In 2015, Jordan Spieth became the next big thing in American golf with a record performance at the Masters.
Editor's note: In anticipation of the 2018 Masters, we're counting down the best moments from the last 20 years at Augusta. Checking in at No. 7 was Louis Oosthuizen's albatross from the 2012 final round. Tiger's completion of the "Tiger Slam" in 2001 was No. 6. Jordan Spieth's implosion on the 12th in 2016 was No. 5. At No. 4 was Bubba Watson's miraculous rope-hook from the trees in the 2012 playoff.
In 2015, Tiger Woods' health had already begun to betray him and Phil Mickelson was already into his mid 40's. As one set of American golf stars was unquestionably on the wrong side of their primes, a new American superstar was born that year at Augusta: Jordan Spieth.
The year before, a 20-year-old Spieth had narrowly missed becoming the youngest champion in Masters history by finishing in a tie for second, just three shots behind champion Bubba Watson. Hardcore golf fans had known Spieth for years before that coming out party, as he had a stellar amateur career that included two U.S. Junior titles, NCAA player of the year and low amateur honors at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Still, even players with sparkling amateur careers like Spieth's aren't surefire bets to parlay that success into similar triumphs on the professional level. But Spieth seemed different—he had a unique intensity and focus beyond his years, and no moment ever seemed to big for him. Plus, his ability to make long putts was simply uncanny.
Spieth put all that potential together during that magical week at Augusta in 2015. He opened the tournament with a torrid 64 and seized a three-shot lead, but you'd be excused for believing at the time that he'd come back to the field. He was just 21, after all.
It wasn't going to happen. The next day, he backed up the 64 with a 66 to break the 36-hole Masters scoring record with a 14-under par 130. He took a four-shot lead into the weekend, when he put together steady rounds of back-to-back 70s to capture his first major title and become the second-youngest Masters champion ever. (The youngest? You guessed it—Tiger.) The win sent a message to the golf world: There'd be a new force fighting for titles for the next 20 years, and his name is Jordan Spieth.
Watch the final round below, which brings to memory Tiger Woods' maiden major victory at the 1997 Masters. There was a similar buzz, a similar feeling that we were watching the game's next legend figuring out how to win on the biggest stage.
If there was one negative moment in Spieth's victory, it was a bogey at the 72nd hole which meant he would only share the tournament scoring record with Tiger Woods at -18 rather than owning it all for himself.
Spieth would go on to win the U.S. Open two months later at Chambers Bay to secure the first-two legs of the grand slam. He would then finish just one shot out of a playoff at the British Open and two shots behind champion Jason Day at the PGA, meaning he was just three or four shots short of a grand slam. At age 21.