Spieth introduces new generation of great golfers

When Jordan Spieth appeared on the PGA Tour a couple of years ago from the University of Texas in Austin, he really wowed both the pro golfing circuit and the millions of fans that follow the tour.

Winning a couple of tournaments is really great, but the big test comes during the four majors, especially the Masters.

Well, last year Spieth was in the top five during all four rounds of the 2014 Masters, only to lose to long-hitting Bubba Watson on the final day after leading the event by two strokes through the first seven holes.

Recalling that disappointment, Spieth jumped out with a brilliant 64 on Thursday’s first round to lead four other golfers (Justin Rose, Charley Hoffman, Jason Day and Ernie Els) by three strokes and then never looked back.

On Friday, Spieth followed up that first round 64 with a bogey-free 66 to go into the weekend with a 14-under-par 130, which eclipsed the previous record of 13-under set by Raymond Floyd in 1976.

This expanded his lead over Hoffman by five shots and was seven strokes better than Rose, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey going into Saturday’s third round.

Spieth continued to master the Augusta course, firing a 70 in the third round and maintained a four-stroke lead over Rose and was five shots better than Phil Mickelson going into Sunday’s final round.

As Spieth was warming up before teeing off Sunday, his caddie Michael Greller, a former sixth-grade teacher, jokingly reminded Spieth that he would be a senior at the University of Texas if he hadn’t turned pro after his first year at the Austin campus and would be playing that Sunday in the Western Intercollegiate at Santa Cruz, Calif.

His playing partner, Rose, looked primed to make a run at Spieth by making birdie on the first two holes Sunday. Spieth matched his birdie on No. 1, took par on No. 2 and made a birdie on No. 3 to retain his four-shot advantage.

The 21-year-old never lost his composure and played smartly the rest of the way, going for the Par-5 greens in two and making some tough putts along the way. His birdie on the Par-5 No. 15 hole made him the only player in Masters history to reach 19-under par.

And he would have broken Tiger Woods’ 72-hole Masters scoring record of 18-under set in 1997 if it wasn’t for a bogey on the final hole. His 70 Sunday gave Spieth an 18-under par 270.

Although he missed that record, Spieth established several marks last week including the 36-hole record at 14-under 130; the 54-hole record at 16-under 200; the most birdies in the tournament at 28; the lowest opening round by a champion at 64 and being the youngest player to lead after the opening round.

Spieth also just missed being the youngest winner of the Masters by five months—Tiger Woods won in 1997 at age 21 years and three months and Spieth is 21 years and eight months.

He was the first wire-to-wire Masters winner since Raymond Floyd did it in 1976. He joins a short list of wire-to-wire champions—Craig Woods in 1941, Arnold Palmer in 1960, Jack Nicklaus in 1972 and Floyd in 1976.

Craig Woods is the only other Masters champion who led by at least three shots from the opening round to the presentation of the symbolic green sports jacket.

Sunday’s victory was the third one on the PGA Tour for Spieth and his fifth worldwide and he should rise to the No. 2 golfer in the world, right behind Rory McIlroy, who still needs the Masters to complete his career Grand Slam of all four major tournaments.

Spieth has been playing very well for the past couple of months, tying for runner-up honors last week in the Shell Houston Open and has finished first or second in his last four PGA tournaments.

“Jordan’s just a tremendous shot maker, great putter, great short game,” Mickelson told the Houston Chronicle Sunday. “He has no weaknesses. He doesn’t overpower the golf course, but plays the course strategically well.

“And he has that ability to focus and see things clearly when the pressure is on and perform at his best. That’s something you really can’t teach,” Mickelson concluded.

It appears to me that a new era of young PGA rivals has developed with Spieth and McIlroy, replacing Tiger Woods and Mickelson, who replaced Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who succeeded Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.

KWICKIES…Last week the person at The Record office wielding the scissors conveniently snipped our last comment about Matt Hall, manager of the Orange Kroger store, who had an interesting day-off the Wednesday before the Shell Houston Open. Matt is friends with the person in charge of the caddies at The Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course (formerly Redstone) in Humble and was asked to caddy for an amateur in the SHO Pro-Am. The pro in the group happened to be last year’s SHO winner Matt Jones and Hall lugged the bag of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back, NFL head coach and current ESPN NFL Live analyst Herm Edwards. Also playing in the foursome were Houston Texans’ hopeful starting quarterback Ryan Mallett and former San Francisco 49ers Winfred Tubbs. Matt said that Edwards must have posed for 100 photos along the way, obliging anyone who asked. Edwards also stopped play on the 10th fairway and used golf bags and amused spectators to show how the big pass play by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl that was intercepted at the goal line could have worked as a touchdown. Matt asked Edwards if he would ever coach again to which he replied, “Not no, but hell no!!!” Edwards said he would like Matt to caddy for him in next year’s event. The entry fee for the Pro-Am was a cool $6,500 per player.

Frank Kaminsky of national runner-up Wisconsin and Breanna Stewart of three-time national champion Connecticut won the John R. Wooden Award as national college basketball players of the year.

University of Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has made the Longhorns’ football and basketball teams “strong and smart” after hiring Charlie Strong last season to take over the football program and Shaka Smart last month to head up the basketball team. Both head coaches are the first African-Americans to lead their respective sports at the Austin university.

According to ESPN, Ohio State’s head football coach Urban Meyer agreed Monday afternoon to a contract extension through 2020, making him the highest paid coach in the Big 10 with an annual compensation average of $6.5 million over the next six years.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros completed the first week of the 2015 Major League Baseball season with a 3-3 record—losing two of three at home to the Cleveland Indians and winning two-of-three last weekend from the Texas Rangers in Arlington. The ‘Stroes pulled out a 14-inning, 6-4 win in Sunday’s rubber game on a two-run homer by reserve catcher Hank Conger in the top of the 14th inning. But the game could have ended in the bottom of the 10th if it wasn’t for a sensational over-the-railing leaping catch by Astros outfielder George Springer on Rangers’ Leonys Martin’s bid for a game-ending walk-off grand-slam home run.