By Ron Patey
Jordan Spieth kept the faith, then left the field in his shadow. On Sunday he shifted into cruise control to win the Tour Championship, the FedExCup and the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
On a day when the Pope thrilled throngs and the Earth blotted out a super moon during a total lunar eclipse, Spieth’s deep belief in his early-season game plan paid off. Created with the help of his coach Cameron McCormick and caddy Michael Greller, it had led to wins at the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open. But the 22-year-old Texan, who became the youngest player ever to win the FedExCup, had been in a bit of a dip during the playoffs. Despite missing cuts in The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship, he and his team dug deep during practice sessions the week before the BMW Championship, placing T13 in that event and regaining some momentum heading into East Lake.
Three superb rounds of 68, 66 and 68 on the 7,300-plus yard, par-70 Atlanta-area track gave Spieth a one-shot edge on Sweden’s Henrik Stenson as they arrived at the first tee for the final round. The lead had extended to two shots by No. 17, but Spieth wasn’t quite home and dry. Stenson then shanked his approach and missed a bogey putt to make it unofficially official: Spieth would be taking home two trophies. The win adds the $10 million in FedExCup bonus cash to Spieth’s $12 million-plus 2015 total. His breakout season set a new PGA Tour record.
Although Stenson blinked at 17, he bounced back mightily by making a massive 57-foot putt for birdie at the final hole to finish the Tour Championship T2 withNew Zealand’s Danny Lee and England’s Justin Rose. The putt put an extra $1.3 million in Stenson’s savings account and boosted the 2013 FedExCup champion into second place in this year’s final standings.
Jason Day of Australia, who finished third, entered the Tour Championship as the No. 1 FedExCup points player thanks to an amazing and dominating run. Down the stretch, Day posted four victories over the course of six events. At East Lake, however, the Aussie played merely decently, ending up T10. He just couldn’t muster the pinpoint firepower he’d unleashed in triumphs at the BMW Championship, The Barclays, the PGA Championship and the RBC Canadian Open to grind his way closer to Spieth. While his five wins on the season tie Day with Spieth for most on the PGA Tour in 2015, Spieth’s two major victories and outstanding efforts in the Open Championship at St. Andrews (T4) and PGA Championship at Whistling Straits (solo second to Day) are going to land the Dallas, Texas native the Player of the Year honor.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson filled out the FedExCup’s top five. Fowler, coming off stellar performances winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and closing T4 at the BMW Championship, scuffled with a 74 on Sunday to slide from third into fourth. Watson held firm in fifth after carding a steady 4-under 276 total at East Lake.
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.