Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - For over a year now, Jordan Spieth had to wonder when he would win again. He came close a few times, but his second professional victory had eluded him.
Sixteen months ago, Spieth became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1931. He finally grabbed his second victory on Sunday when he pulled away from the field to win the Australian Open.
Spieth had to endure some heartache between victories. He posted four runner- up finishes, including a playoff loss at the 2013 Wyndham Championship. He also shared second place at the Masters earlier this year.
After a solid season in which he finished 11th on the PGA Tour money list, Spieth took some time off before heading overseas.
The 21-year-old shared 35th place at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he failed to break 70 in any of the four rounds. Last week, he finished one stroke out of a playoff at the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.
Spieth then headed to Australia for his first Australian Open start. He entered the final round tied for the lead with a pair of Australians, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers.
As the wind continued to howl, as it did all week, the Texas native beared down and torched the field. Spieth pulled away with four birdies in a 5-hole span from the third.
That burst moved him to 9-under par, where he was three clear of the field. He ran off six pars in a row before catching fire down the stretch.
Spieth converted birdie chances on four of the last five holes en route to winning by six strokes.
It wasn't either of his birdie runs that impressed Spieth though.
"Really, I would say the reason I won (Sunday) was eight through 11, digging in and playing those even-par," admitted Spieth.
His late birdies gave Spieth the course record at the Australian Golf Club. And if he didn't put together that late burst, things could have gotten interesting as Rod Pampling birdied five of the last six to take second place.
As solid as Spieth has been in his short time on tour, not many of his numbers jump off the page at you. He posted eight top-10 finishes in 27 starts in 2014, was 13th in scrambling and 14th in scoring average, but just 146th in total driving (distance and accuracy combined).
Spieth is a younger version of Steve Stricker, which isn't a bad thing at all. Spieth rarely misses the cut -- he's played the weekend in 42 of 50 starts over the last two years -- and contends frequently as he has 17 top-10 finishes in those 50 events.
What Spieth is doing is referred to as learning to win. Unless you're Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy, victories are hard to come by.
McIlroy was impressed with Spieth's closing 63 as he tweeted, "You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn't sniff 63 ... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!"
Even at 21, Spieth has the respect of this fellow competitors. That may not help him win tournaments, but it shows he plays the game the right way.
WOODS BACK IN ACTION
Tiger Woods returns to the course this week as he hosts his own Hero World Challenge, and it will be interesting to see how he plays.
The first question is, what will his swing look like? Will it be similar to any of his old swings?
Will he be able to make it through four rounds without re-injuring his back is another lingering question.
While those are pertinent questions, and there are plenty of others, he'll have a strong field at Isleworth. The 18 players competing this week are all ranked in the top 40 in the world, including seven of the top 11 and 15 of the top 25.
There are world ranking points available, but only the semi-retired Steve Stricker needs to concern himself with that. Stricker could slide outside the top 50 in the world by seasons end, which could cost him a spot in the Masters and other majors next year.
As for Woods, this will be his first tournament action since missing the cut at the PGA Championship. There have been reports of him hitting shots and playing practice rounds, but none of that compares to tournament action.
There were similar reports in July before he returned at the Quicken Loans National, which he also hosts, but he missed the cut by four strokes. Woods won't have to worry about the cut this week as there isn't one with just 18 players competing.
As interesting as Woods' performance will be this week, it will be equally as interesting to see when he plays again. The Farmers Insurance Open is likely to be his next PGA Tour start, and that is two months from now.
If that is his next event, Woods will have played one event in nearly six months. That is plenty of time to get healthy and work out the kinks in his swing.
- The European Tour also has a small field event this week with 30 players competing at the Nedbank Challenge. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer headlines a field in which 25 of the 30 players are ranked between 12th and 86th in the world rankings.
- Australians Rod Pampling, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers may have fallen short at the Australian Open, but they did earn invites to the Open Championship as the top three finishers who were not otherwise exempt for the year's third major at St. Andrews.