Sometimes, it’s tough to remember that Jordan Spieth is only 21 years old. With this being his third year on tour and winning around the world, Spieth has already accomplished so much in so little time. Not only that, with the way he composes himself out on the course and from listening to him speak, you would think that he was someone who has been playing on Tour for 20 years, not someone who four years ago was graduating high school.
Spieth continued to show his maturity and poise Sunday in taking down the Valspar Championship outside Tampa, surviving a three-way playoff and winning on the third playoff hole.
Starting the day in the final pairing and one behind 54-hole leader Ryan Moore, Spieth found himself three shots back with six to play. That’s when the tournament kicked into full blown “March Madness” gear.
Spieth started putting lights out and for a while it looked like he could do no wrong. A 31 footer for birdie got him into a tie at the top at 10-under at 14. At 16, after coming up short and ending up in a greenside bunker, he managed to save par from a lie that forced him to have one foot in the bunker and one foot out. He made big time par saves on both 17 and 18, with the par save at 18 from 12 feet getting him into the playoff.
“A crazy back nine,” Spieth said when describing how things finished on Sunday. “Those two saves are among the best five I’ve ever had.”
While Spieth was doing all this on the back nine, his Ryder Cup playing partner Patrick Reed was shooting up the leader board as well. Reed had four birdies on the back nine, including a huge one from 30 feet on 18 to get into the playoff as well. It was part of a bogey-free 66. Joining the two young Americans in the playoff, wasn’t the 54-hole leader Moore, but Sean O’Hair who matched Reed’s four birdies on the back with four of his own to get in.
“Walking up the 16th fairway in the playoff, I heard some fan say, ‘You can beat these two young guys,’” O’Hair said. “That really made me feel old.”
In the end the 21 year old Spieth prevailed and wouldn’t you know, it was the result of clutch putting. After all three parred the first two playoff holes, Spieth drained a 28 footer for birdie on the third playoff hole to get his second PGA Tour win, and his fourth win worldwide in his young career.
“The big key for me down the stretch is greens hit in regulation,” Spieth said. “My biggest strength is making putts from outside 15 feet. It always has been, for some reason. I’m almost better from 20 feet than I am from six. I’ve been putting better. So my short game has really shined.”
Moore ended up missing the playoff by two shots after having that three shot lead with six to play thanks in large part to bogeys at 13, 16, and 18.
“It was a tough day out there,” Moore said. “For me, just the putter was ice cold today. I had plenty of opportunities. I hit some great shots. You know, I had a lot of good chances, I just didn’t capitalize on them and kind of ran out of steam.”
The win for Spieth puts him in a category with some pretty rare company. Since 1940, the only players to win two PGA Tour titles before the age of 22 are Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Robert Gamez. Spieth on Sunday added his name to that list. His ultimate goal though, is still that #1 world ranking.
“It’s really cool to have my name, you know, go along side those. But right now currently and what I’m really focused on is Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the world. That’s who everyone is trying to chase,” Spieth said. “That’s our ultimate goal is to eventually, you know, be the best in the world and this is a great, great stepping stone. But going into the four majors of the year, to have closed one out in this kind of fashion is going to give me a lot of confidence.”
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