Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club

The Loop

It's not just how Jordan Spieth played that was so impressive, but everything else as well

April 12, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jordan Spieth, good heavens. America wants to hug you. Take your time. Mom and Dad come first, as they did Sunday.  Bring in brothers and sisters. Grab your swing coach and your boys from Texas. Then get to the rest of us because until you have hugged each and every one of us, our lives will be the poorer for it. Here, folks, is what we've been waiting for. This kid is the real deal. The next 20 years, we'll love him.

We will remember what he did when he finished his hug-a-thon just off the 18th green Sunday.

He walked back onto the green, there in the day's fading daylight, there where he had won the Masters, a kid 21 years old, three years a professional.

There, on golf's grandest stage, this most precocious of performers raised his hands and applauded. He applauded the fans on the west side, then turned and applauded those on the left, his face aglow, that sweetheart smile fixed by the moment's wonder.

"The key moment came at the 16th hole," he said. His lead was four shots. But Rose had a putt for a birdie two from 15 feet below the hole while Spieth, after a weak chip, had a treacherous downhill 8-footer for par. If Rose made his and Spieth missed, the lead would be two shots with two holes to play.  Spieth thought then that "control could get out of my hands."

Rose called the 16th green "glassy." His putt rolled just an inch off the cup. A three.

Spieth's putt might as well have been from a cliff's edge, it was so scary. "A slider," he called it. He might have started it rolling by doing nothing more than breathing in its direction. The putt moved an inch, maybe two, left to right -- and fell in. Spieth's idea of celebration was a quick pump of his fists at his side. No melodrama, no histrionics.  Just a subtle sign of the joy that accompanied what he would later call "the biggest putt I ever hit in my life."

From there, it was a stroll into immortality. Meeting the press afterward, he talked about the dreams a kid has of winning the Masters. He talked about the names on the winner's trophy, a Palmer, a Nicklaus, a Watson, Player, Hogan.  He talked about how the Augusta National course fits his idea of "imagination" in golf with its rolling greens that demand more of a man than simple technique.

"All in all," he said, "it's really cool."

They came after him. Rory McIllroy threw in a 66, Mickelson a 69, Rose 70. Spieth stood up to the best the world has, and stood up to them as if he belonged among them. Which should be no surprise, really, for, two years ago at the John Deere Classic, he became the first teenager to win a PGA Tour event in 82 years. Since then, he has built a body of work that suggests a prodigy come to maturity -- another Tour victory, a victory in the Australian Open, a 2-1-1 record as a Ryder Cup captain's choice.

And what should we expect from Spieth now?

"The ultimate goal," he said, "is to try to become the No. 1 player in the world. I don't think I am with this. I think that I'm still behind, and so there's still -- I'm still chasing that goal. It's going to be very difficult, but to be a large step closer is huge."

All well and good for those of us who care about such things. Better for those who care about important things, though, was Spieth's soliloquoy when asked what the Masters winner's green jacket would mean to his special-needs sister, Ellie, 14 years old.

"When I speak to her," he said, "she's going to probably tell me to bring a present home to her. I'm sure she was watching and was excited when she saw how happy I was with my family there at the end."

All that hugging, he meant.

"Probably got a little jealous at that point. But she's just going to be happy that I won. You know, after each round last week in Houston, she said, Jordan, did you win? Did you win?' And I said, Not yet, not yet, no.'"

But now . . . "I can tell her I won now."

OK, Ellie gets the next hug. Then, America.