Spieth sends statement with Hyundai win

By Doug Ferguson
Published on
Spieth sends statement with Hyundai win

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Jordan Spieth went on Twitter in the final hour of 2015 to say, "Would rather this year not end."

Maybe it never did.

Coming off a blockbuster year including the Masters, U.S. Open, five victories and the FedEx Cup, Spieth delivered a statement Sunday in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by crushing the winners-only field at Kapalua for an eight-shot victory.

Happy New Year, Jordan.

"I felt like it was a short three-week break and continue what we were doing last year," he said. "That's the way I'll keep on thinking about it. It worked well this week. All parts were firing."

He made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 6-under 67 and a spot in the PGA Tour record book with Ernie Els. They are the only two players at 30-under par or lower in a 72-hole event. Spieth, playing smart with a big lead on the back nine, finished at 30-under 262. That was one short of the record Els set at Kapalua in 2003.

He also joined Tiger Woods as the only players since full records began in 1970 to win seven times on the PGA Tour at age 22. Woods was a month younger, and he turned pro later. Spieth collected his seventh win in his 77th start. Woods won his seventh in only his 38 tournament as a pro.

It really was a perfect week in paradise for Spieth.

He spent 11 days in Maui with his family and girlfriend, playing golf every day at Kapalua, jumping off the rocks at the famed Cliff House, spearfishing, taking little sister Ellie in the ocean and whipping the strongest field at Kapalua in 10 years.

And he still managed to leave Sunday night with one regret.

If only the Masters could start next week.

"My putting feels like it's 100 percent ready for major championships, and I've just got to dial in everything else just a little bit more," he said. "But I can sit here and say that my putting certainly is ready for the Masters to be next week. It's a really good feeling to have that confidence with the flat stick."

It was a sick feeling for everyone else.

Brooks Koepka played with Spieth in the final round and started five shots behind. On the first hole, Spieth's approach somehow settled inches away on the top of a steep bunker about 50 yards from the hole. His pitch rode the grain to 4 feet for par. Koepka three-putted for bogey. Then, Spieth rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt.

"It's incredible the way Jordan manages his game going around all 18 holes," Koepka said. "He doesn't seem to make a mistake. When he does get in trouble, he gets out of it and he makes those 15-foot clutch putts to keep the round going. It's impressive to watch, it really is. It's fun to watch."

Koepka shot 71 and tied for third.

Defending champion Patrick Reed had three birdies in five holes, and he pulled within three shots with a birdie at No. 9. The next time he saw a leaderboard, Spieth was five shots in front and the gap only got bigger from there. Reed closed with a 69 and was runner-up.

Everyone else was playing for points — FedEx Cup, world ranking, Ryder Cup. But they weren't going to win, and they knew it.

"He hasn't given anyone opportunities to really catch up," said Rickie Fowler, who finished 10 shots behind. That was good for fifth place. "It's just solid golf, and I think you're going to see a lot of that like he did last year. You're going to have to play a good, solid golf tournament to have a chance to win."

The victories keep piling up, and so does the confidence.

Spieth is uncomfortable with comparisons with Woods, though he bought into one philosophy going into the final round.

"When Tiger is in contention, why is his record so phenomenal? Well, sure, he played the best golf and he was the strongest mentally," Spieth said. "But everyone else knew that he could do it and maybe tried to do a bit too much."

He now has closed out his last five wins with at least a share of the lead, and this was the third time in the last 13 months that he led by four shots or more.

Spieth was waiting in the 18th fairway when he said caddie Michael Greller said to him, "Way to make a statement."

"I thought that was cool," Spieth said. "It's not what I'm going for. It's not why I do what I do. I don't do it to talk back to any people that believe it's not possible or 'He got a lucky year' or something."

And then he paused with a smile and added, "But I still think it's going to be very difficult to have a year like last year."

This one could not have gotten off to a better start.