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Jordan Spieth wins another in overtime
By Torleif Sorenson on 3/16/15


NBC's Dan Hicks and Gary Koch on Sunday afternoon correctly pointed out that the Valspar Championship (the PGA Tour's annual Tampa stop) at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course has gone from being "on life support" to being an excellent and well-attended tournament.

Adding to the drama this year was a three-man playoff between two known quantities (2014 Ryder Cup'ers Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth) and a well-liked 32-year-old trying to resurrect his professional game — Sean O'Hair. But credit also must go to Ryan Moore for hanging on until the end of regulation. After going 31 straight holes without a bogey earlier, Moore led by three with six holes to play on Sunday afternoon, but an uncooperative putter and a final round 72 left him two shots out of a playoff. Henrik Stenson deserves a tip of the proverbial hat after firing a Sunday 67 that left him one shot out of the playoff.

The Contender

Reed was first into overtime with a long putt at the 72nd hole, then used his considerable skills to escape some ugly lies during the playoff to stay alive. Had he won, it would have been his fifth PGA Tour victory at only 24 years of age. Also worth remembering is that Reed defeated Spieth in a playoff at the 2013 Wyndham in Greensboro.

The Comeback Kid

Sean O'Hair nearly won it on the 74th hole, but after putts by Reed and Spieth turned left in front of the cup, O'Hair's birdie effort amazingly tilted right and missed. It would have been O'Hair's first PGA Tour victory since his OT win at the 2011 Canadian Open in Vancouver. But after ugly seasons in 2013 and 2014, O'Hair is on a solid comeback. The Valspar represents O'Hair's ninth made cut in ten events and his first top-ten finish of the year, after three top-25s.

Nobody should be criticizing O'Hair for his performance. Thankfully, O'Hair isn't down on himself, either:

"It was a lot of fun. I was looking forward to being in that situation come Sunday. You know, I haven't been in that situation in quite some time and to have those nerves again and be able to handle it in regulation the way I did — I played fantastic on the back nine.

“So, I gave myself a chance. That's really all I can do. I played solid all day, played solid all week and, you know, then the playoff was a ton of fun. You know, two young guys made me feel really old actually."

The Champ

In the end, Jordan Spieth sank a highlight-reel 28-footer for birdie to capture his second PGA Tour victory — one we are likely to see again and again this year.

Interestingly, both of Spieth's wins have come in overtime — not unlike another man whose initials are J.S. and was born near where O'Hair last won on tour: Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic from Burnaby, British Columbia. Sakic owns the National Hockey League record for most overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight.

In comparison, Spieth is still a young pup — but an unquestionably talented and diligent player who has already displayed a cool head and clutch putting under enormous pressure. He first did so to get into a playoff at the 2013 John Deere in the Quad Cities, then starred at the Ryder Cup last autumn in Scotland.

At the 2014 Masters, Spieth made a fine showing. After the first round, Spieth was three shots behind the leader (Bill Haas). After the second, he was T-3, four shots back. Spieth was the co-leader after Saturday's third round, and finished T-2 behind Bubba Watson.

And let us not forget that Spieth broke the course record when he won the Australian Open last November in a six-shot triumph:



Spieth is an eminently likable young man who seems to be doing so many things well — and correctly. Whether or not you like his chances in any of the four majors, Spieth is trending really well; his victory on Sunday evening boosted him to 6th in the Official World Golf Ranking — his highest ranking ever.


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[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
He was getting up & down from everywhere on the back nine. Dare I say it? What the heck ...

He is the next Tiger Woods!
3/16/15
 
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