Spieth wins wire to wire, becomes second-youngest Masters champion
Jordan Spieth proved to be one tough Texan to wrestle the lead from in the 79th Masters Tournament, going wire-to-wire to win at Augusta National Golf Club in dominating fashion.
On the 20th anniversary of the last Texan – Ben Crenshaw – to win the Masters, Spieth closed with 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win by four shots and finish at 18-under-par 270, matching Tiger Woods’ 18-year-old scoring record.
“I am so proud of my fellow (Texas) Longhorn, and it will be a great honor to call him a fellow Masters champion and welcome him to the Masters Club next year,” said Crenshaw, a two-time champion who played in his 44th and final Masters earlier this week, missing the cut.
Spieth played his final practice round Wednesday with Crenshaw, who encouraged Spieth after his round Saturday before heading home to Austin, Texas, on Sunday morning. Then came a text from Crenshaw before Spieth teed off Sunday.
“He said, ‘Stay patient, this is going to be yours, you’ve got this thing and you’re playing great. Just keep your head down and stay focused,’ ” Spieth said.
On the way to victory, the 21-year-old Spieth became the second-youngest Masters champion (behind Woods, who was 21 in 1997) and broke the record for low 36- and 54-hole scores while finishing with a record 28 birdies, three more than Phil Mickelson when he set the record in 2001.
“This was my ultimate goal in my golf life,” Spieth said of winning the Masters. “To accomplish this at 21 – I didn’t expect that.”
At the outdoor green jacket ceremony, Spieth said that he didn’t want to take off the jacket for a while and that he would “probably sleep in it tonight.”
Later, in his news conference, he said “this was arguably the greatest day of my life. To join the club that is the green jackets and to join Masters history and put my name on that trophy and to have this jacket forever, is something that I can’t fathom right now.”
His next goal, he said, is to overtake Rory McIlroy as the world’s No. 1-ranked player. Spieth’s win moved him from No. 4 in the world to No. 2.
“I’m still chasing that – it’s going to be very difficult,” Spieth said.
After Spieth rolled in a birdie on the 10th hole to go up by six shots, all that was unknown was whether he would break Woods’ scoring record and who would finish second.
Spieth needed to play his final eight holes in 1-under to break Woods’ record of 18-under 270. He covered those holes in even par, with his birdie on No. 15 making him the first in Masters history to reach 19-under. A bogey on the final hole dropped him back into sharing the record.
Three-time Masters winner Mickelson (69 on Sunday) and former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose (70) tied for second place at 14-under.
Their scores of 274 would have won the three previous Masters.
“The fact is, I would have taken 14-under at the start of the week,” Mickelson said. “I would have been happy with that. I’ve played really well to shoot 14-under and I just simply got outplayed by a young player who just played some incredible golf.”
Rose, who played in the final pairing with Spieth, saw first hand what Mickelson was talking about.
“Playing with Jordan, he’s going to sort of fly the flag, I think, for golf for quite a while,” Rose said. “People were getting excited about that out there, you could tell.”
Spieth is only the fifth player to go wire-to-wire to win the Masters, and the first since Raymond Floyd in 1976. Woods never did in any of his four victories.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Woods said of Spieth’s play. “He’s doing all the things he needs to do.”
McIlroy, who was seeking his third consecutive major championship title and the career Grand Slam, closed with 66 and finished fourth at 276. It was his best finish in seven Masters starts.
Woods, who hadn’t played in nine weeks because of problems with his game and his back, had a final-round 73 despite injuring his hand on the ninth hole. He tied for 17th.
It was the fourth win in recent months for Spieth, who won the Australian Open in November, the Hero World Challenge in December and the Valspar Championship in late March. He now has three victories on the PGA Tour, with his first one coming at the John Deere Classic in 2013 when he was 19.
Spieth is on a hot streak that is hard to fathom. He is 51 under par in his past four tournaments, two of which he won. He tied for second in the other two, losing in a playoff last week in Houston.
“He was upset that we lost in Houston,” said Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller. “It definitely made him hungrier this week. He doesn’t play for second or top-10s. He plays to win.”
Spieth said it wasn’t just losing last week at Houston that drove him this week. So did his runner-up finish in the 2014 Masters when he led by two shots with 11 holes to play and ended up second to Bubba Watson.
“It was the combination of the two,” Spieth said. “I was already hungry from last year having already had an opportunity and watched it slip away and watched Bubba win and everything that came with Bubba being the Masters champion, and the announcements of it, going on the shows and whatever, I knew I had a chance to win that tournament. So you get reminded of it all the time because when you’re Masters champion, it’s a different legacy. And so that definitely left me hungry.”
“He’s just fiery; he’s got that killer instinct,” he said of Spieth. “You want to play against the best at the Masters, and fortunately he was able to close the deal.”
Spieth gave a lot of credit to Greller, who he said “kept me strong,” telling him at the outdoor green jacket ceremony that “you’re the reason the dream came true.”
Greller had some help from Crenshaw’s caddie, Carl Jackson, who stayed around after Crenshaw missed the cut. Jackson, who was on Crenshaw’s bag for 38 years before sitting this one out because of tender ribs, met with Greller each morning to go over the pin locations. Greller said it was like meeting with Michael Jordan before the NBA Finals.
“I told him to be careful of the sucker pins; there are several of them out there,” Jackson said Sunday, referring to the final round pin positions. “I told him to focus.”
Said Spieth: “Michael and I owe a lot to Ben and Carl for creating this opportunity for us.”
Jackson said Greller’s “done a great job. Mike listens and he takes it to heart.”
The biggest drama Sunday came on the 18th when Spieth was trying to break the tournament record. Needing to make par, he hit his drive in the right rough and his second shot ended just short of the green. With two-time champion Watson watching behind the green in his green jacket, he chipped to within 5 feet of the hole, but missed the putt to the right, then tapped in for bogey.
“I’ll never forget watching the front of the hole as the last tap in went in the front edge,” Spieth said. “There was no need for crazy celebrations. At that point I was just really, really pleased with the whole week, being out on top, being able to stay on top and to conquer my favorite tournament in the world.”
DAILY ASSAULT ON RECORDS
Jordan Spieth matched the 72-hole scoring record Sunday at the Masters Tournament. Spieth flirted with or broke scoring records during each round of the 2015 tournament.
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