Jordan Spieth, whose more than three-year odyssey from the top of the sport to its outskirts was one of his great wonders and concerns, capped the comeback that dominated golf in 2021 with a victory at the Valero Texas Open.
It’s been a long time, said Spieth. It has been since July 2017. There are peaks and valleys in this sport. I didn’t expect to go that long. Back then, between wins, I sort of took a lot more for granted than I should have, said Spieth. It is very difficult to win here and I will certainly enjoy this one as much as I do.
It wasn’t a surprise; victory had been on display for weeks now. There were near misses at TPC Scottsdale and Pebble Beach and Bay Hill, strong performances at Riviera and Austin CC. This victory seemed to be a question of if, not when. But even if it did come out of the dark, the beauty of this game is that the ending is never predetermined. As Spieth’s past has proven, the present is no guarantee of the future.
A feeling too obvious at the start of the final round. Sharing the 54-hole lead with Matt Wallace, Spieth looked a lot like the guy who had worked mightily on Sunday (146th in round four) by missing his first three fairways of the day. Still, his approach game kept him afloat as he settled himself off the tee, with his putter the tool that was once a friend and now occasionally cleared a 10-foot grip for birdies. He circled in 33, and the Texan crowd was ready for the victory parade.
Just to see those putts come in, I felt like I was doing everything right those other Sundays and I hit some good putts and they wouldn’t go in, Spieth said. Today I hit a couple that I didn’t hit very well, but they got in. It’s a fun game. This shows that as long as you get into this position enough times, the bounces go your way.
Only Charley Hoffman had no intention of letting such a march happen. Hoffman, who was making a living at the event (more on him in a second), also made the turn in 33, and a chip-in birdie in the 13th reduced Spieth’s advantage to two. After trading birdies at the 14th par-5, Hoffman cut the lead to one with another birdie, this one at the 16th par-3.
But Hoffman pulverized his training in a 17th bunker, and while his approach was true, his bird try was not. Spieth responded, his second from 75 yards ending five feet from the hole. Five feet that were converted to birdie to reduce the lead to two. With Spieth finding the fairway in the 18th, the tournament seemed like an end.
I laugh. That’s what Jordan Spieth was talking about. Anyone who thought they had landed this plane without skidding off the runway and deploying an emergency parachute didn’t pay attention, which is why their lay-up got caught on the far left and near a board of edge. Somewhere, the television executives exchanged high-fives. But Spieth decided it was pretty dramatic, with his third safely finding the edge of the green. With Hoffman unable to apply pressure on another failed tee shot, Spieth’s conservative delay ended the trip.
Where Spieth has been going this week at Augusta National, a course that was his playground is now golf’s preeminent scenario. And watching him at the Masters and getting into the career Grand Slam at Kiawah and trying to do the things that were on his all-time path will be fun. But Sunday was a day to cherish the day, and all the days before it. Someday a thought might never come.
There are also times when I think back to where I hit balls until my hands were bleeding and I wasn’t doing the right thing and I just got home [and] thought about that; sleep, sleep lost, said Spieth. This sport can take you in many different directions. So I think it’s just the most important to embrace when I’m having times like this and just really enjoying them and keeping my head down, keeping the process that I’m doing.
This in itself is a miracle to be celebrated. Three more takeaways from the final round of the Valero Texas Open.
Hoffman continues to cash checks
Spieth won the day, but sees Sunday’s performance as an official petition to change the Texas Open to the Charley Hoffman Invitational. Or at least put a Hoffman ATM on the first tee.
In 14 career starts at the event, Hoffman has never missed the cup while racking up over $ 3.7 million in the event. Although he failed to win the trophy, he added to those numbers with a salary of $ 839,300 for finishing second thanks to a final round of 66. Not that Hoffman was too ecstatic about it.
Obviously you come to every event trying to win, but second place isn’t that bad, Hoffman said. Obviously I want to come back to the Masters, I want to come back to Kapalua. I play to win, not to finish second. But obviously I had a chance I gave my best and just fell slightly short.
To be fair, although he stumbled somewhat on the last two holes, it was a tournament Spieth won, not one given by Hoffman. Jordan played great and amazing golf, Hoffman said. Free bogey on this rear nine is something special. And while Hoffman is the epitome of a course horse at this tournament, it marked his third top 10 in his last six starts.
As he mentioned, Hoffman needed the W to win Augusta’s invitation. But the 44-year-old, after a few lean years, is enjoying a rejuvenation at the end of his career. There is no doubt that Hell will be a favorite once this tournament returns next year. Expect to hear his name again long before that.
Kuchar gains momentum in Masters
Two weeks ago it was just wondering where Matt Kuchar was heading. After finishing 16th or better in nine of the last 11 FedEx Cups, Kuchar entered the WGC-Dell Match Play 183rd in the standings missing the cup in five of 11 starts with his best result a T-34. He was struggling in almost every facet of the game181st in SG / off-the-tee, 120th on approach, 124th in SG / putter and being 43 this summer, the question was asked whether Kuchar was running out of gas. .
Two weeks later, the man entered the Masters with a Big Mo shotgun. Kuchar proved his run in Austin (eventually finishing with a T-3 in Match Play) was not an aberration, after four solid rounds at TPC San Antonio to record a T-12 at the Texas Open.
A little background is needed. Like Match Play, Kuchar has a solid track record in the Texas Open. He never really fought and failed to break 70 every four rounds. Conversely, Kuchar was arguably the weakest player (by his current form) in the world top 60; Before Match Play, his last top 10 was at Riviera in 2020.
Now he’s riding Augusta with his trending game and his conviction intact. Like the previous two tournaments, Kuchar has enjoyed Masters success with four top-10 and eight top-25 in 14 career starts. As we saw at Augusta National, two of the key ingredients are experience and momentum. After a vague forecast just two weeks ago, the horizon looks bright and possibly green for Kuchar next week.
Fowlers’ major series comes to an end
He gave a run. But it’s a failed race.
Rickie Fowler needed a win in San Antonio to qualify for the Masters and keep his streak of 42 consecutive major appearances alive. An opening round 76 put the kibosh on those aspirations. The former players’ champion fought to make it through the weekend and made it through a Friday 68, and followed that performance with a 69 and a 70 in the final two rounds. Yet for the first time since the 2010 US Open, Fowler will be watching one of the big four at home.
For Fowler fans seeking solace, this week has been littered with signs of hope. Entering the Texas Open 178th in SG / approach and 176th in SG / putting, Fowler made progress in both categories (30th in approach, 39th in putting). Although Bogey’s avoidance remains an issue (196th on tour), Fowler had a birdie-to-bogey ratio of 14-5 over the last three laps. And his T-17 is his first arrival in the top 20 this season.
A player of his skills has higher ambitions. But when you’re in a struggle like Fowler, every little step forward can feel like a leap. For the first time in ages, Fowler is heading in the right direction, even though that direction is not Georgia.
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