Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 04:03 Tuesday, 14 February 2017 01:56
PEBBLE BEACH, California (Doug Ferguson/AP) — Jordan Spieth soaked up every step of scenery on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, one of the prettiest places in golf and even more spectacular on a Sunday when the only work left is to hoist the crystal trophy.
All that was missing from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am were the highlights.
That’s just how Spieth wanted it.
Staked to a six-shot lead, Spieth never gave anyone much of a chance by putting for birdie on all but one hole. The lone highlight was his 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, and by then it was already over.
“Played a lot of boring golf,” Spieth said, “which was exactly what we needed.”
He closed with a 2-under 70 for a four-shot victory over former U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, a close friend from Dallas who couldn’t get a putt to fall that might have put a little pressure on Spieth.
As easy and clinical as Spieth made it look, it was no less special.
“This is a bucket-list place to win — here, Augusta National, St. Andrews, there’s only a few in the world. It feels really special. It was amazing walking up the 18th green knowing that we were going to win. It’s just such a unique position. I tried to soak in.”
It was his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the Masters, where he lost a five-shot lead on the back nine. On this day, Spieth thought back to the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the way Tiger Woods closed out his record 15-shot victory by trying not to drop a shot in the final round. Woods didn’t make a bogey over the final 26 holes in severe conditions. On a course saturated by rain, Spieth played the final 28 holes without a bogey. His longest par putt Sunday was 5 feet.
“That’s a dream round when you’re leading by a bunch,” Spieth said.
The 23-year-old Texan won for the ninth time in his PGA Tour and became the first player since Woods with that many victories before turning 24. Woods won 15 times. Equally impressive is that Spieth won for the fifth time by at least three shots.
“He didn’t have his best stuff, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do and played a great round of golf,” said Brandt Snedeker, a two-time Pebble winner who played in the final group with Spieth and shot 70 to finish fourth. “Sometimes those are the hardest rounds of golf, when you have the lead that he had. It was fun to watch him do his thing out there.”
Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., both shot a final round 71 to finish the tournament at 8-under 279 and tied for 10th. Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch (71) was 33rd while Adam Hadwin (73) of Abbotsford was 39th.
Kraft, who closed with a 67, settled for a couple of consolation prizes. The $777,600 for second place was nearly double his earnings from his rookie season last year. He also earned a spot at Riviera next week in the Genesis Open.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson closed with a 68 to finish alone in third, enough to have a chance to reach No. 1 next week if he were to win.
Spieth’s only other birdie was on the par-5 second when he two-putted from 12 feet.
One day after he took only 23 putts on the bumpy greens of Pebble Beach, he didn’t make hard anything, and didn’t look to be trying to make them from above the hole to avoid putting himself in a position to drop shots.
No one could put any pressure on him over the opening seven holes, which is where rallies begin at Pebble Beach.
If there was a key shot for Spieth, it came on the eighth hole. He tugged his tee shot into the wet rough to the left, facing a 210-yard shot over the ocean and into the breeze to one of the toughest greens at Pebble. It came out perfectly, 20 feet from the cup for another routine par.
“I was very, very excited once that ball landed on the green,” Spieth said. “That was really avoiding a big number there. That could have been a double or triple very, very easily, if that doesn’t come out the right way. So that was the shot of the day for me.”
Spieth became the seventh straight PGA Tour winner in his 20s, and he got back into the hunt for No. 1. He had fallen far enough behind that even by beating a strong field at Pebble Beach, it will not move him from No. 6.
Jason Day, the world No. 1, bounced back from his 75 on Saturday with a 67 to tie for fifth with Gary Woodland (65) and Torrey Pines winner Jon Rahm (68).
Spieth has four top 10s in his four starts this year and already appears to be peaking as the Masters gets closer. He has shot under par in all 16 rounds he has played this year, 17 in a row dating to the Tour Championship last fall.
The only disappointment for Spieth was not winning the pro-am with country singer Jake Owen. They tied for third, four shots behind Ken Duke and Carson Daly.