Granted, the field for the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Country Club was only 18 players, but they were 18 of some of the best players in the world: 15 of the top 24, 26th (Patrick Reed), 31st (Keegan Bradley) and 39th (Steve Stricker). As a measure of that strength in the heady air of those top players, Reed and Bradley finished T3, one stroke behind second place Henrik Stenson. Stricker finished 14th, but he beat Jimmy Walker (21), Chris Kirk (20), Tiger Woods (24) and Hunter Mahan (22).
But the Man of the Week was Jordan Spieth who won by an incredible 10 stokes over that field. Ten! Last week, the Aussies said they will be talking about his win in the Australian Open forever because of the blustery wind conditions and rock hard greens that he successfully contended with. Well, they’ll be talking about this one for a long time too as it evoked Tiger Woods double-digit wins in the Masters and U.S. Open when he was at his best. Granted, they were full-field events with all of the best players in the world in them, but still…
“I didn’t really know what the game plan was really going to be when I woke up this morning. I’ve never been in this position to be really far out front starting the day.”
“You know, you just got to be as positive — you got to really just think of it as I’m playing my best golf and it’s beating the best players in the world right now. You got to take that confidence into the round.”
And you know what? There wasn’t a moment in that final round that he didn’t look just that confident. There were a couple of loose shots after the turn that felt like major deviations from what he had been doing up until then. But it didn’t take long for him to process them and get right back to his sheer dominance.
“It was a really fun walk on that back nine. Whether my emotions showed it or not I’m not sure, but inside we were really very, very pleased with the year and how it came to a close. This caps off the best golfing year that I’ve ever had.”
And he talked about how this confidence evolved over the two years since he came out early from college. It wasn’t looking at the deep roster on the PGA Tour, it was looking at his junior and college days peers actually winning:
“Young guys not being afraid to win, I think that was really, really big for me when I first turned professional and seeing that.”
“Because these are guys that I — not Rory or Jason [Day], but Patrick [Reed], Russell [Henley] and Harris [English}, these are guys that I played with in amateur golf and briefly in junior golf. I felt like I could compete with those guys, and obviously now they’re winning PGA Tour events.”
“It gave me a lot of confidence when I first came out.”
After this win, he has some serious talent singing his praises. Keegan Bradley played with him on Sunday and came away appropriately impressed:
“Well, no, the kid is playing great. You have to look at his past three events [Japan, T3; Australia, tough conditions win; Hero, big margin win]. He’s almost won them all. He’s a great player. I wouldn’t look more into it other than he dominated this week. It was a performance that was unbelievable and no one could beat him.”
And the No. 2 Player in the World, Henrik Stenson, not only lauded his play, but confirmed the field’s resignation before the final round even began:
“He was in pretty much full control of every part of his game. He drove it nicely, hit some good iron shots, and his pitching and putting was phenomenal.”
“So whenever he didn’t have a birdie chance, he always saved himself and got away with par. So it was a one‑horse race here like I said, coming into Sunday. All the rest of us had to do was battle it out for second, really.”
This is how confidence is born. It begins with inference: “I played with these guys in college and now they’re winning. Therefore, I can too.”
And then it progresses to affirmation when the big stars not only notice you, they announce with admiration that you have arrived in their league.
And finally it arrives at self-generation. You don’t need anyone else to tell you how good you are, you know it in your very being. The transformation is complete.