Spieth Stars in the Great Escape
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
AFTER a day of great escapes of which Harry Houdini himself would be proud, Jordan Spieth holed a 25-foot putt at the third playoff hole to win the Valspar championship at Innisbrook Resort.
Spieth, Patrick Reed and a resurgent Sean O'Hair all finished tied on 10 under par and it was 21-year-old Spieth who went on to take his second PGA Tour title, to add to the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge victories he recorded at the end of 2014. There will, of course be many, many more wins to come for this exceptionally talented young American golfer. And there will also be many battles ahead with Reed, whose powers of recovery defy belief. Throw Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler into the mix and you can rest assured that the future of golf is in good hands.
Reed was 61st in driving accuracy at Innisbrook. To put that in perspective, only 71 players made the cut. But time after time, when he was unable to make the green with his approach shot, he would produce yet another wonderful pitch or hole another unlikely putt. Somehow, he got it round in 66. The playoff was typical. It started at the 18th, and with both O'Hair and Spieth safely on the green, Reed's approach plugged right under the lip of the bunker. It was an impossible shot, but he somehow got the ball out and left himself a nine-footer for par, which he duly holed.
At the next, his second shot found sand, but he splashed out to less than a foot. And at the 17th hole, before Spieth's winning birdie putt, Reed had gone through the green into thick rough. He nearly holed his recovery. It was a truly astonishing performance from the 24 year old.
Not that Reed had the monopoly on unlikely par saves. Spieth moved to 10 under and tied for the lead with a 30-foot birdie putt at the 14th, at the 16 he saved par with fabulous bunker shot, standing with one foot in and one foot out, and at the final hole he drained another 30-footer to get into the playoff.
Most of the crowd were rooting for O'Hair, who not so long ago was ranked 12th in the world but started the Valspar at 401st. A player blessed with a beautiful, natural swing, O'Hair got caught up in the mechanics of the game and lost it completely. Some months ago he decided to forget everything that he had been taught and start playing from feel again. Thankfully, his return to his best form has not taken long. Indeed, he thought he had won the playoff when his birdie attempt at the 16th looked to be in the hole all the way but lipped out.
Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, finished fourth, one behind, with Ryan Moore, who is fast becoming golf's nearly-man, in fifth place.
The victory elevates Spieth to sixth in the world rankings, but that isn't good enough for him.
“OK, I like studying the game, I'm something of a historian of the game,” he said. "But right now currently and what I'm really focused on is Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the world. That's who everyone is trying to chase. he is the one who is setting the standards the rest of us want to match.
“That's our ultimate goal is to eventually, you know, be the best in the world and this is a great, great stepping stone. But going into the four majors of the year, to have closed one out in this kind of fashion is going to give me a lot of confidence.” Not that Spieth has ever been short on confidence.
Image Credit: Twitter @Golf_Com
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