Brilliant Jordan Spieth Dominates at Pebble Beach
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
HE'S back! While the man who pipped him to The Masters last year was throwing away a three-shot lead in Malaysia, Jordan Spieth cruised to a four-shot victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Of course, Spieth has never really been away. While Danny Willett has endured his troubles since winning at Augusta last April, the 23-year-old American has continued to be one of the best players in the world. He was not able to repeat the stunning form of 2015 that saw him win two majors and come close to landing two more, but he still won twice last year and had already enjoyed two top-three finishes this season.
There is little doubt that what happened to him on the 12th hole in the final round at Augusta affected his confidence, but you can be certain that he cannot wait to get back there in April and put it to bed.
He was six shots clear of the field going into the final round at Pebble Beach and although Gary Woodland fired a 65 and course specialist Dustin Johnson closed with a 68, they never looked like catching him. He reeled off 16 pars and just two birdies, including a magnificent two at the 17th hole to land his ninth PGA Tour title at the age of 23. For many people, that represents a career.
Jordan Spieth is the only player in PGA TOUR history to win by 3+ strokes 5 times before age 24. pic.twitter.com/HRDhOTjBu9— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 12, 2017
Spieth already leads the tour averages this season in greens hit in regulation and that can only be good news for him. Last year his biggest problem area was finding the target from the middle of the fairway, but he has clearly been working extremely hard on his game and produced a succession of brilliant iron shots through all four rounds. And his putter continues to work as well as ever. Nobody holes more putts from around 20 feet than Spieth - it is a rare gift. This victory moves him up to third place in the FedEx standings.
There was a stirring performance by formerUS Amateur champion Kelly Kraft - coming back from injury, and with no form to speak of coming into Pebble Beach, he finished second to collect his biggest pay cheque as a professional.
FABRIZIO ZANOTTI produced the round of his life, capped with an eagle at the 72nd hole, to win his second European Tour title at the Maybank Championship. The Paraguayan began the final round trailing 54-hole leader Danny Willett by six shots but he fired a sensational 63 to secure the title by a stroke on 19 under par.
For Willett, looking for his first victory since securing the green jacket at The Masters, it was a day to forget, but he will take some comfort from knowing that his game is not far away. As Willett faltered, American David Lipsky appeared to take control of the tournament, with the final round played under cloudless skies but with a tricky breeze that made conditions tricky.
Zanotti birdied the 17th hole at Saujana Golf and Country Club took him into the lead for the first time, but it was his finish that secured the title for him. He hit the par five 18th in two and holed a 15-foot putt. It meant he had come home in 31 shots, andnow he had to wait to see if anybody could catch him.
Lipsky hit a glorious approach to the 17th for a birdie that took him to 18 under. It meant he needed to birdie the final hole to force a playoff, or emulate Zanotti's eagle to win. He found the fairway from the tee but put his second shot into a greenside bunker and when he took three more to get down, Zanotti had won.
Lipsky finished at 18 under, a shot ahead of Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, who recorded nine successive birdies during the second round, and two clear of France's Alexander Levy. Willett's 73 was his worst of the week and saw him fall back to 15 under alongside China's Li Haotong. The Englishman was the only man on the leaderboard not to break par.
2014. Bogey-free last 40 holes. 19 under. Wins 1st title from 5 back.— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) February 13, 2017
2016. Bogey-free last 40 holes. 19 under. Wins 2nd title from 6 back. pic.twitter.com/V7AtQdvI6a
There had been no sign of what was to come from Zanotti when he arrived in Malaysia, having missed the cut in all three tournaments on the Desert Swing. This was his first success since winning the 2014 BMW International Open in a playoff.
And he was absolutely thrilled. "I think it was probably the best round of my career, so I’m very happy," he said. "It was a really good day, a really good week and I’m really happy. I think it was at the 15th where I thought I might be able to win, when I made birdie there. I thought, maybe I’ll have a chance if I make two more birdies, but I made a birdie and an eagle so it was great.
“It feels really good to be a winner again. I’ve been working a lot and I was not in my best run of form, missing three cuts in a row, but that’s in the past and today I’m a winner again and it feels great.”
Levy, Lipsky and Willett were in the final group and it seemed sure on the front nine that one of them would win, with Levy and Lipsky both catching a struggling Willett.
The last three players to win with a 72nd hole eagle ???? pic.twitter.com/lwEpXNo9Nz— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) February 12, 2017
Zanotti had other ideas,however, and quietly went about his business.The 33 year old birdied from six feet on the third and then put his tee-shot on the fifth to ten feet and holed a tricky right-to-lefter. A tap-in on the sixth and a great up-and-down from a bunker on the eighth saw him turn in 32 but with Lipsky rattling off four birdies in a row from the 10th hole it appeared that the trophy was in the hands of the American.
Zanotti was not to be denied though. He birdied the par-five 13th, holed a 15-foot putt for another at the 15th and then birdied the 17th before that astonishing eagle at the last.
Fabrizio Zanotti - What’s in the Bag:
- 2017 M1 440 Driver / 9.5 / Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6 X
- M2 Fairway / 15 / Mitsubishi-Rayon Tensei CK Pro Blue 70 TX
- M2 Fairway / 18 / Mitsubishi-Rayon Tensei CK Pro Blue 80 TX
- RSi UDI / 20 / Precision Pxi 6.5
- Tour Preferred UDI / 23 / Precision Pxi 6.5
- PSi Tour Irons 5-PW / Precision Pxi 6.5
- Tour Preferred EF wedges / 52 / 58
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