ATLANTA (AP) — At age 22, Jordan Spieth became the first $22 million man in golf Sunday.
Spieth capped off a dream season when he poured in putts from all over East Lake and closed with a 1-under 69 for a four-shot victory in the Tour Championship. That was all he needed to become the youngest player to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.
His fifth victory of the year, including two majors, was worth $1,485,000 and allowed the Texan to set a PGA Tour record with $12,030,465. And if that wasn’t enough, Spieth went back to No. 1 in the world.
His battle with Henrik Stenson long over, Spieth finished it off in fitting fashion. He made an 8-foot par putt that was never going anywhere but right in the heart.
“This is one I cannot wait to celebrate,” Spieth said.
The first person to greet him was his little sister, Ellie, who keeps him so grounded. His parents, girlfriend, grandfather and high school friends from Dallas were at East Lake to watch another amazing performance in a year filled with them.
Stenson couldn’t do much about it.
On two holes around the turn with the Swede in tight for a certain birdie, Spieth matched him with a 20-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth and a 45-foot birdie on the par-3 11th. At that point, Stenson just stared at Spieth with a wry smile and patted him on the back.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for him,” Stenson said after a 72 to tie for second. “I watched it firsthand at the first two rounds at Augusta, and he played phenomenal and putted phenomenal. And it was the same putting display, really, today – just an exhibition on the greens, to be honest.
“His putting and mental focus is the best in the world. It’s hard to argue that.”
And there’s no longer an argument for PGA Tour player of the year.
Jason Day had five victories, including his first major at the PGA Championship, and there was talk a sixth win and the FedEx Cup might put the Australian in the discussion. Not anymore. Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open, missed a playoff by one shot at the British Open in his spirited run for the Grand Slam and was runner-up at the PGA.
Along with winning the money list, Spieth won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Stenson made a $1 million putt of his own, though it was the least he could do. He was three shots behind when he shanked his shot from the 17th fairway and made double bogey. That dropped him into a four-way tie for fourth and moved him to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. But he bounced back with a 60-foot birdie putt on the last hole to tie for second and finish No. 2 in the FedEx Cup for a $3 million bonus (instead of $2 million).
Danny Lee (65) and Justin Rose (66) joined Stenson in second place. For Stenson, it was his third runner-up finish in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and his fifth runner-up finish this year without a victory. He still has more events left on the European Tour.
But this week – and year – was all about Spieth.
Even when he missed the cut in the opening two playoff events, Spieth knew he could atone for it all by winning the Tour Championship. He showed up Monday morning to get to work on the range, and Sunday morning was even more impressive. Spieth arrived three hours before his tee time, dressed in tennis shoes as he went to the practice green.
“Early grind,” caddie Michael Greller said.
They only do that at the majors, and Spieth approached the Tour Championship that way. Ultimately, that’s what finished off his big year.
“This is incredible,” Spieth said. “This is an event where we approached it like a major championship. I didn’t have a great playoff, but I put a lot into this week. Mentally, I stayed in it. And boy, that putter sure paid off.”
Spieth had made only two bogeys in 58 holes at East Lake until he made two in a row at Nos. 5 and 6 to fall into a share of the lead with Stenson. He three-putted the sixth by hitting his first putt 6 feet by the hole, and he left a long birdie putt on the next hole well short.
“C’mon, buddy, get your speed right,” Spieth said as he walked off the green.
It was a gentle scolding at just the right time.
Spieth seized control with an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 8, a two-shot swing when Stenson took bogey from the trees and the bunker. The next half-hour was like a highlight reel from Spieth’s year on the greens, especially the long birdie putt on the 11th.
“You’re feeling like you got a good chance to make up some ground,” Stenson said. “But he just poured that one in the middle. It’s fun to watch and just say, `Well done.'”
There really wasn’t much else to say.