AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth’s remarkable victory at the 79th Masters not only confirmed the greatness for which he has long been earmarked but offered a glimpse into the likely pattern at majors for the next decade.
Spieth, aged 21, claimed his first major title on Sunday with a record-equalling display at Augusta National where world number one Rory McIlroy, 25, finished fourth and rising Japanese talent Hideki Matsuyama, 23, placed fifth.
American Rickie Fowler, 26, tied for 12th in the year’s opening major and with Australia’s Jason Day, 27, who faded into a share of 28th place, those five players can be expected to flourish in golf’s big events for the foreseeable future.
“It’s pretty neat to have guys from all around the world,” Day, who has already recorded seven top-10s at the majors, including three runner-up spots, said of the game’s richly talented young guns.
“You’ve got Matsuyama as well who is playing great golf. We’ve got a great group of guys right now who are all from different nations who are playing against each other.”
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy has already set the gold standard with four major victories and he arrived at Augusta National last week in pursuit of a career grand slam of golf’s four blue riband events.
He rebounded from successive 71s with strong play over the weekend to record his best ever finish at the Masters but could only tip his hat at Spieth’s incredible wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s awfully impressive,” McIlroy said of the young American’s record-equalling tally of 18-under 270 at the Masters that matched the total achieved by Tiger Woods in 1997.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a similar position, winning my first major and having a nice comfortable walk up the 18th.”
McIlroy coasted to victory by a staggering eight shots over Day in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional where, aged 22, he became the championship’s youngest winner since 1923.
“Here coming in, being the guy in form as well, having won and a couple of seconds, played great at the end of last year, it’s nice to get your major tally up and running at quite an early stage of your career,” said the Northern Irishman.
“Jordan is 21, and it’s great to see. Great for the game. And I‘m sure he’ll win many more (majors).”
Spieth has been the hottest player in the game over the past six months, recording three wins and two runner-up spots in his last 11 starts worldwide before arriving at Augusta National as second favorite for the coveted green jacket, after McIlroy.
Brilliant putting, ice-cool composure, careful decision making and the occasional dose of good fortune helped him open with a sizzling eight-under 64 and he never relinquished control of the tournament after that.
Spieth had signaled his rich potential by twice winning the U.S. Junior Amateur title and he finished 21st in his maiden appearance at a major, the 2012 U.S. Open, as an amateur.
Shortly after he turned professional at 19, he became the youngest player in 82 years to win a PGA Tour event, at the John Deere Classic, and was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 2013.
He has since gone on to shine for the United States at the 2014 Ryder Cup and recorded further tournament wins at the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge last year, followed by the Valspar Championship last month.
Most pundits view Spieth as the likeliest challenger to McIlroy for golfing supremacy over the next decade, but the American, who is known for his humility, will not yet agree.
”As far as (a rivalry) with Rory, he’s got four majors and numerous wins,“ said the Texan. ”That’s something I can still only dream about.
“He carries that world No. 1 ranking with class. I‘m looking forward to getting in the heat of the moment with him ... in the near future and see if we can battle it out.”
Editing by Frank Pingue