It was a packed leaderboard entering Sunday’s final round at the John Deere Classic with 21 year old Jordan Spieth holding a two shot lead over Danny Lee. The question was, who would chase down the young lad and the incredible golf he was playing?
No one could have thought it would be 46 year old Tom Gillis. Ranked 643rd in the Official World Golf Rankings, Gillis has five professional wins, but none in 171 starts on the PGA TOUR. When Gillis made his TOUR debut on August 5, 1993, Jordan Spieth was only nine days old.
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Old Man Gillis got off to a hot start with six birdies and a bogey on the front nine to go out in 30 and put together another three birdies before the 15th hole to get to 21-under. An unfortunate bogey on the par 3 16th put him at -20. Gillis chunked a chip on the par 5 17th and was unable to take advantage, settling for par. He finished on 18 with par and entered with the clubhouse lead, but the young guns weren’t too far behind.
Jordan Spieth and Danny Lee were playing in the final grouping of the John Deere Classic. Spieth, 21, and Lee, 24, have a combined age of 45, while clubhouse leader Tom Gillis is 46. Age was not a factor, however.
Spieth was unable to make much happen on the front nine, but caught fire on the back nine stringing together four birdies in a five hole stretch to join Tom Gillis at 20-under after a birdie on the 17th hole. Danny Lee would also birdie the hole and join the two for a share of the lead.
Both golfers headed to the 18th tee with a chance to win. Danny Lee found himself in some trouble on his drive, but recovered beautifully. Unfortunately, Lee would miss his 15 foot par putt and finish with bogey to drop out of the lead. This could have been a totally different outcome if it wasn’t for a one stroke penalty called on Lee on the 4th hole, after he picked up his ball thinking lift, clean, and place was in effect.
Spieth put his drive in the middle of the fairway and his approach shot 31 feet away for birdie and a chance to win. Unable to convert his birdie putt, Jordan tapped in for par and headed back to the 18th tee, this time to meet 46 year old Tom Gillis for a sudden death playoff.
Gillis put his drive in the fairway, but about 15 yards behind Spieth who was in the thick stuff on the right side of the fairway. Gillis’ approach shot landed on the green, but well short of the hole leaving him with about 55 feet for birdie. Spieth took advantage and put his shot inside of Gillis, for a birdie putt to a similar one he had in regulation.
Gillis cozied his putt up towards the hole and finished with par, giving Spieth yet another opportunity to seal the deal. Spieth’s putt looked great the whole way, but had a little too much speed and caught the left edge of the cup to rim out. He made his par and the golfers headed back to the 18th tee for another go around.
On the second hole of the sudden death, it was Jordan Spieth who had the advantage as the two switched positions with their tee shots. Finding himself in a wee bit of trouble in the thick rough, Gillis caught a bad break and watched his approach shot roll into the water. The door was now wide open for the young lad.
Most of the pressure was off the shoulders of Spieth and he put his approach in the middle of the green. As Jordan walked up the fairway, the crowds showed their appreciation for the 21 year old’s decision to keep his commitment in playing the John Deere Classic that week instead of flying across the pond.
“This tournament means a lot to me. I truly love being here. The fans are so respectful and knowledgeable.” -Jordan Spieth
Spieth whacked his putt within three feet of the hole and tapped in to pick up his fourth win in his last 14 starts on TOUR this season, most wins of any player. Tom Gillis would have the best finish of his career and he jumped from 194th in the FedEx Cup standings to 74th.
Spieth’s victory made him only the third player in PGA TOUR history to win five or more times before the age of 22, joining Horton Smith and Tiger Woods. He is also the youngest player in the modern era to win the same the same TOUR event multiple times.
After much criticism for his decision to play in the John Deere Classic this week, it seems that the move paid off. Spieth will hop on a charter jet and head over to St. Andrews Sunday night with the confidence of another victory as he looks to complete the third leg of the grand slam.
Only one player has won the first three majors of the season, a man that goes by the name of Ben Hogan. 11 players have gone on to win a major the week after winning the previous week. The three most recent players are Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson. Spieth will look to add his name to that list this week at The Open Championship.