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Class prevails as Spieth wins Emirates Australian Open

Spieth all smiles after his win (Photo: Bruce Young)
On a dramatic final day at the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney in the leafy eastern suburbs of Sydney, Jordan Spieth has won his second Australian Open with a playoff victory over Queenslander Cameron Smith and now Perth based Victorian Ashley Hall.

Spieth has now played Australia’s flagship event on three occasions for two wins and a near miss in 2015 when he finished one shot behind Matt Jones.

Spieth final round of 69 would allow him to join both Hall and Smith who had finished over an hour earlier than the American, the total required to get into the playoff interestingly a score that Spieth had predicted earlier in the week would be the possible winning score.

That total did not win the event immediately but when he holed a birdie putt from 14 feet at the first extra hole the trophy was his and he was delighted.

Spieth had begun the final round two shots behind the leader Geoff Ogilvy and when he produced a lengthy birdie after one of his trademark long bunker shots at the first, and then played the par five second beautifully for another there, he was tied for the lead with Ogilvy and appeared as if he might be the man who take charge.

Spieth’s round and his quest for the title, however, appeared to crumble when he bogeyed three holes in the middle of his round and when Ogilvy recovered from an early bogey at the par three 3rd to reach 14 under for the event through eight holes it was he who appeared to be marching to victory.

Ogilvy though would also find trouble in the middle of his round but when he birdied the 13th hole he again had the edge. Trouble would strike again for the 2010 champion however when bogeyed the 15th then drove wildly at the 16th and double bogeyed the potential birdie hole. His chance was gone and by then Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall had completed their rounds and were awaiting to see whether their totals would make a two man playoff between the pair, be joined in the playoff by Spieth or be gazumped at the last moment.

Spieth birdied the 16th from 25 feet to join the pair at 12 under and then produced two great par saves at the 17th and 18th to keep the event’s leading ranked player’s hopes alive of winning the event for the second occasion.

The win continued Spieth's love affair with Sydney, a point which he was quick to reiterate in his post round press conference.  

"It’s great, we love coming here," said the champion. "I had a chance last year on 18 and didn’t hit a great putt and this time I had that same chance with a very similar putt in the play off and capitalised, so drew back a little on that and said, this is our time to close this one out.

“I didn’t have much confidence in my swing on the last couple of holes today in regulation and was able to calm down in between and said, let’s go ahead and prove to ourselves that we can hit clutch shot swings when it matters.  I know I can make putts, let’s hit some clutch swings when it matters; it’s been a little while.

“I was going to hit a 3-wood off the tee, Michael talked me into hybrid and it left me with a good number with a 9-iron and I hit a 9-iron right at the flag stick that hit just short of where it needed to hit to get really close, but it left me in a great spot to have a mid-range putt and knock it in.

“I thought that we were still going to go to a play off after I made it, but you just never know and fortunately we closed it out.”

Spieth was uncommitted about a return next year but gave an indication that it was on his agenda if things worked out that way.

"I certainly plan on it, it’s hard to tell a year from now.  But how can you argue with coming here and gaining the confidence that we’ve had out of this event?  So, I certainly plan to; just don't know what’s going to happen 12 months from now.I’ve cut out a lot of overseas travel this year, but we still came here, because that’s how important this event is to us and I haven’t gone anywhere else. I guess the Bahamas in two weeks counts, but that doesn’t really count. So, even if overseas travel is trimmed down, we still like coming here and plan to.  I certainly can’t say yes or no, right this second."

Spieth is likely to move back to number four in the world as a result of his win and feels this win again will assist him in his quest for a further rise in his rankings in the months ahead.

“The way we played the play off, I think it’s going to do wonders for me.  I’ve been in a little bit of a stall hitting the shots when they mattered. The Colonial I saved myself with a lot of putts in our last worldwide win. To hit those two shots in there right where I wanted to hit them and then to make the putt with it, is really big going forward and it’s something I can draw on all next year, is look back on the way this one was finished out.

Cameron Smith gave further evidence of the regard in which he is held, not only in Australian golf but on the PGA Tour. Admittedly he lost his status this year before earning it back via the Web.Com Tour playoffs but many believe the 23 year old has the game and the mindset to succeed at near the highest level, an attribute he displayed when finishing 4th in his very first major championship at the 2015 US Open Championship.

Smith may regret his 72nd hole bogey which would eventually cost him the outright trophy but he was trying to put it all in perspective.

“I don't know, I thought I hit a great drive, I thought I hit a good putt as well, so, it’s just the way of the world sometimes.  It will hurt a little bit but, we’ll see what happens next."

Smith and Hall earn Open Championship starts as does Aaron Baddeley a consolation bonus for them although the title would have changed their careers more especially for Smith and Hall.

Hall has won events on the PGA Tour of Australasia previously and has been twice runner-up in Web.Com Tour events but has recently made the decision to focus his attention on events in Australasia. A win here would have made all the difference for him but ahead of this event he was well and truly under the radar in terms of predictions for the event so he performed well above himself.

He was considering giving the game away but this might just prolong his career. “I’m happy, said Hall after the playoff loss. “I haven’t been playing well lately, so it sits pretty good. I was pretty close to getting a real job next year, in fact in a couple of weeks’ time.  I might not do that now, I’ve got some important tournaments to play next year, one in particular in July.”

Hall was of course referring to his start at the Open Championship.

Curtis Luck continued his amazing year by leading the amateurs and actually finishing tied for 11th in the event. 

Curtis Luck leading amateur

 

 

  

 

 

       

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