Jordan Spieth’s 20th birthday is still more than a week away, but he got one gigantic present a little bit early.
In incredibly dramatic fashion, Spieth won the John Deere Classic on Sunday in Silvis, Ill. In the process, he became the youngest player to win a PGA Tour event since 1931, became a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour with a two-year exemption, and earned $828,000 in prize money. The win also qualified Spieth for this week’s British Open, the PGA Championship, and next year’s Masters. Additionally, he is eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs and is 11th in the current standings.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Spieth said after the victory. “I’m not sure it will until maybe I wake up on the plane in a little while.”
Spieth started his magical run by burying a miraculous 44-foot bunker shot on the final hole of regulation to put him in a three-way tie with defending tournament champion Zach Johnson and David Hearn. The shot bounced, hit the pin, and dropped in the hole. It then took surviving a couple of close calls where Hearn and Johnson both could have won the tournament by making putts before Spieth finally finished things off on the fifth sudden-death playoff hole with a tap-in putt. Spieth was six shots off the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I’ve never had a putt to win a [pro] tournament before,” Spieth said. “Even the two-footer to tap in, I didn’t know if I’d get my putter to the ball. So I looked at the hole, looked at the front of the cup, decided to let my hands do it, and watched it go in.”
Spieth has been massively successful at every level of golf. He won two United States Junior Amateur titles, three Class 5A state championships at Jesuit, and an NCAA championship at Texas. After playing in the Byron Nelson Classic twice while he was still in high school, Spieth turned pro in December. He finished tied for second place at the Puerto Rico Open in his second tourney as a special provisional member of the PGA Tour. He now has six top-10 finishes and is 17th on the money list this year with $2,034,178.50.
“I just battled and grinded,” Spieth said. “We were on the back nine still four or five back. But the leaders weren’t going to 21- or 22-under, which we thought they were going to. I just told [caddie] Michael [Greller], ‘Hey, let’s try to get some birdies, have a good top-10, and go home and take some time off. I got a couple of close ones for birdie on 13 and 14. I bogeyed 15, but birdied the last three. That shot on 18 was the luckiest shot I ever hit in my life.”
All three golfers shot par on the first four playoff holes. Spieth emerged after a fantastic second shot on the fifth playoff hole. He ended up needing only to two-putt to seal the victory and finish 19-under-par for the tourney.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve all those breaks,” Spieth said. “I said my prayers, but it worked. Right now. I’m extremely pleased and a little worried about only having short sleeves going to Scotland.”
Cover photo: Jordan Spieth tees off on hole four at the HP Byron Nelson on opening day. Spieth finished five over par for the tournament. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)