THE man likened to Wyatt Earp by Ben Crenshaw won his own Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Bullet after bullet hit the target as Jordan Spieth completed a hugely-impressive wire-to-wire win in the 79th Masters.
The 21-year-old Texan is the second youngest after Tiger Woods to claim a coveted Green Jacket. It was slipped over his shoulders after he equalled Woods’ tournament record of 18-under-par 270 after a closing 70.
He missed a short par putt at the last to beat that, but the tournament was already won. On just his second appearance at Augusta National - he finished joint-second behind Bubba Watson 12 months ago - Spieth won by four shots.
Three-times winner Phil Mickelson (69) and Scottish Open champion Justin Rose (70) shared second spot, with Rory McIlroy (66) finishing two shots further back in fourth as his bid to complete the career Grand Slam came up short. Joint-fifth heading out, four-times winner Tiger Woods slipped to joint-17th after an error-strewn 73.
“This has been the most incredible week in my life, ” admitted Spieth, who is now McIlroy’s closest challenger in the world standings after moving to No 2 on the back of this success. “It does not get any better than this.”
Four ahead at the start of the day, Spieth’s lead was trimmed to three by playing partner Rose after seven holes. He turned for home, however, with a five-shot lead after Rose failed to match his birdie at the eighth then dropped a shot at the eighth.
The lead increased to six when Spieth birdied the tenth and, as had been the case all week, he holed clutch putt after clutch putt from then on to become just the fifth player to win wire-to-wire here and the first since Raymond Floyd in 1976. “With two major champions behind me, I knew I couldn’t let up,” he admitted.
After getting within three of Spieth, Rose was disappointed that he allowed a “momentum shift” by failing to birdie the eighth then dropping a shot at the ninth. “Normally 14-under gets the job done, but Jordan was phenomenal. What a month he’s had. He seems to have been in contention every round and is so comfortable with the lead. He showed awesome composure out there.”
It was the tenth time in his career that Mickelson had finished second in a major. “I played a good solid round but needed something special,” he said. “Every time I made a birdie I stalled with a bogey. I just got outplayed by Jordan, who played terrific.”
McIlroy had to wait seven holes for his first birdie of the day. He then covered the next 11 in five-under. His closing 66 was the best of the day along with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. McIlroy finished fourth on 11-under. It was a decent effort given he’d been three-over after 27 holes. His chance to complete that career Grand Slam, though, will have to wait another 12 months.
“I’m very happy with how I played over the weekend and also the back nine on Friday,” said McIlroy. “I’d have taken 12-under at the start and seen where I’d have finished with that, but Jordan started fantastically well and kept the foot down. He was very impressive. His win is great for the game and I’ll sure he will win many more (majors). But I’ll take a lot of positives out of this week.”
After three encouraging ones, the last day proved a big disappointment for Woods. He didn’t hit a fairway on the front nine. One of those wayward shots led to him suffering an injury share at the ninth. From in the pines needles, he hit a root, letting out a howl of pain and releasing his grip on the club. “The bone popped out,” revealed Woods afterwards. “The joint was out of place but I put it back in.”
Soldiering on, the 14-times major winner made an eagle-3 at the 13th but that was the only real highlight of a frustrating day. “I needed to do 31 on the front nine to have a chance, but I missed three shorties at two, three and four and the round was a struggle from there.”
Joint-17th wasn’t what he’d been looking for at the start of the day. At the start of the week, though, he might have taken that given the two-month break he needed to sort out his game.
“Considering where I was at Torrey and Phoenix, to make the complete swing change and rectify all the faults and come here to a major championship and contend, I’m proud of that part of it. I just wish I could have made a few more timely putts and moved up that board,” said Woods.
Asked where he’d be playing next, he added: “It’s not going to be for a while. I’ll have a little time off and go back to the drawing board, work on it again, and refine what I’m doing. I really like what I’m doing, I got my distance back, and everything is good.”
That may be the case but this was the event when Spieth not only confirmed he was the new Texan superstar in the same week as the old one, Crenshaw, said farewell to the Masters. He is also ready to replace Woods as American golf’s new superstar.
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