If it wasn't clear before that the era of Tiger and Phil being the "rivalry" to watch on the PGA Tour is in the rear-view mirror in terms of relevance, Jordan Spieth's spectacular win at the 2015 Masters officially stamped this year and likely the next several as Jordan vs. Rory as the key rivalry in golf.
Spieth dominated Augusta National by leading wire-to-wire and finishing at 18-under 270 to beat Mickelson and Justin Rose by four shots for Spieth's first but not last major title. In the 78 Masters before 2015, the winning score had only been lower than Mickelson's and Rose's score five times. Rory McIlroy was in fourth at 12 under. Really there was little drama other than the fact Phil played well (he has now finished runner-up at every major at least once) and nearly was in the final grouping with Spieth on Sunday. Also, Tiger Woods showed signs he might yet win another major or two with his T17 finish -- Woods' short game problems were fixed, but he couldn't drive the ball very straight.
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At just 21, Spieth was the first wire-to-wire winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976. Only one other Masters champion -- Craig Wood in 1941 -- had never let anyone closer to him than three shots the entire way. Spieth is the second-youngest champion ever behind Tiger in 1997. He tied the 72-hole scoring mark that Woods set at 18-under 270. Spieth should have broken that, but he missed a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole. Spieth did set the 36-hole record at 14-under 130, the 54-hole record at 16-under 200 and for the most birdies in the Masters with 28. Spieth entered this week 0-for-4 when holding 54-hole leads on the Tour. He joined Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) as the only players to win the Masters in one of his first two starts there. Spieth shot up to No. 2 in the world behind McIlroy, and it's the first time players 25 or younger have held the top two spots. McIlroy played the final 45 holes at 15-under compared to 7-under for Spieth. I can't wait for the U.S. Open.
Spieth is not the tour de force that Woods was at 21. Back then Tiger was just in a different stratosphere in length off the tee. Spieth doesn't do one thing that much better than anyone else, but he seems to have no weaknesses. He's a grinder.
I didn't pick Spieth last week to win but did get him among the Big 4 along with McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Jason Day at +165 against the field. I also hit on Spieth at 4/11 for a Top-20 finish and under 15.5 for a finishing position. I went with Day to win, and he shot an opening 67 but then didn't break 70 again and finished T28. Tiger's strong tournament won me a few props on him. I also got under a finishing position of 13.5 for McIlroy and over 18.5 for Henrik Stenson as well as Mickelson, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia for Top-20 results. Not too bad all in all.
This week the Tour moves up the East Coast a bit and makes its lone stop in South Carolina for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. Obviously the field is much weaker this week, yet Spieth, despite what no doubt has been a whirlwind, sleepless week, is planning to honor his commitment. It's the first time the Masters winner has teed it up here in eight years. A total of 10 of the Top 30 in the world are scheduled to play.
Last year, Matt Kuchar holed a bunker shot on No. 18 Sunday to win by a shot over Luke Donald. Kuchar's 7-under 64 tied for the lowest round of the tournament. Kuchar, who was four shots out of the lead when his round started Sunday, is back to defend. For Donald, it was his third second-place finish and fifth top-three finish in his past six RBC Heritage events.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: RBC Heritage Favorites
Obviously no shock that Spieth is the heavy 11/2 favorite at Bovada, but I don't like him at all because of what I'm sure he went through this week. Physically and emotionally Spieth has to be spent. He received a sponsor's exemption to play Harbour Town as a 19-year-old new professional two years ago and tied for ninth. He tied for 12th last year.
Zach Johnson is next at 14/1. Johnson played well last week at Augusta with a T9 -- his third straight Top 20 in the Tour this year -- and has two career Top-10 finishes at Harbour Town, including a runner-up in 2012.
Ian Poulter (18/1), Jim Furyk, Kuchar and Patrick Reed (20/1) round out the favorites. Poulter has never missed a cut here in four tries but also doesn't have a Top 25. He was T6 last week. Furyk shockingly missed the cut last week. He has six Top 10s here since 2005, including a win in 2010. Kuchar's game is off this season with no Top 10s in his past six starts. Three guys have repeated here. Reed was T22 last week, his fifth straight T25 this year. He was T48 here in 2014.
PGA Tour Picks: RBC Heritage Expert Betting Predictions
I wish there were props to bet against Spieth, but I don't like him for a Top 10 or 20. I will take a Top 10 for Furyk (+165), a Top 20 for Kuchar (-125), a Top 10 for Johnson (+135) and a Top 20 for Reed (-125). Take Ernie Els as the top South African at +500. This is his 16th time playing here and has yet to win. Go Donald as the top European. During the past four years here he has finished second twice and tied for third. In fact, take Donald as the highest-placed finisher at +350 against Reed, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker (all +350 as well).
Head-to-head, go Donald at -115 over Charley Hoffman (-115), Furyk at -110 over Poulter (-120), Billy Horschel (-115) over Russell Henley (-115), Els (-120) over Martin Laird (-110), and Johnson (+125) over Spieth (-165).
I may throw some long-shot money on Donald to win at +3000, but I think Johnson is the guy as this course fits him perfectly.
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