He may have led from the start of the tournament but it took a tremendous shot out of the bunker on the first playoff hole to lift Jordan Spieth to win the Travelers Championship Sunday before a raucous crowd at the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands in Cromwell.
Spieth beat hard-charging Daniel Berger, who had birdies on three of the last six holes of regulation, to force a playoff.
Spieth, 24, was pushed all afternoon. But every time, he really needed a big shot, he was able to come up with it. None was bigger than his birdie attempt out of the right side bunker on the 18th hole. Spieth’s drive bounced off a tree and into the fairway. His second shot landed in the bunker.
A few minutes earlier, Spieth had a similar shot out of the bunker than he chipped a few feet away from the hole for par and force a playoff.
This time, Spieth popped it out of the bunker. It bounced twice and rolled right into the cup.
“Obviously, that was one for the ages,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have a moment like that again. That was — if I was in (Daniel) Berger’s shoes, I’d be cursing Jordan Spieth right now for the break off the tee and then holing a 30-yard bunker shot.
“But I took advantage of the good breaks and happy to come out on top. We played great. The putter let me down today, but all in all this is a huge victory for us,” Spieth said.
With the win, Spieth earned his 10th career win on the PGA Tour and joined Tiger Woods as the only players in the modern era with 10 victories before the age of 24. Woods won 15 tournaments before he turned 24. Spieth won his first PGA tournament on a similar shot at the 2013 John Deere Classic.
Spieth was comfortable in the bunker having hit from nearly the same spot on the final hole of regulation. “I put the same kind of swing as the other bunker shot, I was just at a little different angle and it took a little right bounce and cut spin and it rolled up the hole,” Spieth said. “I jumped up and saw it coming right down on the pin. And I went nuts.
“That was fun. I don’t know how many or if I’ll ever have a moment equivalent to that again. Something like that to win a tournament. But, yeah, that was very memorable, and I certainly soaked it in,” he said.
Berger, 24, certainly made Spieth work for the win. He birdied 13, 15 and 17. His birdie at 15 gave Berger the tie for the lead with Spieth, who had bogies at 12 and 14.
“It’s just about when are those putts going to start going in, and they did for the first few rounds, and didn’t quite today and that happens, but it’s tough,” Spieth said. “It is tough when you don’t have somebody ahead of you to chase. You’ve got to keep resetting goals.”
The last golfer to lead from start to finish here at the Travelers came in 1982 at the Wethersfield Country Club when Tim Norris won the tournament, then known as the Sammy Davis, Jr. Greater Hartford Open with a six-stroke win over Ray Floyd and Hubert Green. Gene Littler did it here at the Insurance City Open in 1959.
Spieth come away from Cromwell with a memorable victory.
“To win a golf tournament, a shot that actually wins a golf tournament that’s not a putt, it’s something that not many people get to experience,” he said. “I really wish that I didn’t make it exciting. The goal was boring golf. I still wish I did it that way, but the way that it happened, sometimes you need a little fireworks.“
It was quite a celebration after Spieth hit his tournament-winning shot.
“The ground was shaking it was so loud. What an amphitheater. What a tremendous last four holes, finishing holes, where you can get the crowd super involved with an amphitheater setting,” he said. “If I were a fan, I would pick this tournament. This one and Phoenix is kind of two that stick out to come to on the PGA Tour season, just given the excitement of the closing holes.”
NOTES: It was Spieth’s second win of the season. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year. … Boo Weekley was tied with Spieth after three rounds. He faded on the back nine with a 2-over-par 72 to finish tied for fifth. He struggled with putting on Sunday. … No. 3 Rory McIlroy had his best round of the tournament with a 6-under 64. He had rounds of 67, 73 and 70 earlier in the tournament. … Grayson Murray aced the eighth hole from 177 yards using an 8-iron. It was his first career hole-in-one and the ninth ace at the eighth hole in tournament history. … This was the 23rd playoff in tournament history and the first since Bubba Watson beat Paul Casey in 2015.
Final round leaderboard
Jordan Spieth 63-69-66-70—268 (-12)*
Daniel Bergee 68-67-66-67—268 (-12)
Charley Hoffman 69-67-68-66—270 (-10)
Danny Lee 68-67-68-67—270 (-10)
Patrick Reed 67-66-72-66 – 271 (-9)
Paul Casey 68-68-66-69 – 271 (-9)
Boo Weekley 66-68-65-72—271 (-9)
*Won in one hole playoff