TIME golf

When He Was 14, Jordan Spieth Said He Wanted to Win the Masters

In a 2008 profile of 14-year-old Jordan Spieth, the Texas native talks about winning the Masters. At the time he was a student at Jesuit High School in Dallas.

“My ultimate goal when I came here, (my instructor) asked me and I said, “’I want to win the Masters.’” Spieth said.

This year, in just his second Masters appearance, Spieth is in position to do just that. He’s the 36-hole leader after finishing with a Masters record 14 under after the first two days. You can watch the video below.

This article originally appeared on Golf.com

TIME golf

See Where Masters Champion Jordan Spieth Fits Into Golf History

The average age of Masters winners is a steady 32

21-year-old Jordan Spieth drove himself into golf history Sunday, winning the Masters with a final score of 18 under par. Spieth tied Tiger Woods for the best tournament total and became the second 21-year-old to win the event, following Woods’ 1997 performance.

Spieth’s stellar performance at such a young age raises the question of whether golfers are tending toward the younger side. According to the Golf Channel, the answer is no: The median and mean age of major champions has remained stable for decades at 32 years of age. Spieth’s win doesn’t change that magic number, but it does fall nicely into a trend of Masters winners’ ages rising and falling, as shown in the chart above.

Some observers attribute the periodic trends to repeat-champions in different generations in golf history. Jack Nicklaus, for example, has the most Masters victories, with five between 1963 and 1975 — and a sixth in 1986. Four-time champions include Arnold Palmer (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964) and Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005).

Though age might not be changing among Masters winners, the champions do seem to be getting better. Masters winners’ final scores have trended upwards since the first tournaments in the 1930s, with over half of the 10-under-par totals being scored by champions in the last 20 years:

 

TIME golf

Women on Twitter Are Throwing Themselves at Masters Winner Jordan Spieth

Wonder what his girlfriend Annie Verret has to say about that

Jordan Spieth smashed his way to victory to become the second-youngest player to win the Masters at Augusta on Sunday, and his stellar performance has caught the eye of more than a few fans on social media.

Since his big win, the 21-year-old has received declarations of love from admirers on Twitter vying to be his girlfriend.

But to the dismay of many eager women, Spieth does in fact have a girlfriend — his high school sweetheart and business student Annie Verret, who was there to celebrate her golfing beau’s first major title.

Read next: Watch Jack Nicklaus Sink a Hole-in-One During the Masters Par-3 Contest

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME golf

Jordan Spieth Wins Masters

Jordan Spieth wears the Green Jacket of the 2015 Masters Champion at the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in August, Ga. on April 12, 2015.
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images Jordan Spieth wears the Green Jacket of the 2015 Masters Champion at the 79th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in August, Ga. on April 12, 2015.

The 21-year-old never wavered

(AUGUSTA, Ga.) — What a difference from one year to the next for Jordan Spieth.

In 2014, the young Texan squandered a lead at the Masters on the final day with back-to-back bogeys just before the turn, and could only watch as Bubba Watson pulled away to claim his second green jacket.

On Sunday, Spieth firmly seized control of a tournament that has been his from the start — at the very same spot on the course, no less — strolling confidently to the 10th hole with a commanding five-shot advantage.

Better start sizing him up for his first green jacket.

Showing no signs of cracking, the 21-year-old stretched a four-shot lead at the beginning of the day, pretty much wrapping things up with a birdie at the eighth and a par at the ninth, gaining two shots on his playing partner Justin Rose.

Rose was only three behind after Spieth bogeyed the seventh, missing a short but icy putt. Spieth quickly bounced back — as he had each time anyone put a semblance of heat on the kid — with a birdie at the par-5 eighth. Rose missed his birdie attempt from about 6 feet after a sloppy pitch from just off the green.

At No. 9, Rose put his approach 20 feet from the flag but three-putted from there. Spieth made a nice, comfortable par to keep his score at 17-under par — five shots ahead of both Rose and Phil Mickelson, who just up ahead had birdied the 10th.

The only drama, it seemed, was whether Spieth would break another Masters scoring record on a cloudy day at Augusta National. He already set new standards for 36 and 54 holes, and he pushed his score to 18-under par with a gutsy birdie at the 13th.

Rather than laying up, he went for the green for 208 yards away, the ball clearing the creek that has ruined so many contenders.

“Go hard! Go hard! Go hard!” Spieth screamed, letting out a sigh of relief when the ball stopped just 14 feet past the flag.

He missed the putt, which would have made him the first player in Masters history to reach 19-under par. But the tap-in birdie got him to 18 under and still five shots ahead of Rose with five holes remaining.

Tiger Woods set the Masters record with an 18-under 270 in 1997, winning the first of his four green jackets in a runaway.

Spieth, just a few months older than Woods that day, was dominating in similar fashion.

He already had 27 birdies for the week to eclipse another record, the 25 birdies that Phil Mickelson made 2001.

Spieth, who set the tone in the very first round with an 8-under 64, was poised to become the first wire-to-wire winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976 and only the fifth in Masters’ history.

Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion playing in the final group of a major for the first time, kept up his strong finish to the third round by making two straight birdies to start Sunday. At that point, he had birdied seven of his last eight holes.

Spieth never wavered, and Rose faded away. A bogey at the sixth broke a streak of 18 consecutive holes with nothing but pars and birdies for the Englishman. The stumble at No. 9 left Rose with a 36 on the front side, not the sort of charge he needed the way Spieth was playing.

Mickelson, seeking his fourth Masters title, never really got it going either. The closest he got to the lead was four shots.

Charley Hoffman, playing in the next-to-last group with Lefty, finally faded away after three strong rounds. The 38-year-old was doomed by a shaky putter, the kiss of death on Augusta’s devilish greens.

Woods played in the third group from the end with the world’s top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy. It was a glamorous pairing but didn’t produce too many cheers, both players facing 10-shot deficits coming into the day and not doing anything to show they were capable of a historic comeback.

Woods, in particular, had all sorts of problems with his driver, failing to hit a fairway until the 13th. He drove into the adjacent ninth fairway with his first shot of the day, then missed that same fairway when actually playing No. 9. Winding up on the pine straw right of the fairway, he struck a hidden root on his swing, yelling out in pain and letting the club fly from his grasp.

 

TIME golf

Masters Offers a Major Learning Curve for Most Players

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, talks with Tiger Woods on the practice green before the Masters golf tournament, April 8, 2015, in Augusta, Ga.
Darron Cummings—AP Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, talks with Tiger Woods on the practice green before the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., on April 8, 2015

Woods joined up with Crenshaw to play the back nine

(AUGUSTA, Ga.) — Tiger Woods was the exception. Ben Crenshaw was closer to the rule.

Woods joined up with Crenshaw to play the back nine Wednesday on the final day of practice for a Masters that is shaping up as a mystery in many ways. They are Masters champions with multiple green jackets. What separates them is how soon they got them.

Crenshaw had to suffer a little before he could celebrate his first major. He was a runner-up four times in the majors, including a playoff loss to David Graham at the PGA Championship, before he broke through in 1984 at Augusta National. He won another one in 1995.

Woods wasted no time. He won the first major he played as a pro by setting 20 records in his 1997 Masters victory, and that was only the start. He already had eight majors before he recorded his first runner-up finish. He had four green jackets before he turned 30.

More players have taken the Crenshaw route.

Tom Watson. Nick Price. Phil Mickelson. Adam Scott. The group even includes Jack Nicklaus, who was a 20-year-old amateur when he finished second behind Arnold Palmer in the 1960 U.S. Open. Nicklaus played that day with Ben Hogan, who also had a chance to win until he hit into the water on the 17th hole at Cherry Hills.

Hogan said after the round, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I played with a kid today who could have won this Open by 10 shots if he had known now.”

Nicklaus figured it out.

Also on that list is Rory McIlroy, who returns to the scene of his greatest lesson in a major.

He was a 21-year-old with a four-shot lead at the Masters in 2011, ready to be crowned the next big thing in golf, when he shot 80 in the final round. He handled the collapse with remarkable poise, said he would learn from his mistakes. And then he posted scoring records at Congressional two months later in the U.S. Open.

“A lot of that win has to do with what happened at Augusta,” McIlroy said.

The Masters is even more meaningful now.

It the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam, and McIlroy will be the clear favorite when the Masters begins Thursday.

“Everything I’ve done, all the work I’ve done gearing up for this week has been good,” McIlroy said. “I’m just ready for the gun to go off on Thursday.”

The expectations are higher than ever for McIlroy, and lower than ever for Woods, who is competing for the first time since Feb. 5. That’s when he walked off the course at Torrey Pines to work on a game that had become so bad that hardly anyone recognized it.

Woods has shown much improvement in three days of practice, including the nine holes he played with Crenshaw and Jordan Spieth.

McIlroy and Woods, even at different ends of the spectrum, have dominated the talk so much this week that a large group of contenders have largely been ignored.

Bubba Watson is the defending champion and going for his third green jacket in four years. Adam Scott is back to the long putter he used to win in 2013. Spieth and Jimmy Walker might be the hottest players on the PGA Tour — Walker is the only player with two wins this season, Spieth has won, finished second and lost in a playoff his last three starts.

The question for Spieth is whether he already paid his major dues.

A year ago, he was on the verge at age 20 of becoming the youngest Masters champion when he had a two-shot lead with 11 holes to play. Two bogeys put behind going into the back nine, and he never caught up to Watson.

“How much value do I take out of losing? A lot,” Spieth said. “But I’m not one of those people who believe it was better for me not to win. I don’t think I would have handled it the wrong way. I don’t think Rory would have if he had won. He was saying he didn’t feel ready to close that out and found out what he was doing wrong.

“I take a lot out of what happened, but I don’t necessarily think it was better for me.”

Padraig Harrington is another major champion who lost before he could win.

“The best preparation for winning is contending,” Harrington said.

The Irishman made bogey on the final hole at the 2002 British Open that cost him a spot in the playoff at Muirfield. He finished with three straight bogeys at Winged Foot in 2006 and finished two shots behind in the U.S. Open. A year later, he won the first of his three majors, going back-to-back at the end of 2008.

“You do need to be in that situation a couple of times to be comfortable,” Harrington said. “That’s not true for everyone. But for most players, you have to lose a few before you can win a few.”

Maybe that explains why no Masters rookie has won a green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Or why the Masters has the fewest number of first-time champions compared with the other three majors over the last 20 years.

McIlroy paid a steep price four years ago and found redemption in other majors right away. Still missing, however, is the green jacket.

TIME golf

Watch Jack Nicklaus Sink a Hole-in-One During the Masters Par-3 Contest

Jack Nicklaus celebrates his hole-in-one during the Par 3 Contest prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. on April 8, 2015.
David Cannon—Getty Images Jack Nicklaus celebrates his hole-in-one during the Par 3 Contest prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. on April 8, 2015.

And see how the 75-year-old veteran golfer celebrated

The greatest players of all-time have made their mark at the Masters.

The greatest champion of all-time, Jack Nicklaus, did it six times. As if that wasn’t enough, the Golden Bear added to his legacy at Augusta on Wednesday afternoon.

Playing the fourth hole in the Par-3 Challenge with Gary Player and Ben Crenshaw, Nicklaus tossed his approach 15 feet beyond the hole, spinning it back and into the cup for an ace.

Nicklaus celebrated with high fives all around, from his playing partners to the caddies, then on to the fans near the tee box.

This article originally appeared on Golf.com.

TIME golf

See Sports Illustrated’s 100 Best Masters Photos

Since the 1950s, Sports Illustrated has captured every big moment at the Masters. Take a look back at the 100 best photos, including Jack's magical finish in 1986, Arnie's last win in 1964, and Tiger's 2001 masterpiece.

TIME golf

Phil Mickelson Drops the Best Golfing Humble Brag Ever

The Masters - Preview Day 2
David Cannon — Getty Images Phil Mickelson speaks to the media following a practice round ahead of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.

Lefty’s got 99 problems but a green jacket ain’t one

Phil Mickelson likes to have one of his prized green blazers on him during a round of golf, you know, in case it gets cold.

According to the three-time Masters Tournament winner, he relishes in showing up to corporate events with a green jacket in tow. (The jackets are awarded to the winners of the annual Masters Tournament).

“If it was chilly in the morning, I would pull it out,” Mickelson told reporters ahead of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t carry three [green jackets] around with me, but I would say, ‘I’ve got two more if you’re cold.’”

However, Mickelson admits he’s got to be careful whom he brags in front of.

“Some people can take it, some people can’t,” he joked.

Mickelson is scheduled to tee off on Thursday morning alongside Rory McIlroy for the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

TIME golf

Tiger Woods Will Play the 2015 Masters

Tiger Woods talks to the media in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Jan. 27, 2015.
Rick Scuteri—AP Tiger Woods talks to the media in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Jan. 27, 2015.

Despite recently recently falling out of golf's top 100 for the first time

Tiger Woods announced today that he will play the 2015 Masters.

After weeks of speculation, Woods said he will tee it up at Augusta National next week, his first tournament since withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in early February. Woods subsequently skipped the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational, saying that he would only return when his game was tournament ready.

“I’m playing in the Masters,” Woods said in 45-word statement. “It’s obviously very important to me, and I want to be there. I’ve worked a lot on my game and I’m looking forward to competing. I’m excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone’s support.”

Tiger Watch was in full effect leading up to his decision. His plane was spotted at the local Augusta airport on Tuesday in advance of his practice round at Augusta National. Reports of his play trickled out days later, one stating that Woods shot a 74 with several birdies and some poor chipping. Woods was back at Augusta on Friday morning for more practice.

Woods, who sat out the 2014 Masters due to back surgery, has dominated the Masters like no other player since Jack Nicklaus. In 19 career events, Woods has four victories, two runner-ups and seven top-5 finishes, including a period from 2001-05 when Woods won three out of five Masters. In his third appearance at Augusta in 1997, Woods dominated the field, posting an 18-under final mark en route to a 12-stroke victory and his first career major title.

Nicklaus is the only player with more green jackets (six) hanging in his closet. Woods and Arnold Palmer own four each, and only eight players all-time have more than two Masters victories.

Two weeks ago, Notah Begay said Woods was getting better each day. At the beginning of March, he estimated there was a 1-in-10 chance of seeing Tiger at Augusta, but Woods spent the month slowly attempting to repair his game.

He said he wouldn’t come back until he was ready, sparking questions about his health and his motivation. We finally have an answer.

This article originally appeared on Golf.com.

TIME golf

Tiger Woods Tumbles Out of Golf’s Top 100 Rankings

Tiger Woods during the Farmers Insurance Open Pro Am in San Diego on Feb. 4, 2015.
Todd Warshaw—Getty Images Tiger Woods during the Farmers Insurance Open Pro Am in San Diego on Feb. 4, 2015.

The golfer's last run as No. 1 was from March 2013 to May 2014

For the first time since 1996, Tiger Woods is not one of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Woods has not been on the outside looking in since Sept. 29, 1996, when he was ranked No. 225 and had only been a professional for one month. The next week, Woods won his first PGA Tour event at the Las Vegas Invitational and jumped to No. 75 in the world, the lowest he would be ranked for the next 19 years.

The major winners in 1996 were Nick Faldo, Steve Jones, Tom Lehman and Mark Brooks. The top 5 ranked players were Greg Norman, Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Fred Couples.

In his career, Woods has accumulated a record 683 total weeks as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, including 11 different runs at the top. The 14-time major winner set the record for most consecutive weeks atop the rankings in a span from August 1999 to September 2004 and topped his own record with 281 straight weeks at No. 1 from June 2005 to October 2010. Woods’ last run as No. 1 was from March 2013 to May 2014.

Woods has not announced if he is playing in next week’s Masters. It would be his second consecutive missed Masters, a tournament he has won four times. Notah Begay, a close friend, has said the odds for Woods showing up to Augusta are 50-50. He is staying busy, as Golf.com reported last week that Woods had been tapped to redesign a golf course in Beijing, China, a project that will pay him $16.5 million.

This article originally appeared on Golf.com.

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