Spi­eth wins a wide- open U. S. Open

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Tod Leonard

In a nail- biter of a f in­ish , Jor­dan Spi­eth, 21, be­comes the youngest golfer in history to win Mas­ters and U. S. Open ti­tles.

UNIVER­SITY PLACE, Wash. — Jor­dan Spi­eth brought it up. No one had to ask.

Be­fore the 115th U. S. Open, in talk­ing about how he might judge his sea­son if it had been cut off a week ago, with a f irst Mas­ters green jacket al­ready in his closet, the 21- year- old said with more won­der­ment than ar­ro­gance that he wouldn’t nearly be sat­is­fied.

He had a very keen fo­cus on the next big prize.

“You can’t win the Grand Slam un­less you win the f irst,” Spi­eth said, “and I’m the only one who has that chance.”

Spi­eth doesn’t shy away from bold state­ments or daunt­ing chal­lenges, and he didn’t wilt Sun­day in a nervy f inal stretch of the gnarly test that was Cham­bers Bay.

Min­utes af­ter suf­fer­ing what could have been a dev­as­tat­ing dou­ble bo­gey at the par- three 17th,

Spi­eth birdied the 18th hole on Sun­day to shoot one­un­der- par 69, f in­ish at f ive un­der and be­come the youngest U. S. Open win­ner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

In another par­al­lel with Jones, Spi­eth is the f irst since the leg­end to birdie the 18th hole to win a U. S. Open by a shot. He is the youngest win­ner of two ma­jors since Gene Sarazen in 1922.

One man’s tri­umph was another’s crush­ing blow. Dustin John­son, who al­ready had felt the sting of squan­der­ing two ma­jor cham­pi­onships in the f inal round, all but handed Spi­eth the tro­phy with a stun­ning f inal fail­ure of a put­ter that went stone cold on the back nine.

Af­ter hit­ting a tremen­dous sec­ond shot on 18 to give him­self a 12- foot ea­gle putt to win, John­son hit his putt too hard and it trick­led four feet long. On the come­backer to force an 18- hole Mon­day play­off, John­son’s ball never touched the hole, slid­ing by on the left.

All week the poor con­di­tion of the greens had been a tar­get of nu­mer­ous play­ers.

“What­ever the putt did on the last hole, I don’t know,” John­son said. “I might have pulled it a lit­tle bit. But still to me it looked like it bounced left. It’s tough. It’s very dif­fi­cult.”

So dev­as­tated by the loss was John­son, who shot 70, that he de­clined to at­tend the awards cer­e­mony to re­ceive a sec­ond- place medal along with South African Louis Oosthuizen, who made an ex­tra­or­di­nary charge with a six- birdie back nine of 29 to score 67.

“I very much feel for him. He’s cer­tainly proven he can close tour­na­ments out,” Spi­eth said of John­son. “That was an odd deal.”

Putting aside his em­pa­thy to ref lect on his own joy, Spi­eth said, “You only get a few mo­ments in your life like this. I rec­og­nize that. It’s hard to wrap my head around — two in one year.”

In win­ning the f irst two ma­jors of the sea­son — he cap­tured the Mas­ters in April by four shots — Spi­eth is now in this com­pany: Ben Ho­gan, Jack Nick­laus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Craig Wood. It’s an al­most unimag­in­able feat for a young man who turned pro­fes­sional only three years ago and had only one ca­reer vic­tory be­fore this sea­son.

A self- de­scribed golf his­to­rian, Spi­eth said, “It gives me goose bumps. To think of . . . how fast we’ve risen to get on tour, and to con­tend and win ma­jor cham­pi­onships . . . it just gets bet­ter.”

A twist­ing birdie putt at No. 16 brief ly gave Spi­eth a three- shot lead and prompted a cel­e­bra­tion “that was about as an­i­mated as I’ve been since maybe throw­ing a tantrum when I was 13 on the course,” he said with a grin.

Spi­eth’s lead was two by the time he ar­rived at the 17th tee. But he flailed his six- iron shot “to the eas­i­est pin of the week” well right, and af­ter get­ting his next shot on the green he three­p­utted, miss­ing the five- foot bo­gey ef­fort to make dou­ble.

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