SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jordan Spieth tapped in for par to win the British Open for his third major and 11th victory in just five years on the PGA Tour. He never imagined he would go 1,351 days before he felt that way again.
He went 82 events on tour without winning. Once the No. 1 player, he was headed out of the top 100 in the world.
And now he’s back.
Spieth ended a mystifying slump Sunday by giving himself birdie chances and making most of them, closing with a 6-under 66 to hold off Charley Hoffman for a two-shot victory in the Valero Texas Open.
“There’s peaks and valleys in this sport, but I never expected to go this long,” Spieth said. “Back then, in between wins, maybe I took things more for granted than I should have. It’s very difficult to win out here and I’ll certainly enjoy this one as much as I have any other.”
The only surprise was that he figured he would be more emotional. He was too busy holding off a spirited run by Hoffman, who went from a three-shot deficit with six holes to play to one shot behind. Spieth all but sealed it with a wedge to a back pin to 5 feet for birdie.
“This is a monumental win for me,” Spieth said. “It’s been a long road. There were a lot of times that I didn’t know I would be here.”
Now he heads to Augusta National as one of the favorites at the Masters. Even going so long without winning, the 12th win of his career allowed him to join some elite company. In the past 40 years, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas has won at least 12 times before turning 28.
The 27-year-old from Dallas showed signs of turning it around after starting the year by missing the cut at Torrey Pines. He was tied for the 54-hole lead in Phoenix. He led by two going into the final round at Pebble Beach. He was two behind going into the last day at Bay Hill. He reached the weekend of the Dell Match Play.
“I’ve had a chance on Sundays three or four different times in the last two months, and today was by far the best that I played,” Spieth said. “Just to see those putts go in, I felt like I was doing everything right those other Sundays and I hit good putts and they wouldn’t go in. Today I hit a couple that I didn’t quite strike very well but they went in.”
Tied for the lead with Matt Wallace going into Sunday at the TPC San Antonio, Spieth moved out in front and didn’t let anyone catch him. He built a three-shot lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, when Hoffman made him sweat.
Hoffman chipped in for birdie on the par-3 13th and holed a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 16th to get within one shot. But he found a bunker off the tee on the short par-4 17th and had to settle for par as Spieth moved two shots ahead, and they both made par on the closing hole.
“I’ve lost golf tournaments, I’ve won golf tournaments, but today Jordan won the golf tournament,” Hoffman said. “Obviously I put some pressure on. Obviously I would have liked to have hit some better shots coming down the stretch, but gave myself an opportunity coming down the 18th fairway and that’s all you can ask for. Hats off to Jordan.”
Spieth, who finished at 18-under 270, moved to No. 38 in the world. He is back in the top 50 for the first time in more than a year.
Wallace couldn’t keep up and closed with a 70 to finish alone in third. Lucas Glover (66) finished in fourth, while Anirban Lahiri birdied the last hole for a 69 to finish alone in fifth.
Spieth typically is a favorite at the Masters, where he was runner-up in his debut in 2014, won wire-to-wire the next year and was runner-up again after losing a back-nine lead in 2016.
He once said he never really thought about much why he played well and won, he just did. Now after so much inspection of a game that got away from him, and the work it required to get back, he appears headed in the right direction.
“There’s some key moments here and there, different time periods where I felt like things were turning around,” he said. “There’s also moments I look back on where I hit balls till my hands bled and I wasn’t doing the right thing and I just went home thought about it. Lost sleep. This sport can take you a lot of different directions.”
On this day, it took him to a trophy ceremony that came with a pair of cowboy boots.
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