Cam Cole: Jordan Spieth answers every challenge to take Masters

 

 
 
 
 
Jordan Spieth of the US kisses girlfriend, Annie Verret, as he celebrates winning the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.
 
 

Jordan Spieth of the US kisses girlfriend, Annie Verret, as he celebrates winning the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.

Photograph by: JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Many people don’t trust 21-year-old drivers to keep it between the ditches.

In the case of Jordan Spieth on Masters Sunday, the observers’ tendency was to ponder the ways he could fail to navigate Augusta National’s many off-ramps and soft shoulders, and end wheels-up, shiny-side down in the final round, after leading from the tournament’s get-go.

Or if not that, surely one of the luminaries in the pursuit pack would make an heroic charge and run him off the road.

But this is no ordinary 21-year-old. Surpassingly polite, pleasant, honest to a fault, and more mature than a lot of players 10 years his senior, his biggest worry Sunday may have been that his golf ball, to which he talks constantly in mid-flight, might not listen to him.

That, or early-onset male pattern baldness.

But all the sport’s latest Boy Wonder did was put on a clutch-putting clinic, answer every challenge, and tie the lowest 72-hole score ever recorded at the Masters, shooting a two-under-par 70 for a 270 total, equaling Tiger Woods’ 1997 strafing of the prettiest acreage in golf.

That was supposed to be once-in-a-lifetime stuff. Apparently not. Spieth, in becoming the second youngest Masters winner --- Woods was a few months younger --- had to bogey the final hole not to hold the scoring record all by himself.

Heir Jordan, indeed.

“This was arguably the greatest day of my life,” he said. “And to join Masters history and put my name on that trophy and have this jacket forever is something I can’t fathom right now.

“I’ve watched a lot of guys over the years finish on 18 and come into this room with the jacket on and always dreamed of doing the same thing.”

En route to his first (but surely not last) major victory, Spieth broke Raymond Floyd’s 1976 standards for lowest totals by a winner at the 18-, 36- and 54-hole marks, and his 28 birdies surpassed Phil Mickelson’s 2001 record of 25 in a Masters week.

Maybe most impressively, he did it without being a notably big hitter, on a course playing more than 500 yards longer than the one Woods conquered 18 years ago.

Spieth led by four overnight, but his nearest pursuer, Justin Rose, never got closer than three strokes, and Mickelson no nearer than four, which is how it ended.

“I’ll take 14-under par next year, and the year after and the year after. But you’ve got to play it on the day,” said Rose, who ended Sunday as he started it: four back.

“Jordan didn’t really open the door. He’s played with the lead, it feels like, for the last month, and he’s got used to it. He was clutch with the putter,” Rose said.

“Every time I thought there was a chink in the armour, he made a great putt. What a month of golf he’s had.”

Rory McIlroy shot a day’s best 66 to finish fourth, one behind Rose and Mickelson, but he began 10 strokes out, tied with Tiger Woods, and never had a chance. Woods shot a desultory 73, wincing and shaking his right hand after hitting a tree root in the rough at the ninth hole and declaring later that he had “popped a bone out … but I put it back in.”

That was it for the comic relief, though. The rest of the day was Spieth manfully fighting off every moment of anxiety and making putt after ticklish putt whenever the heat was on.

Spieth missed a few, too, including short ones at the 7th hole and the 12th, but they weren’t costly, and he had that cushion to play with.

Mickelson, who ended with a 69, could have gone much lower but made the usual mistakes to stall his momentum whenever he looked as though he might make a run. Even so, it was the three-time winner’s 11th top-five finish at Augusta.

“I played a solid round, but I needed to play an exceptional round,” Mickelson said. “I needed to shoot something in the mid to low 60s to have a chance, and Jordan didn’t help any of us by playing a solid round.

“I’d have taken 14-under at the beginning of the week, but I simply got outplayed by a young player who just played some incredible golf.”

Spieth, who lost to Bubba Watson last year after sharing the 54-hole lead, said the memory fired him up for this year.

“I watched it slip away, watched Bubba win, the announcements of it, you get reminded of it all the time. And then also having a chance to win the last couple weeks and not quite pulling it off,” Spieth said. “That combination of those two things allowed me to keep my head down and just play a golf course that is my favourite in the world.”

There was one last moment, at the 16th hole, when his lead might have shrunk to two. Rose had a makeable birdie putt and Spieth had to grind over a slick downhill eight-footer for par.

“I was in pretty good control (until then),” he said, “and I thought: this could get out of hand pretty quickly here.”

Rose missed. Spieth didn’t.

“I would call that the biggest putt I’ve ever hit in my life,” said Spieth, who moves to No. 2 in the world rankings with the victory, his sights now firmly on McIlroy.

“My ultimate goal is to try be the No. 1 player in the world. I don’t think I am with this. I’m still behind, but I’m still chasing that goal.”

ccole@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Jordan Spieth of the US kisses girlfriend, Annie Verret, as he celebrates winning the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.
 

Jordan Spieth of the US kisses girlfriend, Annie Verret, as he celebrates winning the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.

Photograph by: JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images

 
Jordan Spieth of the US kisses girlfriend, Annie Verret, as he celebrates winning the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.
Jordan Spieth of the United States celebrates on the 18th green after his four-stroke victory at the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Bubba Watson helps Jordan Spieth put on his green jacket after winning the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Justin Rose, of England, reacts after missing a putt on the 16th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. Left is Jordan Spieth.
Jordan Spieth of the United States celebrates with his caddie Michael Greller on the 18th green after his four-stroke victory at the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Phil Mickelson celebrates after hitting out of a bunker on the 15th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Jordan Spieth is hugged by Bubba Watson after winning the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.  (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tiger Woods of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shake hands on the 18th green during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Jordan Spieth waits to putt on the 16th hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Phil Mickelson walks along the 15th fairway during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Jordan Spieth of the United States in the pine straw on the 11th hole during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Ian Poulter of England reacts to his tee shot on the 4th hole during Round 4 of the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.
Hunter Mahan reacts to his chip shot to the sixth green during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Justin Rose, of England, chips to the eighth green during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Tiger Woods of the United States reacts to a shot from the pine straw on the ninth hole during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12:  Tiger Woods of the United States plays a bunker shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Charley Hoffman of the US hits out of the bunker on the 10th hole during Round 4 of the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Georgia.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan lines up a putt on the 18th green with his caddie Daisuke Shindo during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Patrons watch the group of Tiger Woods of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on the second green during the final round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
Dustin Johnson tees off on the fourth hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Ernie Els, of South Africa, hits out of a bunker on the sixth hole during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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