After collapsing late to fall at The Masters last year, the 21-year-old Jordan Spieth has already tasted the agony of defeat in his fledgling golf career. Now, with an additional year under his belt, he would return Augusta National; determined not to repeat the sins of 2014.
The wire-to-wire leader, Spieth would never let anyone within three shots of his score. Throughout the tournament, he would play aggressively, intelligently and with a strong sense of determination. On Sunday, that determination would pay off, as he would shoot a 2-under 70 to capture the ever-elusive green jacket, and the first Major win of his promising career.
“This was arguably the greatest day of my life,” said Spieth. “To join Masters history and put my name on that trophy and to have this jacket forever, it’s something that I can’t fathom right now.”
Speith strung together four solid rounds of golf, never letting his foot off of the gas. He would tie Tiger Woods for The Masters’ 72-hole scoring record, shooting an 18-under 270.
It’s befitting that Spieth tied Woods at August, a place in which Tiger has seen some of his greatest triumphs. The careers of Woods and Spieth have already had several parallels. Young players, deemed the “next big thing” in golf, that then deliver on their promise. Players that not only won young, but did so in dominating fashion. The way in which they play however, has very distinct differences.
For Woods, his game (especially early in his career) is all about power. His distance off of the tee would put him in favorable positions, with easier approach shots; which he would often capitalize on.
Speith does not now, nor will he probably ever, have elite driving distance. He focuses more on accuracy off of the tee, something he seemed to have mastered at this year’s Masters. What sets him apart however, is what he does after his tee shot.
He goes for it.
As opposed to a powerful golfer, Speith is instead one that is both aggressive and intelligent. He knows where he wants to hit the ball, then he goes out and executes. He also appeared unflappable, not letting the pressure shake his determination. On the rare occasion that he put himself in a bad position, he wouldn’t panic. He would simply walk up, and hit the shot he needed to hit.
“That’s something that you really can’t teach,” said Phil Mickelson of Speith. “Some players are able to do it, some players aren’t. And he is.”
At 21, Speith became the second-youngest Masters champion in history. He also set a record for the most birdies in a single Masters with 28.
As for Tiger Woods, the tournament has to be considered a success as well. In his return for a two-month hiatus, he was able to make the weekend and shoot a respectable 5-under-par. He also was able to overcome significant adversity. He struggled to hit fairways, and, at times, with his putter. On the ninth hole on Sunday, he hit a tree root. In pain, he popped his ligament back into place and soldiered on, finished with a one-over-par 73 on the day.
“And no one knows how hard we had to work to get to this point, but I’m very pleased,” said Woods. “This is my first tournament back, being a major championship, and to give myself a chance, it felt good.”
While Woods remained an interesting side story, this week belonged to Spieth. It is perhaps too soon to say that it marked a changing of the guard in golf; but if nothing else, it opened to some eyes; providing yet another thrilling entry into the pages of history at the hallowed links of Augusta National.