Tue, Mar 17, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Spieth wins Valspar Championship in dramatic playoff

AFP, PALM HARBOR, Florida

Jordan Spieth, right, is presented with the winner’s trophy after his victory in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Golf Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP.

Jordan Spieth sank a dramatic 28-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole on Sunday to win the Valspar Championship and capture his second career USPGA Tour title.

The 21-year-old US golfer rolled a tension-packed putt over a ridge and into the cup at the par-three 17th on Innisbrook Golf Resort’s Copperhead Course to defeat compatriots Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair, and take the US$1.062 million top prize.

“I guess it was just my day,” Spieth said.

Spieth, who shared second at last year’s US Masters, jumped to a career-best sixth in yesterday’s world rankings and will be among the favorites at next month’s Masters, where top-ranked Rory McIlroy will try to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the green jacket for a third consecutive major triumph.

It was the third victory in five months for Spieth, even though his only other USPGA victory came in a playoff at the 2013 John Deere Classic. Spieth took the Australian Open crown in November last year and the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in December last year.

Reed, Spieth and O’Hair each finished 72 holes on 10-under 274, one stroke ahead of Sweden’s third-ranked Henrik Stenson. US player Ryan Moore, the 54-hole leader ahead by three with six holes to play, made bogeys on three of them and finished two shots adrift.

The playoff began at the par-four 18th hole and Spieth missed a 10-foot birdie putt for the victory, while Reed, who made a 31-foot birdie putt on the hole in regulation, needed an eight-foot par save to stay in the playoff.

“I hit a perfect putt; perfect speed just to make the playoff,” Reed said. “It had to be a matter of time before someone was going to make a birdie and I was zero-for-three hitting the greens in the playoff and that’s how it went.”

At the second playoff hole, the par-four 16th, Reed again blasted out of a bunker and saved par, while Spieth missed a 12-foot birdie putt and O’Hair had a 10-foot birdie chance for the win.

O’Hair’s putt lipped out off the right edge and the drama continued.

“I hit the putt I wanted to hit,” O’Hair said. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The playoff then went to the 17th, when Reed again found a bunker, O’Hair missed a long birdie try and Spieth ended matters in fist-pumping fashion.

Spieth’s thoughts drifted back to his two-under 69 round, in which he sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-three 13th, a 32-foot birdie putt at the par-five 14th, rescued par from a greenside bunker at the 16th and pitched to six feet at the 17th after finding deep rough.

“It was a crazy back nine,” Spieth said.

O’Hair sank four birdies in six holes, the last of them a 29-footer at the 16th, to reach the playoff with a round of 67, the same as Stenson and one stroke more than Reed needed in his last round.

Moore made the turn two ahead of Spieth with no other rival inside of four shots, but missed a five-foot par putt at the 10th. He responded with birdies at 11 and 12, matching Reed and O’Hair, but then Moore missed a seven-foot par putt at the 13th and a 15-foot par putt at 16.

Needing a birdie at the 18th to make the playoff, Moore found deep rough and made bogey.

Stenson birdied three holes in a row starting at the par-five 14th and finished with a 67 to stand on 275, but missed a chance to pass reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson for the world No. 2 spot behind McIlroy with a win or solo runner-up effort.

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