Newspaper article International New York Times

Inspired by Woods, Then Surpassing Him ; Spieth and McIlroy Use His Blueprint and Grab Limelight Early in Careers

Newspaper article International New York Times

Inspired by Woods, Then Surpassing Him ; Spieth and McIlroy Use His Blueprint and Grab Limelight Early in Careers

Article excerpt

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have gained experience and momentum while Woods has struggled to regain his old form.

This is how far, how fast, Jordan Spieth's star has risen: The challenge consuming him two Decembers ago was to pass his finals in his sophomore courses at the University of Texas.

"It seems like it was a while ago," Spieth said before acing his final test of 2014 on Sunday: the Hero World Challenge.

Spieth closed with a six-under-par 66 at Isleworth Golf and Country Club to finish at 26-under 262, a tournament record. He won the Australian Open last week and tied for third at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last month.

Spieth finished 10 strokes ahead of Henrik Stenson, the largest margin of victory in the event's 16 years. Spieth's cumulative score, his lowest ever in relation to par, was a stroke better than the career best of the tournament host, Tiger Woods, who finished 25 under at the 2000 Johnnie Walker Classic and at the 2002 W.G.C.- American Express Championship.

"In general," Spieth said, "this was the best that I've ever played, which is what I said in a media center in Sydney last week. I played better this week."

A lot of water has flowed under the Swilcan Bridge since Spieth decided to leave college at the end of 2012 and join the PGA Tour. Woods, who turned professional three years after Spieth was born, has gone 16 months without an official victory. Woods's would-be heir apparent, Rory McIlroy, lost his No.1 ranking and regained it on the strength of his performance over the last 13 months, during which he has won five tournaments on three continents and recorded five runner-up finishes.

Woods turns 39 this month, which is by no means a retirement sentence. During the weekend, John Daly, 48, won in Turkey, and Padraig Harrington, 43, did so in Indonesia. But in the Darwinian jungle of sports, Woods, who won five times in 2013, has quickly gone from dominant to endangered.

It is not just because his body is a year older, with another surgical scar. While Woods was losing feel and confidence after having back surgery, the next generation, led by McIlroy, 25; Spieth, 21; Patrick Reed, 24; and Hideki Matsuyama, 22, was gaining experience, victories and momentum. …

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