In the run-up to announcing its 2015 Sportsman of the Year Award on Dec. 14, Sports Illustrated has revealed the top contenders for the coveted honor. (You can cast your vote here.) There are a dozen candidates altogether, but in our minds one soars above the rest: Jordan Spieth. Need convincing? Here’s the case for the 22-year-old against each of the other 11 pretenders … ahem, contenders.
Why Spieth is more worthy: There are horses for courses, and in that regard, the Tour’s young thoroughbred was even more adaptive than this year’s Triple Crown winner. From plush Augusta to baked-out Chambers Bay, he triumphed on a variety of tracks. He also won in nearly every fashion, whether leading wire-to-wire or mounting a comeback on the closing stretch to nip the competition by a nose. Nothing against the history-making colt, but Spieth had a stronger finishing kick: as the year wound down, and American Pharoah was heading out to pasture, Spieth kept charging, winning $10 million and the FedEx Cup. You tell us who’s the bigger stud.
Why Spieth is more worthy: A tough-as-nails linebacker with a tender heart, this Carolina Panther has justly earned kudos for his charitable work. But Spieth is a class act in his own right, as evidenced not only by his on-course comportment but also by the efforts of the Jordan Spieth Foundation, which dedicates itself to a host of worthy causes, including children with special needs. In short, the guy does good while playing well. And no one gets concussed along the way.
Why Spieth is more worthy: Spieth’s play this year was flat-out unconscious, which is not to be confused with Rousey’s state after Holly Holm dispatched her with a kick to the head.
Why Spieth is more worthy: Considering the fact that winning Olympic gold is the ultimate benchmark of achievement in gymnastics, and taking into account the fact that Biles, for all her greatness, has to yet to compete in the Summer Games, we could go through somersaults trying to explain why she shouldn’t get this honor over Spieth. Come to think of it, we just did.
Why Spieth is more worthy: Golf is a marathon, not a sprint. Not that Bolt would know anything about that. True to his name, he runs like lightning. But this award should recognize sustained greatness, and not an athlete whose events are over in the time it takes to line up a three-foot putt.
Why Spieth is more worthy: Like Messi, Spieth shined on his own this year but also showed himself to be a great team player, topping off his epic season by helping pace the U.S. to victory in the Presidents Cup. Unlike Messi, he did it all without getting a lame armband tattoo.
Why Spieth is more worthy: This is a tough one. Both men are sharp-shooters, Curry the king of the three-pointer, Spieth the prince of the long-range putt. Statistically, they present a mirror image: Curry netted 46 percent of his three-pointers; Spieth matched that number with a 46-percent birdie-conversion rate. As a tie-breaker, let’s turn to the target. A basketball hoop, so large and inviting compared to a cup. Or better yet, ask Curry. He’s a scratch golfer. He knows how hard it is to make a bomb.
THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Why Spieth is more worthy: Let’s get this straight: A bunch of guys sit around in a grimy dugout, scratching themselves while spitting tobacco, a few of them sporting such big beer bellies that they’re never even asked to take the field. And some people say that golf isn’t a sport?
Why Spieth is more worthy: You’re djoking, right? Sure, the Serbian had a stellar season, claiming 10 titles, including three Grand Slams. But to win a tennis tournament, you only have to beat one opponent at a time. Dominance in golf is tougher to come by, and not just because you’re up against entire fields at once. For starters, the course is less forgiving than the court (mishit a few serves, and you’re still in it; you’re not if you bang several tee shots out of bounds ). And then there’s this: golfers deal more often with the fickleness of fate. Remember the British Open, when the R&A decided to send a few groups out in absurdly nasty weather, only to recall them? Spieth was among those who paid the price, and that cost him in his quest for his third straight major. Bad luck. Bad timing. Call it what you will. It never would have happened in the sport Djokovic plays.
Why Spieth is more worthy: When she bowed out in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open, Serena fell two matches shy of the calendar-year Grand Slam, an achievement no woman has pulled off since Steffi Graf in ’88. When his putt burned the edge on the 18th hole on Sunday at St. Andrews, Spieth missed a chance at the third leg of the calendar-year Grand Slam, an achievement no man has pulled off since, well, ever, in the modern era. What he’d done up till then—taking the first two—was rare enough; the last golfer to do so to start the year was Jack Nicklaus in ’71. Sorry, Serena. Your season was sublime, but Spieth’s was even more outrageous. He came just about as close to a more elusive feat.
Why Spieth is more worthy: In the women’s World Cup finals against Japan, Lloyd scored three goals in within the first 16 minutes, a dazzling feat performed with dizzying speed. It was the fastest-ever hat-trick at the World Cup by a male or female player, but still not as impressive as the youngest ever golfer to win the Masters. No fault of Lloyd’s, of course, but the World Cup was also only one event. A glowing stage, for sure, but nowhere near as enduring as the spotlight trained on Spieth, which grew brighter and brighter throughout the year.