ATLANTA (AP) — Jordan Spieth didn’t need the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup or an extra $10 million to prove anything.
He just played that way.
No matter what happened Sunday at East Lake, his highlight was always going to be the green jacket he won at the Masters with a record-tying score. The U.S. Open title he won at Chambers Bay only made it better. His bid for the Grand Slam, his run through the majors and his awards made this a season to remember.
And then the 22-year-old Texan put on a finishing touch that made it all the more sweeter — and richer.
“Incredible,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69 for a four-shot victory in the Tour Championship.
This is the kid Ben Crenshaw met as a teenager and said later, upon looking in his eyes, that he thought he was looking at Wyatt Earp. Imagine how Henrik Stenson felt when Spieth dropped in one big putt after another. In the end, the hard-luck Swede could only smile.
“Eleven was the dagger,” Spieth said.
That was the par-3 11th, the biggest turning point in the final round. Spieth had a two-shot lead and hit a 5-iron heavy. “Just get to the green,” he moaned, and when he got there it wasn’t hard to size up the score. He was 45 feet away. Stenson was looking at just over a 3-footer.
And yet, Spieth rolled in the long putt for birdie to keep his two-shot lead. Stenson made bogey on the next hole, Spieth rolled in par putts of 8 feet on the 15th and 16th, and when his drive down the 17th fairway — a bunker right, the lake on the left — hit the fairway, Stenson said he “knew it was over.”
“Whenever he had to make a putt, he did it,” said Stenson, a runner-up for the third time in the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. “Very well-deserving champion. He’s hard to beat on the greens, we know that. And (I) just couldn’t keep pace with him.”
Those are the details of a day that capped off a great season.
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Spieth this year won $1 million for every year he has been alive — $22 million.
His victory was worth $1,485,000 at the Tour Championship, pushing his season total to a record $12,030,465. Add to that his $10 million bonus, and he went just over $22 million. The previous record for the money title belonged to Vijay Singh, who earned $10.9 million in 2004. The previous record for prize money and the bonus belonged to Tiger Woods in 2007 when he brought in $20,867,052.
The big difference: Woods won the first year of the FedEx Cup in 2007, when the money was deferred. Spieth took home $9 million of the bonus in cash.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: If there even was a debate for PGA Tour player of the year, there isn’t now. The ballots went out to players on Sunday night, and Spieth figures to be a runaway winner. He had five wins, tied with Jason Day. He won the Masters and the U.S. Open while Day won only the PGA Championship. Spieth tied for fourth at the British Open and was runner-up at the PGA Championship, joining Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to fare no worse than fourth in the professional majors.
Spieth also won the money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.
MAJOR PREPARATION: Spieth looked at the Tour Championship as if it were a major championship. When the FedEx Cup playoffs began, his goal was to make sure his game peaked for the Tour Championship, the most important of the four events because the $10 million was at stake. He showed up Monday morning and was the first player on the practice range at East Lake. He brought his coach, Cameron McCormick, in from Dallas. And then on Sunday, he showed up three hours ahead of time.
“Early grind,” caddie Michael Greller said. “We only do this at the majors.”
The first group had not even teed off, and those early starters were on one side of the green as they stroked putts and shared laughs. Spieth, wearing tennis shoes, was on the other side of the green, and he was all business.
MILLION DOLLAR PUTT: Spieth wasn’t the only player who made a putt worth a lot of money.
Stenson’s runner-up finish moved him from No. 4 to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup, which comes with a $3 million bonus. It almost all fell apart on 17, when he shanked his shot over the gallery and into the muddy rough. He three-putted for a double bogey, and that moved him down a notch in the FedEx Cup.
No big deal? Well, second place in the standings pays $3 million. The next place pays $2 million.
Not to worry. Stenson made a 60-foot birdie putt on the 18th green for a 72 to tie for second, go back to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup and leave with an extra $1 million. Considering that Spieth left him little chance on this day, that wasn’t a bad consolation.