By Meghan Durkin (VI)
If you’re a golf fan like me, you spent your Super Bowl weekend watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open—and yes, the game as well. Perhaps, the biggest storyline of the tournament was an unlikely, yet familiar, name at the top of the leaderboard going into Sunday: Jordan Spieth. Spieth, a three-time Major champion, who was once ranked the world’s No. 1 golfer for 26 consecutive weeks, hasn’t won a tournament since 2017, a three-and-a-half year dry spell that has seen him fall out of the top 50 in world rankings. At the Phoenix Open, for the first time in far too long, Spieth looked like the player of old: he had a career-high ten birdies in Saturday’s round and went into the final round tied for first at 18 under par. As a fan of Spieth’s, and of golf, it was exciting: a potential resurgence of a top talent who seemed to have lost his game. A win, however, was not in the cards for Spieth, who played a lackluster final round and finished fourth. I was disappointed, to say the least.
But, Jordan Spieth’s almost-win reminded me of what I love so much about sports: the comeback. There is nothing like watching a once-great talent re-emerge from defeat to reclaim their past glories. Think Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory, his first Major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. Or, think of Shaun White claiming his third Olympic gold medal at PyeongChang in 2018, following a fourth place finish four years earlier. For a more recent “comeback,” and if you’re more of a soccer fan, think of John Stones’ resurgence in Manchester City’s first team this season.
Like Spieth, many more athletes continue to push for a concrete comeback of their own. Take Serena Williams, who is facing a career downturn following the birth of her first child. Williams has lost her last four Grand Slam finals, a stat that has slowed her chase of the all-time Grand Slam singles’ titles record. While failing to hold this record will likely weigh little on her already stacked legacy as a player, her accomplishments, at least to fans, feel incomplete.
Maybe this is unfair, but the truth is, the story of a comeback never fails to be a great one, especially for the fans. Sports, in its mirroring of life, presents the ultimate lesson of “you can only be on top for so long.” For professional athletes, success is hard to earn, yet so easy to lose. Being at the pinnacle of one’s sport and the height of one’s career, almost always ends unforgivingly and without return. Thus, when fans are invited to witness the return of a talent and player they grew to adore, the feeling is nothing less than elation, and the story worthy enough to be front-page news.
Unfortunately, no—we can’t all be Tiger or Serena, but I’d like to think we all have fans rooting for our comebacks too (albeit many less). As the greats would tell us: in times of success, when our putts are sinking and shots dropping, we have to grab at every opportunity; we have to take our moments and squeeze everything out of them. And inevitably, when our good luck relinquishes and we’re off our game, we have to know: our fans are behind us; our people are pulling for us. Just ask Spieth, Williams, White, or Woods: everyone loves a comeback, even one for you.