Spieth, who doesn’t turn 22 until late July, had the best chance to end the playoff on No. 18, the 73rd hole but he played just too much break in his 10-footer. Given a second chance to hole a putt for victory, he buried a 28-foot-downhill slider to win for the second time on TOUR. O’Hair had a fantastic chance to win with a 15-footer on No. 16, the 74th hole, but his putt never broke completely and lipped out. Reed didn’t hit the green in any of the three playoff holes but he made a nine-footer on the first hole and chipped to a foot on the second. As he mentioned after the playoff, he never gave himself a chance.
Spieth needed a bit of magic just to reach the playoff. His tee shot on the final hole found the left trap. His second was fat and didn’t make the green. His 40-yard pitch to 11 feet forced a make-or-go-home putt. Swish. He actually missed the EASIEST putt of the three, the 10-footer on the first playoff hole!
The pros professed their love for Innisbrook again this week as the course played nice and difficult, as expected. As we saw in the playoff the short game here is more important than the tee ball. The 10-under-par 274 was the second highest winning score in the last six years. Next year, this track will get even tougher as all 18 greens, fairways and rough are going to be replaced. If that’s not enough, the bunkers will also be reshaped. Some of the greens will revert to their original sizes that course architect Larry Packard originally designed. Throw away the course form history notes! Time to start anew! Tifeagle Bermudagrass for all!
Only three players in the top 16 ended up in the top 20 in fairways. Only two players in the top 16 were in the top 10 in driving distance. Only three players were in the top 10 GIR. But 11 of those 16 were in the top 25 in strokes gained: putting (SGP) and 13 were in the top 30 in total distance of putts made. Finally all 16 players were T39 or better in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
The course and tournament records weren’t in touching distance this season and they’ll have no meaning next year after all of the changes!
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise
I had gamers reaching out to me before the season started asking me how high is too high to take Spieth in their keeper leagues. Remember, this kid was coming off winless season but he caught fire after the TOUR Championship. He and his partner, Patrick Reed, were some of the only bright spots in the US’s defeat across the pond. He followed that performance up by trashing the field at the Emirates Australian Open as he won by six shots with 63 on Sunday in less than ideal conditions. He backed that effort up by flying to Orlando the following week and crushing the field at Isleworth at the Hero World Challenge. He closed 63-66 to win by a whopping 10 shots over an elite, 18-man field. He beat Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan by 26 shots in four rounds of stroke play. So, even though he didn’t technically “win” last year, he racked up $4.4 million on TOUR and that doesn’t count the two events mentioned above. Not bad for 21!
Spieth has now teed it up six times in 2015 and this was his fourth, top-six finish of the year. He MC at Torrey Pines and was T17 at Doral last week just proving that he’s human. Also, he’s found plenty of joy around the Copperhead course as he put six of his first eight rounds at par or better. In 2013 his T7 here secured his special temporary membership for that season; His T20 last year frustrated gamers who expect him to win every time he tees it up. Those of you who burned him in Yahoo! and said the hell with starts, you’ve been handsomely rewarded!
Spieth has two wins on TOUR and they’ve both come in playoffs after miraculous shots. He holed out at John Deere on the final hole and made an studly up-and-down today also on No. 18 to get a chance to win
Why This Performance Surprises
To nitpick, Spieth only had only two rounds in the 60s on this tough course and had a quiet finish last week in Miami. His ball-striking, especially off the tee could have been worrisome but his WAY above average short game is always that insurance policy. He’s shown he can grind it out on tough tracks and make birdies on birdie tracks. The only surprises moving forward with this kid will be margin of victories and number on wins in a season.
Patrick Reed defeated Spieth in a playoff at Wyndham in August of 2013 but the Ryder Cuppers never got to that head-to-head moment as Sean O’Hair nobly kept his nerve and cool.
How Spieth Won This Week
He was the only player to post all four rounds at 70 or better on the week (70-67-68-69),
He did it on the back of 19 birdies (T2) and just seven bogeys (T7) and one double. He made only three bogeys on the weekend and also played the Snake Pit in one-over for the week.
His accuracy was a valid concern as he found just 31 of 52 fairways (T51) and 46 of 72 GIR (T32). But, he was first in strokes gained tee-to-green. #Bang
His putter wasn’t great in gaining strokes as he was 26th but he made them when they counted as he was second in putts per GIR.
He ended the week T1 in strokes gained total.
He played the back nine seven-under on the week.
The only box he hasn’t checked off before his 22nd birthday is a major championship but he tried as he was T2 at Augusta last spring. He’s played in a Presidents Cup and a Ryder Cup. He’s won in the winter and the summer. He’s won on bogey courses and on birdie courses. His game travels because he has no problem grinding off the tee and on and around the greens. He expects to win. He’s not satisfied when he doesn’t. He’s halfway home to his 2014 money total after seven events so salary gamers should be pleased. Weekly gamers, the only event I wouldn’t touch Spieth is at HPBNC as remarked last year it’s not a course that fits his eye. Trust me, he was my OAD that week so I remember. #ElephantlikeaMemory. He’s a stud. We all know this. Good luck managing his starts moving forward!! Check out this final stat: Since January of 2013 he has 21 top 10s. That’s tied with Matt Kuchar for most on TOUR. #SlamDunk
With This Win:
Spieth becomes the fourth player since 1940 to win twice before turning 22. He joins Robert Gamez (!?!?!), Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia with his victory. He pockets the big check for $1.062 million and will be comfortably inside the OWGR top 10, deservedly so.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA continues its dominance this year. Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen), Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are the USA champs. Last week Alex Cejka (Germany) joined Paddy Harrington (Ireland), Sangmoon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Jason Day (Australia) as the five international winners in the first 18 events.
Only Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. Ryan Moore joined the club of those who haven’t been able to hold the 54-hole lead. This was the eighth week in a row this has happened on TOUR. That makes it 12 of 18 who have been unable to hold down the fort in 2014-15. Golf is hard.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 18 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka, Hahn and Cejka have made their breakthroughs.
Since moving to winter no player has defended their Valspar title. John Senden MC with 74-71 and joined that club.
Harrington’s course record of 61 was never threatened as the low men this week were Brian Davis (Thursday) and Harris English (Sunday) who both posted 65s. Gary Woodland’s 15-under in 2011 is still the tournament standard.
The streak of single-digit winners on TOUR is now over but just barely as the playoff troika all carded 10-under 274.
After watching DJ, Bubba and JB Holmes bomb away last week, we had three more Americans on top this week. O’Hair, 32, has four wins on TOUR, the same amount as Reed, and is hardly on the downside of his career. Reed is going to be around, books or not, for some time with the skill set he possesses and Spieth will turn 22 in July. Not a bad six pack over the last two weeks!
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 24 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, at Torrey Pines. Spieth comes to the rescue this week to try and spark the youngsters back to their winning ways. It’s now seven winners in 18 events this year.
Dustin Johnson, 30, joined James Hahn (33), Brandt Snedeker (34), Bill Haas (32), Jimmy Walker (36), Charley Hoffman (37), Bubba Watson (36) and Ryan Moore (31) as the prime time guys with silverware (30-39 years).
The old guys (40 and over) are all bowing down to Paddy Harrington as he defeated 21-year old Daniel Berger at Honda. Vijay Singh was AGAIN seen up the leaderboard on Sunday and he’s in his 50s! Brian Davis, who turned 40 last August, joined Singh T10.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
Patrick Reed: Entering the week only three of his last 24 rounds had been over par. I guess that wasn’t enough to convince me to put him in my Yahoo! lineup. What a stupid I am. After opening with 72, Reed played the next three rounds 11-under including four birdies on his final eight holes capped off with a 31-footer on the final hole to post 10-under. He made TWO bogeys in his final 54 holes and only six on the week (T2). He was T65 in fairways and T32 GIR but was third in SGP. He hits it a mile and his short game, evidenced in the playoff, is fantastic. He’s not the consistent force that gamers would like but the upside far outweighs the occasional week off. That’s 16 weekends in a row on TOUR.
Sean O’Hair: If you love stats, follow @JustinRayGC as he’s the Don. This was his first top 10 in 65 starts so gamers that took a chance on him were rewarded this week. I had him in the “Off the Radar” section as he had made four cuts in a row and racked up T25 at Honda his last time out. He also won here in 2008 when he posted the highest winning score at four-under 280. He had a great chance to win but his putt on the second playoff hole caught the lip and spun out. Like Spieth, O’Hair also won for the first time at the JDC but he was 23, not 20 like Spieth. His second win was three seasons later at Valspar. Spieth’s second win was two seasons later at Valspar. Weird. O’Hair led the field in birdies with 21 mainly because he was second in SGP and led the field in putts per GIR. He’s long and he’s a very good putter so that’s hardly a surprise. He’s 19th on TOUR in putting percentage to his game was not “flukey” this week. After a miserable T69-T41-MC to start 2015, his second round 72 this week was his worst round in his last three tournaments. He put four rounds of 70 or better for T29 at Pebble Beach. He was T25 last week at Honda with nothing worse than 71. That’s five cuts in a row and his best finish in three years.
Henrik Stenson: He’s never played the course and it didn’t seem to bother the world’s No. 2 one bit. Bookend 67s squashed 70-71 in the middle and the powerful Swede was first in the clubhouse at nine-under, ultimately one shot short. He led the field in bogeys with five and was second with 54 pars. He was only T37 in fairways but was T8 GIR and fifth in SGP. He simply overpowers courses and “new” tracks with him just don’t matter. He’s that good. He’s played the last two weeks and has finished T4 and fourth.
Ryan Moore: Sunday isn’t fun day for Moore or his owners the last four times out. He began the day five shots back in the final round in Phoenix inside the top 10 and his even-par 71 saw him finish T17. His next event was Riviera where he was one shot of the lead entering the weekend before 72-75 relegated him to T22. Last week at Doral he was fourth, one shot out of second and his final round 76 saw him finish T9. This week, the 54-hole leader didn’t break par again on Sunday as his 72 racked up fifth. There’s plenty of really good here but I think this is where gamers get frustrated or end up not “trusting” Moore as he doesn’t close as many deals as we need. His best finish in his last four at Innisbrook was T44 before this week so those who invested on current form were truly rewarded yet disappointed. I won’t mentioned he bogeyed two of the last three holes to miss the playoff by two shots.
Troy Merritt: His Sunday 66 moved him up 17 spots to solo sixth for his first top 10 since last year’s FESJC (solo second). Entering the week he MC in his last three events and his best finish of the new season was T30 at Sony. His week was buoyed by making a ton of pars (T2) and avoiding bogeys (T2) and that’s not surprising for the player ranked No. 4 SGP on TOUR this season. Hot putters solve many, many problems! He had never made the cut here in two previous events.
Danny Lee: Similar to Merritt, Lee fired 67 on Sunday to move up 16 spots to T7. Lee’s short game saved him as he was T58 in GIR on the week. Last time we saw Lee was T3 at Mayakoba to wrap up the 2014 part of the new season. That momentum went right out the window in 2015 as he’s teed it up seven times before this week and MC four times. His three other finishes were T69-T32-T64 so to say I was surprised to see him in the top 10 this week would be accurate. Last year was his first time at Innisbrook and he shot 68-79 MC.
Jason Kokrak: As I’m learning this week, guys who had no business contending did a great job of mucking up the top 10. After opening 2015 with T17 at Sony, Kokrak made three of the next five weekends he played but had nothing better than T40 to show for his efforts. At least he was T14 last year so he had some success! He’s 31st in the all-around ranking but as Merritt and Lee showed us, one good round can’t defy fantasy strategy moving forward. Kokrak should have been on the radar for salary gamers because he had an excellent winter/spring in 2014 before hernia surgery slowed his summer. Weekly investors, keep in mind he was fourth at API last year and T12 at Harbor Towne.
Luke Guthrie: He made seven of 10 cuts before this week but had only one result, T39, better than T59. Talent? Sure. More proof of how hard it is to play on this circuit. Keep an eye on him as he’s just 25.
Harris English: If English winning the 2011 Southern Amateur on this track or the pattern of top 10-meh-meh-top 10…caught the eye, his 65 on Sunday, the co-low round of the week was sweet music. That round moved him a whopping 43 spots to T10 after 69-72-74 had him heading in the wrong direction. If anything, this week was great for gamers because ONE round could turn the week around and English was proof of this. After T30 at Riviera and MC at Honda, I understand why he might not have been on the radar this week.
Kevin Na: His 66 only moved him up 34 spots. He gets a pass because he was second here last year and this is his third top 10 in his last six tries. Last year he made three bogeys for the WEEK but his bogey-free 66 on Sunday erased the 12 he made in the first 54 holes. His T9 last week on a hard track was backed up by T10 this week on another difficult layout.
Charles Howell III: Paying loyalists back with his second top 10 in his last four events and played the weekend for the seventh straight event. For the second year in a row at Valspar he shot 68 on Sunday to make a big move up the leaderboard. His T10 this year topped his T14 in 2014. Gamers love him because there is little risk and he plays a ton.
Justin Thomas: This was his third top 10 in his first seven events in 2015. Add his T17 in Phoenix and that’s pretty good SEASON for most guys. He’s not most guys. Don’t let him fly under the radar but remember, he’s just 21 so there will be great days and learning days. Since he has his card all but wrapped up for next year, he should be able to let it rip as the year continues. Again, he’s seeing these courses for the first time…
Brian Davis: He’s now played 11 years in a row in this event. His previous best before T10 this week was T28. He entered the week on T59-WD-MC-MC-75 so it makes sense he finished in the top 10. Imagine if he wouldn’t have posted 76 on Friday! He ranked No. 198 GIR entering the week and finished the tournament T5. #Pyrite
Vijay Singh: In three of his last four he’s posted T10-MC-T12-T34 so his game is heading in the proper direction. He had never finished better than T38 here since the move to winter.
Daniel Summerhays: Our 16th and final T10 contestant. Whew. Not a surprise here as he’s trending and we all love trends. He entered the week T17-T30-T45 in his last three and now he adds T10 to that. The only disappointing part of the T10 was his 71 on Sunday that stalled him from moving up the board.
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Jim Furyk: This was his first finish outside of T23 (T40) since Colonial last year. He had never finished worse than T20 in the last five years here.
Henrik Stenson: Solo fourth, see above.
Adam Scott: He only had made 45 cuts in a row before bowing out 71-75. This was the ONLY move in Yahoo! I made that was positive this week. Sigh.
Jordan Spieth: Win, see above.
Kevin Na: T10, see above.
Luke Donald: Even par entering the final round Donald was right in his favorite position of back-dooring a top 10 with a low one. His 74 shot him in the complete opposite direction, T53, and breaks his streak of T6 or better in four starts. It breaks my will to believe he’s figured it out.
Matt Kuchar: I left Kuchar out this week and heard the “told you so” until his double bogey on Sunday. Kuchar had never finished better than T10 here and his 75 on Sunday dropped him 28 spots to T33 so that amazing streak continues. At least those of you who played him the first three days got something out of the deal!
Jason Dufner: Nothing better than 70 and nothing worse than 71 for T24. Like many before him, he closed with 31 but his 39 on the front ended any hope for gamers. Gamers, please be aware that he was T24 on the back of a HOT PUTTER (seventh, SGP) and was T61 in fairways and T58 GIR. That’s not the formula!
Justin Rose: MC 74-72. The contrarian angle failed miserably this week and I’m putting Rose on the shelf until I see some positive signs of life.
Brendon Todd: He put three of four rounds under par but his 73 on Saturday wiped out his 69 on Sunday. Steady as he goes and that’s good news for all investors.
Joost Luiten: Honeymoon is over.
Patrick Reed: P2, see above.
Daniel Berger: MC by a shot. Wrong 21-year old this week!
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.