Record-tying Masters title by Spieth couldn’t happen to a nicer guy

 

Who says nice guys don’t finish first?

The number of players who kept their private jets waiting to congratulate Jordan Spieth on winning his first Masters is indicative of who he is as a person as much as a golfer.

"He’s way more mature than I was at 21 and a hell of a golfer and a great person as well," Rory McIlroy said.

On Sunday, Spieth wrapped up his magnificent Masters championship with a 2-under 70 to tie the Masters record of 18-under 270, set by Tiger Woods in 1997. No one came closer than three strokes of Spieth on the final day. Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson finished tied for second, four shots back.

Ben Crenshaw, who played his final Masters and has been something of a mentor to his fellow Texan, told Golf Digest that Spieth’s "a really, really fine boy."

"Hard not to pull really hard for him. I am so dang proud of him. What a wonderful boy. I’ve cried a few buckets of tears over here [in Austin, Texas] today."

It’s difficult to decide what is more impressive, Spieth’s character or his golf game.

It seems that his father, Shawn, found the answer.

"I don’t know what could make you more proud," he said, "But God-given gift to be able to play the game like that, we’re just probably more proud of him for the kind of person he is and the way he handles himself and treats everybody.

"He makes us really, really proud."

There are the old-fashioned values: despite having fame and tens of millions of dollars, he doesn’t big-time anyone, is respectful to his elders and still is dating his high school sweetheart.

He’s a genuinely humble kid.

But that doesn’t mean we have to be humble in the way we view his stirring deeds of this week.

Woods shot his record 18-under par to win the 1997 Masters and the world acted as if it were a gift from the gods.

Spieth shot the same score and, just because he doesn’t exude "superstar," doesn’t mean what he did should be sold short.

He might be Clark Kent on the outside but on the inside, be sure, he’s John Wayne. He’s a Texas gunslinger with moxie.

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How many clutch putts did he sink? We lost count.

Not only did he tie Tiger’s scoring record — and show how to handle pressure by being the first wire-to-wire winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976 — but he beat Phil Mickelson’s record for most birdies in a Masters, too. Spieth had an astonishing 28 birdies — three more than Mickelson — which meant that he made birdie on 39 percent of the holes he played.

Though the greens weren’t breathing fire these four days, it’s still a preposterous ratio.

When Spieth stumbled early in his career with a tournament on the line — including here last year — there were whispers that his swing wouldn’t hold up under pressure or that he didn’t have the right constitution for the cauldron that is Sunday afternoon at a major.

He even had his own doubts, though they were erased when he won the Australian Open — only his second professional win — last November. He shot 63 in the final round — in the wind — to beat the top-two ranked players in the world, McIlroy and Adam Scott.

"It was a special week for me and obviously did a lot for my career," he said on Sunday. "Without it, may not be here right now."

He called his only win prior to the Australian Open, the John Deere Classic, "almost a fluke."

"I thinned a bunker shot and went in and just hung around in the playoff," he recalled. "But those, I was able to see putts go in. I knew that I could make them under pressure and I knew the strategy mentally, most importantly, to get the job done."

Since going to Australia he’s gotten the job done quite nicely. Four wins from his last 11 starts and nine top 10s is not too shabby.

And he’s only just getting started.

The sporting world seems to be convinced Spieth’s older than his 21 years.

He’s certainly more responsible, and perhaps part of that is because he has helped look after his 14-year-old sister Ellie, who has mental difficulties and has been diagnosed as being in the autism spectrum. Ellie likes to yell out Jordan’s name and so the family decided she could not come to the Masters.

Being a big brother to Ellie maybe made him grow up fast.

Clearly, she has a great influence on him.

"She’s just going to be happy that I won," he said.

"She was out there in Houston (during the previous week’s tournament), and after each round, she said, ‘Jordan, did you win? Did you win?’

"And I said, ‘Not yet, not yet, no.’" 

"I can tell her I won now."