Jordan Spieth isn’t shy about revealing his goals.
Why would he be? After all he has accomplished in golf at age 21, it should be obvious to all who have watched his meteoric rise.
Spieth wants to be No. 1 in the world and he knows what happens over the next few months, beginning with the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, could be a defining time in his quest. Not that time is an issue, not at his age, but Spieth is a young man who is traveling the fast lane.
By winning the Valspar Championship Sunday in a three-way, sudden-death playoff against Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair, Spieth moved up four places to No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking. In the process, he positioned himself to be a significant factor this year – and beyond – in major championships.
“Right now what I’m really focused on is Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the world,” Spieth said. “That’s who everyone is trying to chase. That’s our ultimate goal is to eventually be the best in the world and this is a great, great stepping stone.
“Going into the four majors of the year to have closed one out in this kind of fashion is going to give me a lot of confidence.”
"Our ultimate goal is to eventually be the best in the world and this is a great, great stepping stone."
In his Masters debut last year, Spieth shared the 54-hole lead with Bubba Watson. Spieth, holding a two-stroke lead at one point, was poised to become the youngest Masters champion, surpassing Tiger Woods. Instead, he became the youngest runner-up in Tournament history as Watson went on to win his second Green Jacket in three years.
Augusta National is golf’s foremost theater for historic achievements and this year’s renewal promises to be the scene of more compelling drama.
McIlroy, 25, will be hoping to achieve golf’s career Grand Slam. He only needs a Green Jacket to complete his quest. Besides, he’s looking for a third consecutive major championship victory after finishing the 2014 calendar year with victories at the British Open and the PGA Championship, a title he already has won twice. He also has a U.S. Open on his resume.
Watson will be bidding for a third Masters triumph. Reed, another rising young American, has the game and the confidence to be a factor. Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Padraig Harrington, all mapping career comebacks, have won in recent weeks.
In the past 12 months, Spieth, who won’t be 22 until July 27, has won the Australian Open, the unofficial Hero World Challenge and now the Valspar Championship. In addition, Spieth qualified to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup, where he made an outstanding contribution despite the American defeat.
Spieth won the 2013 John Deere Classic – also in a playoff – as a teenager two weeks before his 20th birthday to become the youngest winner in 82 years since 19-year-old Ralph Guldahl’s 1931 victory at the Santa Monica Open. With his second victory at Valspar, Spieth became only the fourth player since 1940 to win twice on the PGA Tour before reaching his 22nd birthday.
“It’s great,” said Spieth, who displayed his short game wizardry and shotmaking command at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course. “It's fantastic to look back on that. I think it’s Tiger and Sergio. I don’t know who else.”
Woods, a four-time Masters champion, won six times before turning 22, Sergio Garcia three times and Robert Gamez twice.
“It's really cool to have my name go alongside those,” said Spieth, who shot a final-round 69 for a 10-under 274 total.
In the Valspar playoff, Spieth made a 28-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to close out Reed and O’Hair. In 2013, Reed defeated Spieth in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Last year, Ryder Cup rookies Spieth and Reed partnered successfully for the United States, winning 2½ points in three matches.
Spieth has 21 top 10s in his first 57 professional starts on the PGA Tour for 37 percent, fourth best all-time behind Jack Nicklaus (71 percent), Woods (57 percent) and McIlroy (41 percent). Phil Mickelson and Seve Ballesteros are next at 30 percent, followed by Arnold Palmer at 29 percent. Between them, Palmer (four), Mickelson (3) and Ballesteros (2) have won the Masters nine times.
Three tournaments, beginning with this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, remain before the field for the Masters, April 9-12, is completed. Any winner of a PGA Tour event through the Shell Houston Open, April 2-5, not already in the field will qualify for the Masters.
A player in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking published the week before the Masters – at the conclusion of the Valero Texas Open on March 29 – also will be invited.