REUTERS – Jordan Spieth underlined his status as world number one by cruising to an eight-shot victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Sunday after repelling an early challenge by fellow American Patrick Reed.
On a breezy day at the Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui, the imperious Spieth signed off with a six-under-par 67 to clinch his seventh career title on the PGA Tour, matching Tiger Woods in achieving that total before the age of 23.
The 22-year-old Spieth outclassed the elite, winners-only field of 32 at Kapalua as he mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to post a 30-under total of 262.
He became only the second player to finish a 72-hole event on the PGA Tour at 30-under par or better, emulating South African Ernie Els who won the 2003 Tournament of Champions with a 31-under aggregate.
“I’m very satisfied,” Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth told Golf Channel after being congratulated by his family on the edge of the 18th green. “Felt comfortable the whole week.
“I felt like it was just a short three-week break over the holidays and then just try and continue exactly what we were doing last year. It worked this week and all parts of the game were firing.”
Defending champion Reed cut Spieth’s lead to three shots after making a sizzling start to the final round but he ran out of steam after the turn on the way to a 69 and had to settle for a distant second place.
Brandt Snedeker birdied two of the last four holes for a 67 to tie for third with fellow American Brooks Koepka (71) at 21-under.
However, Spieth commanded the spotlight at Kapalua in champion fashion as he eased to his sixth victory on the PGA Tour in his last 21 starts.
Five shots clear of the chasing pack overnight, the Texan briefly had his lead trimmed to three as a red-hot Reed reeled off four birdies on the front nine.
Though Spieth bogeyed the par-three eighth after missing the green off the tee to the right, he rebounded with birdies at the ninth and 10th, where he drained a 15-footer to regain a five-stroke cushion.
He picked up further shots at the 15th and the par-four 16th, where he hit a superb approach to within three feet of the flag, to storm seven ahead before ending his round in style with another birdie at the last.
Asked how he felt after matching 14-times major winner Woods with a seventh PGA Tour victory before the age of 23, Spieth replied: “I don’t think there’s any reason to compare. I think it’s awfully early (in his career).
“We (he and caddie Michael Greller) are very excited about where we’re at at the start to our career as a team. What Tiger’s done, I can’t imagine ever being done again but it’s nice to be in that company.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Edtiing by Ian Ransom)