Sunday 25 September 2016

Jordan Spieth's early marker underlines dominance

Published 12/01/2016 | 02:30

Jordan Spieth poses with parents, Shawn and Chris, sister Ellie and girlfriend Annie Verret after his victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions Photo: Getty Images
Jordan Spieth poses with parents, Shawn and Chris, sister Ellie and girlfriend Annie Verret after his victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions Photo: Getty Images

Jordan Spieth, the smiling and polite assassin, stomped all over an elite field in sunny Kapalua, Hawaii and laid down a marker for the season.

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Take note, Rory McIlroy! Take that, Jason Day!

A 30-under-par demolition derby left nearest challenger Patrick Reed eight shots adrift of the Texan who claimed his seventh PGA Tour victory and confirmed his status as the world's number one golfer.

In the last 36 years, only Tiger Woods notched up seven wins before the age of 23, but more important than the statistics was the continuation of Spieth's winning 2015 form.

The Texan knows that with each success, the focus becomes more intense, the pressure to maintain his level of achievement increases. He is fully aware and totally prepared to shut out the noise from outside his team camp as much as possible, and keep doing what he does best - play seriously impressive golf.

"The calendar changed, we're still there. There is no reason that my game should change with the calendar. It certainly didn't. If anything, I felt we have even improved in this off season," he said.

Spieth shrugs off comparisons with Tiger, but acknowledges that after his wins in the 2015 Masters and US Open, and his contending strongly in the Open Championship and the US PGA that the expectations and scrutiny will be intense this year.

"It's the target on my back. It's just what comes with what I love to do. I guess accepting that is the first step.

"Just accepting that everything's in the spotlight, everything's going to be judged.

"Some people aren't going to like your swing, the way you grip the club, it's just everything's under a microscope to, at least in the golf world, and now extending outwards," he said.

Spieth and McIlroy will have their first shared tournament outing of the year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship the UAE from January 21-24.

Meanwhile, top Irish golfers preparing for duty this week far from home shores will spare a special thought for the late Christy O'Connor Junior whose funeral takes place today in his native Galway.

Indelible

Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry are in Kuala Lumpur for the EurAsia Cup match between top stars of Europe and Asia which starts next Friday.

Following his solid joint sixth finish in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Pádraig Harrington remains in Hawaii to play in the Sony Open, beginning on Thursday.

Michael Hoey, Paul Dunne, Kevin Phelan and Ruaidhri McGee are in South Africa for the Joburg Open, teeing off on Thursday also.

Life goes on, taking no heed of the shock and sadness of those left to mourn one of our own who made an indelible mark on the national and international golf scene.

Tributes have been paid and will continue to be paid to Christy Junior, who knew at first hand the requirement to forge on through the pain of loss and keep the show on the road.

That show has a number of strands this week which will be of keen interest to Irish and European golf followers as Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry embark on new challenges.

Skipper Clarke is tuning up for his captaincy later in the year of the Ryder Cup side. Lowry wants to stake a claim for a place in the team to face the USA at Hazeltine from September 30-October 2. The proud Offaly man is eager to get into action.

"I am looking forward to it - to play for Europe at any level is an honour, but to be able to do it as a professional playing alongside so many great players is going to be fantastic.

"One of the main reasons I wanted to play the EurAsia Cup so much was to get invaluable team experience in a Ryder Cup year.

"A lot of the lads on our team are looking to qualify for the Ryder Cup this year, and this week gives us a great chance to show Darren what we are capable of and hopefully impress him."

The inaugural event in 2014 finished in a 10-10 draw, so both teams are keen for the bragging rights as the first winners of the trophy.

Irish Independent

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