Jordan Spieth had converted 5 of 10 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour into victories, but the one fresh in everyone’s minds was his collapse at Augusta National in early April.
The golf world had the same question after Spieth dumped two in the water on No. 12 at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon to lose his stranglehold on a second consecutive green jacket.
“How would he come back from that?”
Spieth took a month off following the Masters to get away from it all, with our only view into the life of the most famous 22-year-old golfer in the world being Snapchat videos of his week with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Smylie Kaufman for some stress-free golf and fun in the Bahamas.
When he came back to the PGA Tour, he was battling a two-way miss and missed the cut at The Players Championship before he failed to mount a charge in the final group at the AT&T Byron Nelson. The chatter became louder; many wondered if Spieth was still mentally in a funk following his biggest failure in golf, at any level.
On Sunday at Colonial Country Club, Spieth put that question to rest with a magnificent back-nine performance to post a 65 on Sunday and win the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.
Spieth went out in even-par 35, parring every hole on the front nine and trailed by two strokes, but his round turned on one of those pars. After pulling his tee shot left on the par-3 eighth hole, Spieth stubbed his chip shot and left a long par putt. It was the kind of putt we became accustomed to seeing him hole last year, but had been sliding by the cup in 2016.
On Sunday, it went in and elicited a fist pump from Spieth and an eruption from the crowd. At that moment, you could feel it. was back.
On the back nine, Spieth put the pedal down and opened with birdies on 10, 11 and 12 before a bogey on 13 dropped him back to 14 under and into a tie with Harris English. The Georgia native hung around and was giving Spieth a push, but Spieth slammed the door shut with an unreal birdie-birdie-birdie run on the final three holes of the day, capped off by a long birdie putt on the 18th to give him the title in emphatic fashion.
It was the kind of closing effort we had come to expect from Spieth in the first half of 2015. While on the card they all read “3,” he made birdies in every way imaginable in those closing three holes.
On No. 16, it was a perfect 8-iron to leave a 20-footer up the hill that he coasted in at perfect speed. On No. 17, it was a miss right off the tee that put him in a juicy lie in the rough that caused his approach to go over the green, short-siding him with the back-hole location. A par from that position would’ve been an excellent score. He chipped in for birdie to give himself a two-shot cushion over English — who was watching in the fairway on 18 — stunning the crowd, his competitors and even himself.
And finally, on No. 18, he buried a 34-foot putt for birdie when all he needed to win was a three-putt bogey.
Just for good measure …
Jordan Spieth wins in Texas!#QuickHitshttps://t.co/KCfmyNy5Ci
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 29, 2016
With that putt, this wasn’t merely a victory: it was an emphatic statement. He is back.
After holing the final putt, a relieved Spieth told Peter Kostis how critical this win was for him.
“As much as you play it off, that’s a tough hump to get over,” Spieth said. “Coming back from Augusta and to do it in our third tournament back. Michael [Greller] was fantastic this whole week, kept me so positive, I feel very blessed. And to win in front of our home fans too, what a great week.”
The proverbial monkey was off his back. He earned his first victory since the Masters debacle and his first win in the state of Texas as a professional. He also has one more PGA Tour victory (8) before his 23rd birthday than Tiger Woods. He was back to making history, doing so in impressive fashion and, most important for golf fans, setting up quite the summer.
Spieth’s return to the winner’s circle is the final piece of creating the perfect storm for next week’s Memorial Tournament and the upcoming U.S. Open. The world’s top three players — Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth — have now all won in their most recent starts and all three will be in the field at Jack’s event next week.
Now we can all move on from concerns about Spieth’s mental state, Rory’s winless 2016 and whether Jason Day is going to run away and hide at No. 1. Those questions have been answered and over the next three weeks, we get to simply enjoy golf’s three best players all in peak form go at each other.
I can’t wait.
The Golden Child is back.