PALM HARBOR, Fla. – There were three previous victories, wins that showed his potential for greatness, but it was here one year ago that Jordan Spieth started to put the golf world on notice.
His playoff win at the 2015 Valspar Championship at Innisbrook – he rallied from three shots back with six holes to play, then won with a 30-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole – ignited a breakthrough season that vaulted him to the top of the world rankings.
He became only the sixth player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, joining Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
He was the youngest player – he turned 22 in July – to win five times in a season since Horton Smith in 1929.
He set the PGA Tour's single-season earnings record with more than $12 million, as well as the $10 million bonus for winning the FedExCup.
It all started with his final-round back-nine performance at the Copperhead Course, where his world-class short game got the ball rolling on a stretch of stunning brilliance.
"It gave me a huge amount of confidence that what happened late in 2014 (wins at the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge) was something we could continue into 2015," Spieth said of his victory at the Valspar Championship. "It led to an incredible run. And it all started on the 17th green with that playoff putt."
With Spieth back at Innisbrook this week to defend his title, let's look at what the world No. 1 has accomplished in the 12 months since that breakthrough victory in Palm Harbor.
--In winning his first career major at the Masters, Spieth became the first wire-to-wire winner at Augusta National since Raymond Floyd in 1976. His 18-under 270 total tied Tiger Woods' record set in 1997. He also set the 36-hole scoring record (130) and the 54-hole mark (200). His 28 birdies were the most in tournament history, three more than Phil Mickelson in 2001.
--With his one-shot win in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, Spieth became the first man since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win multiple majors before his 22nd birthday. He also became the youngest winner of the national championship since Bobby Jones in 1923. Moreover, he was the first man since Jones in 1926 to win the U.S. Open by one stroke with a birdie on the final hole.
--At St. Andrews, Spieth finished one shot out of a playoff in his quest to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same year. He was tied for the lead through 70 holes before a bogey on the road hole, then missed a long uphill birdie putt on No. 18 that would have put him in the playoff with Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen.
--In the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Spieth finished second, three back of Jason Day, in his bid to join Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only three players in the modern era to win three majors in the same year. Still, his 54-under total set the record for lowest cumulative score in the year's four majors, breaking the mark set by Woods in 2000 by one shot.
BY THE NUMBERS:
--6: Wins in the past 12 months – the Valspar Championship, Masters, U.S. Open, John Deere Classic and Tour Championship in 2015; the 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
--4: Runner-up finishes in the past 12 months, including last year's PGA Championship and this year's Singapore Open.
--16: Top-10 finishes since his playoff win at Innisbrook.
--5: Missed cuts since his victory in Palm Harbor. Two of those came in back-to-back events to open last year's FedExCup playoffs. Undeterred, he went on to win the title and the $10 million bonus.
--30: Shots under par, Spieth's score (66-64-65-67) in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the first event of 2016. He joined Ernie Els as the only players in PGA Tour history to finish a 72-hole event at 30 under or lower. Els posted 31 under at Kapalua in 2003.
--7: Wins on the PGA Tour, joining Tiger Woods as the only players since complete records began in 1970 with that many by age 22.
--3: Players to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Open. The others: Johnny Miller and Tiger Woods.
This article was written by Mike Garbett from The Tampa Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.