Peerless display by Jordan Spieth lands US Masters title
McIlroy saves his best until last with closing 66 to finish the tournament in fourth place
Jordan Spieth of the United States reacts to a par-saving putt on the 16th green during the final round of the 2015 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club , Georgia. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
In record-breaking fashion, from start to finish, the 21-year-old American became a wire-to-wire winner to add the green jacket to his wardrobe with a final round 70 for 270, 18-under-par, that gave him a four-stroke winning margin over joint runners-up Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.
Unlike a year ago when ambushed by Bubba Watson in the final round, this time there were no such travails for golf’s newest Major champion. Spieth allowed no interlopers. He walked the walk. At first, it was a strut, his chest pumped out; then it developed into a swagger, a player oozing confidence and know-how, as he neared his great prize.
And Spieth, dancing to his own beat, and after holding off an early move from Rose and later a renewed challenge from the Englishman who reeled off three birdies from the 13th, ultimately talked the talk.
Spieth’s response to that hiccup? He hit that approach – all the time talking to his ball whilst it travelled through grey skies and urging it to, “Go hard!” – in to 12-feet and two-putted for the birdie that kept a safe distance on Rose and Mickelson.
Also, when he needed to show mental strength and soft hands, he did so too, epitomised by his play on the par three 16th, getting up and down to save par.
Whatever door had been opened, had been closed. Whatever questions were asked of him, he answered unequivocally. A worthy champion.
On another day, all eyes would have been on Rory McIlroy, the world number one, and Tiger Woods, the man who inspired a generation. In fairness to McIlroy, a closing round 66 lifted him to a fourth-placed finish on 12-under-par 276.
It represented his best finishing position in the Masters but was some way short of his goal of completing the career Grand Slam. That particular dream must now wait for another year, another time.
Over the four rounds, McIlroy was 14-under-par for the par fives. Impressive, to be sure, but left trailing – like everyone else – in Spieth’s wake when the real numbers were crunched.
“I’m happy with the weekend, and the last nine holes of Friday (which he covered in 31 shots to revive his tournament). I’m going to take a lot of positives away . . . . Jordan kept his foot down, which is really important.
“I have been fortunate to be in a similar position with my first Major (US Open 2011). He was the in-form guy coming in. It is nice to get your Major tally up-and-running at an early stage. It is great for the game,” observed McIlroy.
No, this was Spieth’s day, Spieth’s time. His win moved him up to number two in the world rankings -–behind only McIlroy – and it was achieved as impressively as the comfortable winning margin indicated.
“Jordan was terrific,” said Mickelson, “it’s hard not to like the guy, he’s a terrific individual and he played some amazing golf.”
One record after another tumbled with Spieth’s touch. Having become the youngest first round lead of the Masters and having already broken the record for the tournament’s 54-holes aggregate, he broke another tournament record when he rolled in a 18-footer for birdie on the 10th.
It was his 25th birdie of the championship, which moved him ahead of the mark established by Mickelson in his 2011 success. There would be more to follow. He then became the first player in Masters history to reach 19-under-par when he rolled in a birdie putt on the 15th.
Even a closing bogey failed to take any gloss from his achievement. He could have afforded a quadruple and still would have won.
In becoming the first wire-to-wire winner of the Masters since Ray Floyd in 1976, Spieth also became the second youngest winner. Only Woods, by a matter of months, was younger. And we know what impact he had on the sport.
If there had been a sense of inevitability about the destination of the title since he claimed a first round lead on Thursday, followed by securing the 36-holes and 54-holes leadership, Spieth’s wire-to- wire dominance was so reminiscent of former greats from Texas – Gene Sarazen amdBen Hogan. Now, he can be mentioned in the same breath as those legendary players.