AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — About the only thing missing was a new scoring record. Not to worry, because odds are Jordan Spieth will set a bunch of them by the time he is done.
The odds are equally good that the green jacket he put on Sunday night outside the Augusta National clubhouse won’t be his last.
The Masters was the tournament he dreamed about growing up beating balls on the range in Texas. The people who run the Masters could only dream of having a new champion who could stare down an all-star field of challengers, then remember to thank everyone from the kitchen staff to the chairman for giving him the chance to do just that.
He’s a special talent who yells at his ball and plays with a steely intensity. He’s also a special person, the son of athletic parents who still dates his high school sweetheart and is a loving brother to a younger sister with neurological difficulties that place her on the autism spectrum.
On an overcast day at Augusta National, Spieth finished off a wire-to-wire win that was so utterly dominant it never seemed really in doubt. That he bogeyed the last hole to miss setting a scoring record set by another 21-year-old named Tiger Woods in 1997 did nothing to make the day any less sweet.
His family and friends gathered behind the 18th green hugging each other even before Spieth dropped the short bogey putt to finish off his day. Everyone important in his life was there, except the one person who may be most important.
His sister, who is seven years younger, doesn’t come to many tournaments. Ellie Spieth likes to yell her brother’s name and cheer at what should be quiet times, and the Masters would not be the place for that.
But Spieth would be calling, and they would talk about him winning his first major championship.
“When I speak to her she’s going to probably tell me to just bring something home, bring a present home to her,” Spieth said. “I’m sure she was watching and was excited when she saw how happy I was there with my family at the end. Probably a little jealous at that point.”
If so, she’s not the only one. Who wouldn’t be jealous of a player who refused to yield an inch all week, yet was so gracious he gave playing partner Justin Rose a thumbs up after he made a remarkable recovery shot on the seventh hole?
Who wouldn’t be jealous of a player who kept the same four-shot lead he teed off with under the intense pressure of a final round at the Masters?
And who wouldn’t be jealous of a young man who, after hugging his caddie, parents and girlfriend, applauded the fans who came to watch as he took a victory lap around the 18th green?
“I don’t know what could make you more proud,” his father, Shawn, said. “But God-given gift to be able to play the game like that, we’re just probably more proud of him for the kind of person he is and the way he handles himself and treats everybody. … He makes us really, really proud.”
Spieth almost became the youngest Masters champion ever last year in his first go around at Augusta National, only to lose the two-shot lead he held after seven holes of the final round to Bubba Watson. He was determined to come back and win the green jacket, and he seized control of the Masters with a first round 64 and never looked back.
“He wanted badly to get back after last year,” his father said.
He’d be a college senior if he stayed at the University of Texas, where he played for a year before taking a chance and playing his way onto the PGA Tour. But he looked like a seasoned veteran as he played his way around Augusta National, sealing the deal with an 8-footer for par on the 16th hole even as Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson made late moves.
“He’s just fiery,” said caddie Michael Greller, who was a sixth grade teacher before hooking up with Spieth. “He’s got that kliller instinct. You have to have tunnel vision when you’re out there, but you have to really appreciate the roars.”
Spieth has a lot to appreciate, even if he admitted he wasn’t sure just what winning the Masters would mean. Spieth hasn’t had that much experience winning in his short career, though he won once and finished second twice in his last three tournaments.
The last one was in Houston last week, where after every round he would go home and Ellie would say, “Jordan, did you win? Did you win?”
“I said, ‘Not yet, not yet, no,'” Spieth said, laughing. “I can tell her I won now.”
Maybe he can bring home a present, too. A nice green jacket will do.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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