The modern history of PGA Tour golf now has two players with 10 career victories before the age of 24: Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
In what was likely the most thrilling finish of the season, Spieth holed an incredible shot out of a greenside bunker to defeat Daniel Berger on the first hole of a playoff to win the Travelers Championship.
There were no 58s out there this year. In fact, Spieth and Berger both finished the tournament at -12, the same amount under par that Jim Furyk was in his historically low final round at last year’s event, but the excitement was just as palpable today.
Early on, Spieth looked like he might cruise to career victory No. 10, but surprising putter troubles, plus a Daniel Berger back-nine surge resulted in an extra hole being needed.
Spieth’s first two shots in the playoff were both terrible: he hit a tree with his drive, but was fortunate to have the ball ricochet back into the fairway, although it was a long, long way from the hole, and he then came up well short on his approach shot, landing in the right side bunker.
He rebounded, however, by hitting one of the best bunker shots of his life, finding the hole and then exploding into a jubilant celebration with his caddie, Michael Greller – a celebration that will be re-played for years to come.
As Berger eloquently stated afterwards, it was Jordan doing Jordan things.
1 Jordan Spieth -12
P2 Daniel Berger -12
T3 Charley Hoffman, Danny Lee -10
T5 Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Boo Weekley -9
T8 Kevin Streelman, Troy Merritt, Webb Simpson, David Hearn, Keegan Bradley, C.T. Pan -8
T14 Brandt Snedeker, Xander Schauffele -7
T17 Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan -6
T26 Jim Furyk -5
T35 Smylie Kaufman, Brian Harman -4
T62 Retief Goosen, Russell Knox E
How Spieth Did It
While Spieth managed to go wire-to-wire in his TPC River Highlands debut, he looked nowhere as good in the final round as he did in his opening-round 7-under 63. He birdied his first two holes, but his round then went stagnant as his usually exemplary putting left him.
He had managed to stay a few out front at the turn, but after a bogey on 14, he was suddenly +1 on his round, and Berger had tied him at -11. Spieth responded with his third birdie of the day, which came on No. 15 after narrowly missing the water with his drive.
After pars on 16 and 17, Spieth had a great up-and-down out of a bunker on 18 for another par, which forced a playoff against a suddenly-hot Berger.
Both Berger and Spieth hit errant drives, with Spieth’s hitting a tree, but bouncing back into the fairway. For the second time in minutes, Spieth again hit his approach shot into a greenside bunker, but this time, he didn’t need his putter.
After holing out for birdie, Berger’s valiant tying effort from just off the green failed to drop, and Spieth was victorious for the second time this year.
The win came in spite of hitting just 7 of 14 fairways on the day, and losing his touch on the greens.
What It Means For Spieth
The Travelers triumph marked career victory #10 for Spieth, who at 23 years and 10 months old, joined Tiger Woods as the only players in Tour history to reach double-digit wins before turning 24 (Tiger was 23 years, 6 months).
It was win No. 2 of 2017, as he also took the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February.
A phenomenal bounce-back from a disappointing U.S. Open last week, Spieth has reasserted himself as one of the best in the game. He will need to fix the putting woes that nearly cost him the tournament, but it was most likely a flukeish thing.
Other Great Sundays
Charley Hoffman had one of the oddest finishes in recent memory in round three, when he went eagle, birdie, birdie on holes 13-15, but then played the final three holes double bogey, bogey, bogey.
While those three holes likely ended his title hopes, Hoffman was still able to bounce back beautifully on Sunday, shooting a bogey-free four-under 66.
Rory McIlroy was using a different putter for the third time in three days, after a disastrous first three rounds on the greens, but putter #3 turned out to be the charm, as he tied for the low round of the day, a six-under 64.
McIlroy finished T17 and was non-committal about the new putter after the round.
Tying McIlroy for Sunday low round was Kevin Streelman, who secured his second top-10 of the season (T8), and Brandt Snedeker, who birdied four in a row on the back nine, to rise 38 spots up the leaderboard to T14.
Boo Weekley had been in the midst of an atrocious season, as the three-time Tour winner had not finished better than T37 all year. Weekley played himself into the final group on Sunday, and while he stayed near the lead until late, three bogeys and no birdies over his final 11 holes led to a two-over 72, which dropped him from second place to T5.
David Lingmerth was tied for fourth place coming into the final round, but could not get anything going on Sunday. Surprisingly awful iron play was the big culprit in a three-over 73 that dropped Lingmerth into a tie for 26th.
The big faller of the day was Chez Reavie. One week after a strong showing at the U.S. Open, Reavie stumbled badly down the stretch, with bogeys on three of his last four, he finished with a three-over 73, falling 33 spots down the leaderboard in the process.
Hunter Mahan: Finally Finding His Game?
19 tournaments: 13 missed cuts, with finishes of T67, T63, T56, 70, T52, T82 in his other six.
Those were the mind-bogglingly poor results of Hunter Mahan coming into the week. One of the most consistently great golfers over the past decade, Mahan has been abysmal for the past two seasons.
At TPC River Highlands, however, Mahan finally had something to be encouraged by. Five birdies to just two bogeys on Sunday meant a three-under 67 for Mahan, and a T17 finish.
It was his first top 40 finish since he was T19 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in October of 2015. He missed 25 cuts in that time.
“It’s incredible! It feels like we’ve been out here for a long time, but it has only been four years. I feel very fortunate to play golf for a living, that was my dream growing up, and to be able to live for these moments, and produce moments like that, I feel very lucky, very blessed.”