Jordan Spieth conjures comeback for 2022 RBC Heritage crown
Tournament director Steve Wilmot often quips that the only two things he can’t control at the RBC Heritage are the weather and the leaderboard. In the first edition back at full capacity, he couldn’t have written a better script in either regard.
After a Sunday full of twists and turns at Harbour Town Golf Links, PGA Tour superstar Jordan Spieth emerged on top in a playoff with Patrick Cantlay to capture the 2022 RBC Heritage presented by Boeing and slip into a tartan jacket he seemed destined to don eventually.
On a day that had the potential for extremely low scoring, Spieth’s 5-under 66 was good enough to overcome a three-shot deficit and outlast the reigning FedEx Cup champion in the first extra hole — making a birdie and a par at No. 18 to seal the deal just a day after nearly costing himself dearly with a mental blip resulting in an easily avoidable bogey.
Just one week removed from missing the cut at The Masters, Spieth roared back with a thrilling performance to notch his 13th PGA TOUR victory and his first since the 2021 Valero Texas Open.
“You have a lot of events where you feel like you should have won and someone outplays you, and a couple times you have one where you feel like you played good but not good enough to win, and I honestly felt like this was that week,” Spieth said. “Every year, I think about Kapalua [for the Sentry Tournament of Champions] at the beginning of the year, and I missed it for a few years, and I never want to miss it again. I'm really glad that this will get me there.”
It was a whirlwind of a final round with the lead changing hands at every turn. With favorable conditions in the morning hours, the chance was there for someone deep in the pack to put together a run and challenge overnight leader Harold Varner III at 11-under par. Australian Cam Davis got an early jump on the competition, setting the pace with an 8-under 63 to earn a share of the lead at 12-under.
It was a daunting task for Spieth to make the climb after some inconsistencies on the putting green, but the three-time major champion found his stroke early — and sent major shockwaves through Sea Pines. The roars began on the par-5 second, where Spieth holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle to thrill the growing gallery and vault right back into contention at 10-under par. Just three holes later, the heroics happened again. After finding the green in two on the par-5 fifth, Spieth calmly rolled in a 23-footer as the crowd erupted behind him.
It was his third eagle of the weekend and soared him all the way up to a tie with Davis at 12-under. While Spieth was making his run, 18-hole leader Cameron Young found a second wind, firing a front-nine 31 to match the two at the top before mustachioed South African Erik van Rooyen made it a foursome at 12-under par.
Just as Spieth looked to be taking control with a birdie at 8, a poor lie in the sand at the par-4 ninth forced him to bail out and play a shot into the grandstand area to earn free relief. He hit a brilliant pitch to set himself up with a 4-footer for par, but his inconsistent stroke reared its ugly head again for a costly bogey.
“It was just in the corner, so I couldn't even get a putter on it to hit it in the bunker more, and it was kind of half plugged,” Spieth said. “I just wished I made the putt.”
Meanwhile, several key names from the final groups began to make their climb to the top. Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka caught fire to surge to 13-under, and van Rooyen led by as many as two shots at -14 on the strength of four consecutive birdies.
The back-and-forth madness continued into the final nine holes, with six golfers within one stroke of a trio of co-leaders at one point. There was no telling which one would be the name to emerge, but it quickly turned in the direction of Lowry. The Irishman rattled in a 20-foot birdie putt on 11 and made a pair of key par saves on 12 and 13 to maintain a narrow one-stroke advantage over a horde of talent right on his tail. But he couldn’t escape the wickedness of Pete Dye’s par-3 14th. After missing the target and finding the waste area on the northwest side of the green, Lowry’s pitch bounded past the pin and over the railroad ties into the water, turning the tournament on a dime.
Staring down a birdie putt over on 18, Spieth was hoping to avenge disaster from a day prior and put a little pressure on the rest of the pack. After flubbing a putt from inside two feet on Saturday, the former No. 1 player in the world drained a 10-foot birdie to get into the clubhouse at 13-under. Even he didn’t know how big that could be in just another hour.
With Lowry’s sudden double-bogey collapse, it was Spieth who had the lead all by himself, but he knew that somebody was bound to catch up. Lowry, Varner and Cantlay all sat just one stroke back. Two birdies on the last three holes were likely to win the tournament, but the swirling late-afternoon winds made those chances hard to come by. As Spieth headed back to the practice green to gear up for a potential playoff, Cantlay made him sweat with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th to tie for the lead.
Another brilliant iron shot on 18 set up Cantlay for a likely tournament-clinching putt, but the 12-footer rolled just off the mark. After both Varner and Lowry came up empty on their last gasps overlooking a cloudy Calibogue Sound, the stage was set for Spieth and Cantlay to clash in a sudden-death playoff to cap off an enthralling day of golf.
“I can't stand watching golf when you're trying to dodge made putts because these guys are so good,” Spieth said. “Every single putt looks like it's going in. It was just way more nerve-racking than actually playing. I went to the range after he hit his second shot thinking I'd come right back in, that he would make that putt. I don't know what ended up happening. I guess it just missed on the right side.”
In the first-ever playoff in the PGA Tour between former FedEx Cup champions, the advantage quickly went to Cantlay when Spieth came up about 30 yards short of his foil off the tee and landed his second shot in the iconic greenside bunker, but the harsh winds shot down Cantlay’s bid into the sand, as well.
But there was no trouble at all for Spieth, who continued his spectacular bunker play. With a sold-out gallery of fans rooting him on, Spieth rolled his bunker shot just inches from the cup, while Cantlay sailed his bunker blast well to the right of the pin, forcing the Californian to make a 40-footer to stay alive.
Spieth stared out at Calibogue Sound, hoping for one of the best putters in the world to come up short. His prayers were answered, and the tartan jacket was his, soon after a joyful reunion with his wife, Annie, and infant son, Sammy.
“It was cool. I was kind of — I didn't think Annie was going to run onto the green, but she was really excited,” the newly-crowned Heritage champion recalled. “So it kind of took me — the whole thing took me by surprise because I legitimately thought Patrick was going to make it from 35 feet.”
Seven golfers finished tied for third at 12-under par, including Cam Davis, J.T. Poston, Cameron Young, Sepp Straka, Matt Kuchar, Harold Varner III and Shane Lowry.
After a rare missed cut at Augusta, Jordan Spieth made the trip to Harbour Town in search of redemption. Four days later, he found it — and made a lasting touch on a community in a week that he and the Lowcountry will never forget.
“I really wish that it wasn't the week right after the Masters because I would play this every single year, and after obviously just having this week happen, I certainly plan on it going forward,” Spieth said. “What a great tournament to win. It's an amazing golf course.”