Spi­eth in his­toric Masters win

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JIM SLATER

Jor­dan Spi­eth won a his­toric Masters tri­umph for the ages Sun­day, deftly han­dling the fi­nal round ten­sion to hold off Phil Mick­el­son and Justin Rose and win his first ma­jor ti­tle by four shots.

Writ­ing an epic con­clu­sion to a week of dom­i­na­tion at Au­gusta Na­tional, the 21-year-old Amer­i­can fired a two-un­der par 70 to fin­ish on 18-un­der 270, match­ing the 72-hole tour­na­ment record set by Tiger Woods in 1997.

Spi­eth claimed the green jacket sym­bolic of Masters supremacy and the top prize of US$1.8 mil­lion at the US$10 mil­lion event.

Eng­land’s Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open win­ner and Spi­eth’s last-pair play­ing part­ner, shot 70 to share sec­ond place on 274 with 44-yearold U.S. left-han­der Mick­el­son, a five-time ma­jor win­ner, who closed with a 69.

World num­ber one Rory McIl­roy, seek­ing a third con­sec­u­tive ma­jor win to com­plete his ca­reer Grand Slam, was fourth on 276 af­ter a 66, one stroke ahead of Hideki Mat­suyama, who also fired a 66.

“It’s aw­fully im­pres­sive,” McIl­roy said of Spi­eth’s per­for­mance.

Woods, a 14-time ma­jor cham­pion, fired a 73 to share 17th on 283, his best fin­ish since 2013 and a sign that the worst of his phys­i­cal and shot­mak­ing woes might be be­hind him.

“Con­sid­er­ing where I was ... I’m re­ally proud of it,” Woods said of his ef­fort.

Spi­eth was a run­ner-up to Bubba Wat­son last year in his Masters de­but af­ter squandering a front­nine lead on Sun­day, but this time re­sponded four times when drop­ping a shot to his ri­vals, restor­ing his mar­gin each time on the very next hole.

Spi­eth, who will jump from fourth to sec­ond in the world rank­ings, be­came the sec­ondy­oungest win­ner in Masters his­tory, five months older than Woods when he won his first ma­jor in 1997.

Also, Spi­eth be­came only the fifth wire-to-wire win­ner in Masters his­tory, join­ing Craig Wood in 1941, Arnold Palmer in 1960, Jack Nick­laus in 1972 and Ray Floyd in 1976.

Start­ing with a four-stroke lead af­ter set­ting the 36- and 54-hole Masters scor­ing records, the youngest 18-hole leader in Au­gusta Na­tional his­tory an­swered ev­ery stum­ble quickly.

Three times on the front nine Rose trimmed Spi­eth’s lead to three shots and each time the Texan boosted his edge back to four on the very next hole.

When Rose made bo­gey at nine and Spi­eth fol­lowed with a 23- foot birdie putt at 10, the U. S. prodigy’s lead was six shots over Rose and Mick­el­son with eight

holes re­main­ing.

Spi­eth Sets Birdie Mark

Spi­eth’s birdie at 10 was his 26th of the tour­na­ment, break­ing the Masters mark of 25 set by Mick­el­son in 2001, and he added two more at the par-5 13th and 15th for good mea­sure.

Spi­eth dropped a shot at the par-3 12th and Mick­el­son, who would have been the sec­on­dold­est Masters cham­pion, birdied the par-5 13th to pull within four.

But once again Spi­eth an­swered a chal­lenge with his own birdie at 13 to re­store a five-shot edge.

It wasn’t over yet, how­ever. Mick­el­son ea­gled the par-5 15th, blast­ing in from a green­side bunker, and Rose birdied 14 to join him on 14 un­der, both four back of Spi­eth with four to play.

Again Spi­eth an­swered. He went over the green at 15 but pitched to seven feet and made the birdie putt to reach 19 un­der par, the first time any player at any point in any Masters was so far be­low par.

Rose birdied to stay four back but could gain no ground as both parred 16 and 17 and made bo­gey on 18, Spi­eth miss­ing a five-foot par putt at the last which would have given him the tour­na­ment record alone.

Spi­eth be­came the sev­enth man to fin­ish sec­ond one year and win the Masters the next, the first since his fel­low Texan and men­tor Ben Cren­shaw won in 1984. Cren­shaw, 63, played his 44th and fi­nal Masters this week.

Woods Hurts Wrist

McIl­roy and Woods faded well out of con­tention early af­ter start­ing the day 10 adrift, each need­ing the great­est come­back in Masters his­tory to stop Spi­eth.

McIl­roy went four un­der on the back nine to surge into fourth, his best Masters fin­ish.

“I played well,” McIl­roy said. “I’m happy with how the week­end went. I’ll take a lot of pos­i­tives from it.”

Woods missed ev­ery front-nine fair­way and was fa­vor­ing his right wrist af­ter blast­ing an ap­proach off pine straw and hit­ting a tree root at the ninth.

“A joint went out of place but I popped it back in,” Woods said.

Woods, in many ways, had a suc­cess­ful week, prov­ing at age 39 that he can still con­tend in a ma­jor, although he said of his next start, “It’s not go­ing to be for a while.”

But Woods has not won the Masters since 2005, has not won a ma­jor since the 2008 U.S. Open and has not won any tour­na­ment since the 2013 WGC event at Fire­stone.

AP

Bubba Wat­son helps Jor­dan Spi­eth put on his green jacket af­ter win­ning the Masters golf tour­na­ment on Sun­day, April 12.

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