, too, as many bettors will be wagering with their hearts, with Jordan Spieth holding yet another 54-hole lead, this time at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
I often think of the above words when making my claim about professional golfers who continually get into position for a victory, only to keep losing heartbreakers.
I’m of the belief that the general public collectively thinks such close calls should be viewed negatively, as if these results are more damaging to a player’s psyche than, say, finishing T-47 and hopping on a plane before the leaders even make the turn. Think about the recent travails of Tony Finau or Xander Schauffele, for instance, who have been widely panned for failing to win rather than lauded for giving themselves those chances.
That’s a sweeping generalization, I’ll readily admit, but what I am sure about is that the players themselves understand that simply experiencing the heat of the battle will steel them for future occurrences, whether those occurrences happen later in their journeys or the very next week.
‘Tis better to have contended and lost than never to have contended at all.
All of which brings us directly to Spieth, who owned a share of last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open lead entering the final round, only to post a 1-over 72 and finish in a share of fourth place.
For a player who hadn’t won in three-and-a-half years and had barely contended during that span, this particular instance of leaderboard ascension was widely considered a winning battle in what’s been a losing war, with more positives to be taken from it than negatives.
The leash won’t be as long time, as a second consecutive week in contention will be viewed through the prism of a more intense magnifier.
If Spieth is able to parlay his two-stroke lead into his first title since the 2017 Open Championship, he’ll undoubtedly point to last week’s loss as a necessary stepping stone needed to climb onto this pedestal. If he isn’t able to close this one out, it would be difficult to suggest that these two experiences won’t at some point lead, even just indirectly, to greater success in similar circumstances.
That should all lead to a question being asked beyond the golf world on Valentine’s Day: Will he or won’t he?
Spieth is anywhere from +175 to +200 in most major sportsbooks. That’s an alluring price for a proven winner with a multiple-stroke lead. It also feels like a sucker bet on a guy whose game was considered lost until last week.
If you’re betting with your heart, if you want even more reason to yell at the TV for Spieth to accomplish more Spieth-like things on Sunday afternoon, getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 2/1 odds maybe isn’t the worst idea.
My recommendation, though, is to wait and see.
If there’s one thing we know about Spieth, it’s that he’s volatile.
Win or lose on Sunday, it’s hard to believe it’ll be easy, that he’ll post a blemish-free 66 and cruise to victory. He’ll hit some amazing iron shots and miss some mind-numbingly simple putts. He’ll miss greens with wedges and get up and down from places that would make Seve Ballesteros proud.
In fact, it’s perfectly imaginable to believe that Spieth won’t play his best golf until he’s already played his worst – he perhaps will need to blow that lead and feel like his back is up against the wall before he stops playing defensively and starts playing aggressively.
It’s because of this — because of everything we’ve learned and know about him — that I’d advise to hold off on a Spieth bet. He very well might win, but I think it’s just as likely that he’s tied or even losing before it happens.
Take that wait-and-see approach, then — if you still believe Spieth can win — hop on him live at a bigger number during the final round.