63 Not Out
The Australian Open has a rich history and an ensemble of winners that are a veritable “Who’s Who” of golf.
Past champions include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus (6 wins), Gary Player (who won a record 7 times), Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen.
The roll call of Australians who have triumphed in their national Open is one that includes every great player from Down Under. Greg Norman won 5 times, and Aussie greats, Jack Newton, Peter Thompson, Bruce Devlin, Norman Von Nida, Kel Nagle, David Graham and Adam Scott all were recipients of The Stonehaven Cup (which is the trophy awarded the winner).
World #1 and defending champion, Rory McIlroy, was in contention for the first two days before a wayward back-9 in Saturday’s 3rd round would ruin his chances of repeating his thrilling victory over Adam Scott in 2013.
Heading into Sunday’s final round there was a congested leaderboard with several players within 3 shots of the lead. That was until Jordan Spieth birdied the 3rd hole and then reeled off three consecutive birdies on the 5th, 6th and 7th holes to take command of the tournament.
It was a command he would never relinquish as the 21-year old American star made 4 more birdies on the back-9 to record a sensational 8-under par 63, in very difficult conditions. Spieth’s 63 would also break the course record by 2 strokes.
This years’ venue was at Australia’s oldest golf course, The Australian Golf Club in Kensington (near Sydney), New South Wales. The Emirates Australian Open has been contested since 1904. The 2014 event was the 18th time that this venerable links course has hosted its national championship.
Wind is the course’s best defense and after playing south on the first hole and then directly back to the north on the second hole, the remaining holes face east and west. With the prevailing southeasterly winds, this means that players are faced with mostly cross-wind shots throughout their round, which can wreak havoc with both a players psyche and their score.
This year was no different, as only 8 players in the field finished under par at the end of the 4 days which further evidenced what a sensational closing round Spieth played. His winning margin over Australia’s Rod Pampling would be 6 shots, but Spieth was playing in a world all of his own.
2014 had until now been a year of ‘almosts’ for Spieth with eight Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour, highlighted with his runner-up performance at the Masters http://www.birdgolf.com/elementary-dear-watson/ . Spieth’s only win, so far, on the PGA Tour was at the 2013 John Deere Classic, but his victory this week may be just the impetus that he needs to start winning frequently.
Spieth is a prodigious talent whose game has very little weakness as he is effective in all facets. As he continues the progression of “learning how to win”, the chances are that he will be a very able student.
His score of 63 also served a fitting- if not intentional- tribute to Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes, who had died on Thursday after being hit in the head by a ball in a cricket match. At the time, Hughes had scored 63 runs so tributes for him have been headlined with the phrase “63-not out”. Many of the spectators had signs displaying those words in remembrance of Hughes over the weekend making Spieth’s 63 very poignant indeed.