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Is Jordan Spieth’s Masters win the start of a great golf rivalry?

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    It was a history-making weekend for golf in Augusta, Georgia, that captured — recaptured the television spotlight.

    Twenty-one-year-old Jordan Spieth became the second-youngest golfer to win the Masters, only a few months older than Tiger Woods was when he picked up his first green jacket back in 1997.

    Jeffrey Brown has a look at Spieth’s accomplishment.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Jordan Spieth led the tournament from start to finish, the first time that’s happened in 39 years, as he beat back challenges from some of the game’s biggest names.

    Along the way, he set several records, for lowest score after 36 holes and after 54 holes and for making the most birdies at one Masters. After four days, he got to don the traditional green jacket of the Masters winner, having tied the 72-hole record of Tiger Woods.

    Spieth spoke about that moment immediately afterwards.

  • JORDAN SPIETH, 2015 Masters Tournament Champion:

    To put on this jacket is incredible. This feels great. I plan on not taking it off for quite a while.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JORDAN SPIETH:

    Probably sleep in it for the next few nights. But this is — it was a test. There is a reason I have a hairline like this right now. And that’s because it’s stressful, what we do, on a daily basis.

    And to be able to come to the world’s greatest and to come out on top, it puts a lot of confidence in me.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Some perspective now from John Feinstein, a columnist for The Washington Post and the author of several books about golf, including “A Good Walk Spoiled.”  He was in Augusta this weekend.

    John, what was the most interesting aspect to this? Is it his age or the manner of his victory? What was it?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    I think it was the manner of his victory.

    To sleep on the lead, as they say in golf, for three straight nights…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Sleep on the lead?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Sleep on the lead. You lead Thursday, you lead Friday, you lead Saturday, you have got to sleep on the lead every night. That’s why guys have — don’t go wire to wire. He’s only the fifth player in Masters history to do it.

    And to win and look so calm — other than that hairline he referenced, he doesn’t show any stress on the golf course. He was being chased by Justin Rose, who is a major champion, Phil Mickelson, who is a three-times Masters champion, Rory McIlroy, who is the number one player in the world, and he never blinked. There were several blink moments, Jeff, where he might have lost control of the tournament, and he never did.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Which certainly has happened in other years at the Masters.

    Now, the wider world, we are learning about this guy. You have followed him for a long time on the course and off the course. We’re learning about his personality, family his life, all kinds of interesting…

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    He first came to the attention of we golf geeks when he was 16. He was a junior in high school, and actually made the cut and finished 16th as an amateur in a PGA Tour event near his hometown in Dallas.

    His whole school was closed on Friday, so everybody could go out and watch him play. And he’s the oldest of three kids. His youngest sister, Ellie, who is 14, is autistic. And Jordan has not only spent obviously a lot of time with her, as a big brother, but has volunteered at her school, which is for kids who have learning disabilities.

    And I think, because of that, he has a kind of understanding of real life that most superstar young athletes don’t. They’re anointed, they’re spoiled, they’re treated as gods. He doesn’t look at life quite that way. And I think a lot of that is Ellie.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    We have talked about a lot of sports over the years here. Athletes in different sports mature or become great at different ages, right? What about in golf? Tiger Woods was a…

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    A phenom.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    One of the phenoms, right? Now we’re looking at another young man. What’s the norm in golf? What is it that takes to kind of mature into greatness?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    It’s interesting, because golf has the biggest gap in terms of stardom.

    Ben Hogan didn’t win a major until was 34.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Yes.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Phil Mickelson was almost 33.

    But then you had Gene Sarazen, who was 20, Walter Hagen 21, Tiger Woods 21, Jack Nicklaus 22. Jordan Spieth fits in that category. Now, listen to the names I mentioned who won at 20, 21, and 22. They are all in the Hall of Fame. They’re all iconic figures.

    Whether Jordan Spieth will live up to that, time will tell. But certainly the past would indicated that he is on a path to true greatness, and I think to being the next great rival for Rory McIlroy, who has certainly emerged as a star and won his first major at 21.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, let’s pick up on that, because, for many years, let’s face it, golf has really revolved around Tiger Woods.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Absolutely.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Much of the focus — and he is still very much there, and over the past few days, a lot of focus on whether he’s coming back at this point.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Always.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But there’s a new young crop of really great players.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Yes, there are a lot of very good young players.

    But these two, McIlroy and Spieth — McIlroy is 25, has won four majors already — Spieth, of course, won the Masters yesterday — have emerged. And you know what? Tiger Woods, Jeff, was a dynasty, the way the Yankees were a dynasty or the Packers were a dynasty, because he dominated the game.

    We haven’t had great rivalry in golf really since Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. I think McIlroy and Spieth have the potential to be a great rivalry, U.S. Ryder Cup player, European Ryder Cup player, both young, both already champions, and both very comfortable in the spotlight, both on and off the golf course.

    They never seem to really lose their cool, even when they fail. Rory McIlroy led the Masters by four shots, just like Jordan Spieth, at the age of 21, and shot 80 the last day.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Right.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Stood behind the green — I will never forget it — answered every question, never snapped at anybody, and said, if this is the worst thing that ever happens in my life, I will have a pretty good life.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    That’s one of those — when you were talking about sleeping on the lead, that’s an example. He slept on it and then he failed.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Yes, and woke up to a nightmare.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Yes.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Absolutely right.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But when you talk about them being good in the spotlight — and the spotlight was back on yesterday, right? I mean, the ratings were up.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Do you think that that has that chance to — the rivalry, I mean, has a chance to kind of evolve into something bigger for the sport?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Yes, I do.

    And people have said, what happens when Tiger Woods is no longer playing or is no longer a star? I think the answer is, baseball went on without Babe Ruth. Basketball went on without Michael Jordan.

    These two, I believe, can be the next thing. And if they are, that’s great for the game. I’m one of those — some people love dynasties. I love rivalries, especially in individual sports, McEnroe and Connors, Evert/Navratilova.

    These two guys, again, an American and a European, so they could be competing against one another for the Ryder Cup someday soon, I think that makes for true greatness in a sport.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And just briefly in our 30 seconds here, Tiger Woods, where — again, a focus on him, and he was there for a bit.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Played well, considering that he was terrible the first two tournaments this year.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Yes.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    I think, for him, it was a very encouraging weekend. I think he needs to play more golf than he’s playing. He says he’s not going to play for a while. He needs to get out and play.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Just to play and get back to…

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    To get back not to where he was, because he won’t.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    He won’t?

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    To get back — no, to get back to where he can contend for a major title.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, John Feinstein, thanks, as always.

  • JOHN FEINSTEIN:

    Thanks, Jeff.

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