ORLANDO: While Tiger Woods struggled in his return from a four-month layoff, it was Jordan Spieth whose overpowering Hero World Challenge victory on Sunday (Monday in Manila) revived memories of Woods in his prime.
The 21-year-old American, coming off an Australian Open triumph a week earlier, fired a six-under par 66 to complete a wire-to-wire triumph in the elite 18-player event at Isleworth.
Spieth’s 26-under 262 total and his victory margin of 10 strokes over Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson were both tournament records, his score in relation to par one not even Woods has matched over 72 holes.
“This is the best I’ve ever played, which is what I said in Sydney last week,” Spieth said. “Hopefully I’ll look back and continue to get better.”
Spieth, a runner-up at this year’s Masters who led late before falling to Bubba Watson, is showing form to rival world number one Rory McIlroy, who would complete a career grand slam and win his third consecutive major title by taking the green jacket next April at Augusta National.
“To take it to the next level, to win a major, I’ve got to look to Rory,” Spieth said. “He’s the one we’re all chasing. I did a good job of beginning that chase the past couple weeks.”
Spieth said in Australia he was “far, far away” from the level of McIlroy, this year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner, but he feels he has closed the gap —“now just far away.”
Spieth will be the same age then as Woods was in 1997 when winning his first major at the Masters, but the latest US prodigy played down any notion he might be the “next Tiger,” stressing a first major win and McIlroy’s top ranking are his targets.
“I understand that when I’m out here and I’m one of the young guys, people want to see somebody come up and do what Tiger did and change a generation of golf,” Spieth said.
“That’s not necessarily what I’m out here to do. I’m out here to try and win each tournament I’m in. If you happen to win majors, which is the ultimate goal, then great.
“But right now I look at number one in the world Rory McIlroy, what he did this year, and I’m trying to chase him more than I am anything else.”
Spieth rises to ninth
Spieth will jump to ninth in the world rankings with the victory, a leap of five places in two winning weeks.
“Moving up five spots shows me what it will take to try and move up to that number one spot,” Spieth said.
Spieth achieved his goal of a multi-win season, although leaving it for late and with neither of them in official US PGA events.
“I’m playing a little better than I did at Augusta,” Spieth said. “I’ll have to play at this level or better to win a major.”
Spieth owned a seven-shot lead after 54 holes following a bogey-free 63 on Saturday that was capped with a 60-foot birdie putt.
On Sunday, he opened with a birdie, added back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth and an eagle at the par-5 seventh. Spieth began the back nine with a birdie, then took a double bogey at the 14th before birdies at the par-3 15th and par-5 17th.