Sport Golf

Sunday 4 December 2016

Heir Jordan saunters to stunning Masters win

Rory: ‘At 21 he’s more mature than I was’

Karl MacGinty

Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30

2015 Masters Champion Jordan Spieth of the U.S. wears his Champion's green jacket on the putting green after winning the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young
2015 Masters Champion Jordan Spieth of the U.S. wears his Champion's green jacket on the putting green after winning the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young
Spieth celebrates holing his final putt
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods walk off the 13th tee alongside their caddies JP Fitzgerald and Joe LaCava during the final round

A new megastar exploded into the golfing firmament at Augusta National yesterday as 21-year-old Texan Jordan Spieth sauntered to victory at The Masters.

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Fittingly, as two-times champion Ben Crenshaw bade a final farewell to The Masters, he paid truly telling tribute to his young fellow-Texan, saying: “the first time I met Jordan, it was like looking into the eyes of Wyatt Earp”.

Well, Spieth coolly shot holes in the record book with the merciless efficiency of a the most famous Marshal in the old wild west … rarely allowing opponents even faintest hope of catching him as he finished on 18-under with  a closing 70, four clear of Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.

The world tuned-in this week expecting Rory McIlroy reach out for his Career Grand Slam but it wasn’t to be for the Holywood star, though he still completed a difficult tournament with a flourish.

McIlroy, 25, rounded off a flawless six-under 66 by holing from 15 feet at 18 for his sixth birdie of his day and outright fourth place, his best-ever finish at The Masters.

The World No 1’s confidence in his ability to one day win the Masters was heavily reinforced as he rebounded from that hapless four-over 40 on the front nine last Friday to play the final 45 holes in 15-under.

SLIPSTREAM

McIlroy left Augusta last night with something even more significant. In Spieth, who now moves into his slipstream at world No 2, he’s been afforded a rival who over the next 20 years will push him all the way to the stellar limits of his potential.

“I’ve played well over the entire weekend,” said McIlroy. “A lot of positives from it. I just didn’t have enough and no one could have kept up with Jordan. It’s great to see another young Major Champion and it’s great for the game.

“I am very happy for him as he’s been playing great and for a 21-year old, he is far more mature than me when I was that age,” added McIlroy.

The final day would have been entirely anti-climactic but for a late flourish by three-times Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who stirred the Augusta galleries out of their slumber with a fantastic chip-in eagle three at 15.

This propelled the 44-year-old American icon to 14-under, where Mickelson would stay after signing for a 69. Justin Rose dropped a shot at the last to lose outright second place and finish where he started yesterday morning, four behind Spieth.

England’s 2012 US Open winner  narrowed the margin to three a couple of times on the front nine but Spieth was utterly immovable.

“Jordan is a tremendous individual, an outstanding character. It was great to have him as a teammate at the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. He’s a quality guy all round and I’m delighted for him,” said Mickelson.

Spieth took a host of records with the Green Jacket. As he landed his sixth birdie of the day at 15, he became the first player ever to reach 19-under at The Masters, though a bogey at the last tied with the 72-hole record of 18-under set by Tiger in 1997.

As he completed the first pillar-to-post victory at the Masters since Ray Floyd in 1976, and only the fourth ever, Spieth racked-up more birdies, 28, in four days than the record 25 achieved by Mickelson in 2001.

Along the way, he beat by the all-time 36-hole low set by Floyd 39 years ago and the 54-hole low shared by Floyd and Tiger also by one.

DISPELLED

Hopes were soon dispelled yesterday that McIlroy and Woods might spark off each other as they played together for the first time on Sunday at a Major Championship and create a conflagration at capable of turning-up the heat on Spieth.

McIlroy’s  prospects of going as low as the final round 62 he shot to win at Quail Hollow in 2010 were stifled by a few early missed putts.

McIlroy, short and right of the second green in two, chipped on but failed to hole his six-footer for birdie. Par at this hole was frustrating after a booming drive from the World No 1 flew over the distant fairway bunker and rolled to a halt 357 yards from the tee.

Another brilliant tee shot into the difficult par-three fourth ultimately yielded frustration as McIlroy missed from eight feet. He had to wait until the seventh for his first birdie of the day, holing a three-footer, before converting the simplest of birdie chances at eight to turn in two-under, three better than Woods.

McIlroy deftly picked-up another shot at 11 but let slide a glorious eagle chance at 13 after two great shots into 12 feet, moments after Woods had holed from more than twice that distance for the highlight of his day and first eagle of the week.

Despite this rare flourish, Woods failed to sustain the sparkle or scoring touch he’d displayed during Friday’s 69 and Saturday’s 68, a three-putt par on the long second setting the tone for his final round.

Tiger’s tournament then took an exceedingly painful twist when he jarred his right wrist on a hidden tree root as he played out of the pine straw on the ninth after making it seven-out-of-seven missed fairways.

That eagle at 13 was the highlight of a final round 73 that must have disappointed Woods but over four days, he showed he’s once again ready to compete for Tour titles and maybe even that elusive 15th Major!

Spieth, at 21, is  showing strong Jack Nicklaus tendencies. Though a little too laid-back and understated to appear as overtly competitive and ambitious as the young Golden Bear, Spieth is blessed with a powerful psyche and unshakeable, innate confidence in his own ability.

His upbringing in Dallas by dad Shawn and mum Chris as the eldest of  three kids, was solid. Educated at the Jesuit College Preparatory School, his ongoing relationship with High School sweetheart Annie Verrett, who went to the nearby Ursuline Academy, offers further evidence of a young man who maintains firm touch with his roots.

Most telling of all is Spieth’s special relationship with his younger sister Ellie, 14, who has autism. “She’s the funniest member of our family,” he says. “I really love when she’s able to be out there, love spending time with her. It’s humbling to see her and her friends and the struggles they go through each day to achieve what we take for granted.

“At the same time, they are the happiest people in the world, and when I say they, I speak to special-needs kids. My experience with her and in her class and with her friends, it’s fantastic.”

Yes, Spieth has achieved fame and fortune on Tour since leaving college in his sophomore year to turn professional, winning the 2013 John Deere Classic at 19 in his rookie season and leading into the final round on his Masters debut last April but he certainly seems grounded.

The golfing world, however, over the course of the last four days witnessed him launching himself as a true global superstar of the game.

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