Jordan Spieth was born and bred for what he did Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. The greatness was in the cradle.
A golfing prodigy from Texas — the home of the legendary golfers Hogan and Nelson, Demaret and Crenshaw — Spieth, a Dallas native, claimed a 13th Masters title for the Lone Star State.
He did it in a manner that defied his youth and confirmed his steely nerve and unwavering conviction. He did it by leaving revered Masters records in an eye-popping wake of extraordinary golf shots.
Spieth shot a final-round 70 for an 18-under-par 270 total, matching the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997. Spieth had a chance for an up-and-down par at the 72nd hole that would have given him a Masters record total. He missed the putt.
Only Woods, by five months, won the Masters at a younger age than Spieth, 21, who will celebrate his next birthday in July.
“This was the ultimate goal in my golf life, and to be able to accomplish it at 21 and still have a lot of years left to do it again, I didn’t expect that,” he said. “When you’re Masters champion, it’s a different legacy.”
And people are already asking legacy-type questions: How many more Green Jackets? Will he approach the six won by Jack Nicklaus? Or the four won by Arnold Palmer and Woods?
And how will such a consummate victory redefine the game, and the Masters, for coming generations? Will Augusta National’s dedication to grow the game with initiatives such as the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship gather impetus when youthful golfers see what a gracious, unassuming 21-year-old just did in the Masters?
If it sounds all too much, it’s because not since Woods has a young golfer commanded the attention of the golf world in such a short time as has Spieth.
- Spieth set the Masters’ record 36-hole score (130), the 54-hole record (200) and equaled the 72-hole record.
- An 8-under 64 made him the youngest first-round leader.
- He is the only player to reach 19-under in the Masters (though he finished at 18-under).
- The birdie at the 10th hole Sunday was Spieth’s 26th of the tournament, breaking the record set by Phil Mickelson in 2001. Spieth made six birdies Sunday to finish with 28.
“It's the most incredible week of my life,” Spieth said in Butler Cabin during the Green Jacket ceremony. “This is as great as it gets in our sport. This is a dream come true for me...to shoot some low rounds and to see some putts go in out here and to hear the roars, it was remarkable.”
With a birdie at the 13th hole in Thursday’s first round, Spieth took the lead alone for the first time and never relinquished it. He led by three strokes after the first round, five after the second and was four ahead through 54 holes. In the process, he became the fifth player to win wire-to-wire, and the first since Raymond Floyd in 1976.
Texas has produced the most Masters winners. Spieth, a Dallas native, became the 13th golfer from the Lone Star State to win at Augusta National. Jimmy Demaret is a three-time winner. Ben Crenshaw, who has been a mentor to Spieth and played in his 44th and last Masters this year, won in 1984 and 1995. Ben Hogan (1951, 1953) and Byron Nelson (1937, 1942) also won twice.
Jack Burke (1956), Charles Coody (1971) and Ralph Guldahl (1939) each won the Masters once.
On Saturday night, Crenshaw sent Spieth a text.
“He said, ‘Stay positive. This is going to be yours,’” Spieth said.
Spieth played in his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old high school student. He represented the United States in the Walker Cup in 2011, the year he graduated high school. His first PGA Tour victory came at the John Deere Classic in 2013, two weeks before his 20th birthday. It made him the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since Guldahl in 1931.
There was an omen in that. Guldahl was a Masters winner and U.S. Open champion.
"It's the most incredible week of my life. This is as great as it gets in our sport."
Spieth represented the United States at the Presidents and Ryder Cups before his college class has graduated the University of Texas, an institution he left early to become a professional golfer. He won the Valspar Championship last month for his second PGA Tour victory and posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in his two most recent starts en route to Augusta National.
Everything Spieth has done in golf has been magical and precocious. And he’s done it all with a sense of history and a level of class that enriches every accomplishment, and by extension the game of golf he so cherishes. He embraces the game’s ethos.
“Well, it's how the game was founded,” Spieth said. “It's a game of integrity. There are no referees out there. We all respect each other. I think it's not just me. I learn from example and I have great examples set before me.”
The challengers lined up Sunday to take a last, futile shot at Spieth, who started the final round four strokes ahead of Justin Rose and five ahead of three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson. Spieth never allowed them to close in. Every time they fired a warning shot, he replied with a blast of his own, a precision iron shot or an uncanny short game shot or a wonderful center-cut putt.
Spieth’s expressed goal is to reach No. 1 in the world. At Augusta, he moved up two spots to No. 2. Only Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner, remains ahead of him.
“(Spieth) kept his foot down,” McIlroy said. “It’s awfully impressive. It’s nice to get your major tally up and running. It’s great for the game, and I’m sure he’ll win many more.”
Why, Spieth was asked, is he far ahead at a younger age than almost anybody who has ever played the game, especially here at Augusta National. In eight rounds at the Masters, he has never been over par. In two starts, he has tied for second and won.
“I think imagination,” he said. “I think very feel-based. I grew up playing a lot more than I did hitting balls on the range. I like to see — kind of like Bubba (Watson) — lines. I like to see shapes, and especially on the greens, I like putts that break. I like being able to kind of cast something out and let it feed in and be very speed-based. I feel like that's been a strength of mine.
“And that's what this course gives. From the first time I played here, I was very excited because I felt like it really suited my game.”
It certainly does.