Meet Jordan Spieth, Golf’s Next Big Thing

The teenage phenom pulled off a feat that no one has accomplished in over 80 years

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Michael Cohen / Getty Images

Spieth finished 19 strokes under par at the John Deere Classic.

On Sunday, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth did something no teenager had since 1931: win a PGA Tour event. The Dallas native won a thrilling five-hole, sudden-death playoff, besting defending champion Zach Johnson and 34-year-old David Hearn at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill to end the 82-year drought (Ralph Guldahl was the last to accomplish the feat, winning the Santa Monica Open in 1931). Spieth earned his spot in the playoff in appropriately dramatic fashion, holing a chip shot for birdie from a bunker on 18. Five nerve-wracking playoff holes later, he had captured his first PGA Tour victory.

It may be hard to believe that there were accolades that Tiger Woods didn’t collect during his ascendency in the mid-nineties, but the 14-time Major Champion didn’t earn his first tour win until he was nearly 21. Though it would be spectacularly premature to compare Spieth to Woods, the two are the only multiple winners in the 65-year history of the U.S. Junior Amateur Golf Championship (Woods from 1991 to 1993, Spieth in 2009 and 2011).

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All of this is to say that Spieth was far from an unheralded prospect. In addition to his Amateur Championship titles, he was named a first-team All-American in 2012 and led Texas to a national title that same year. Spieth also earned an exemption into the 2012 U.S. Open field after Brandt Snedeker’s withdrawal—he finished tied for 21st. Since turning pro in December, he has participated in 16 events and has earned top-ten finishes in six of them.

Though Spieth has joked about being a college dropout, shedding his amateur status appears to be more blessing than curse thus far. With his win on Sunday, the 19-year-old earned a full PGA Tour membership, jumped to 11th in the projected FedEx Cup standings and rose to 59th in the World Golf Rankings—those in the Top 50 are all but guaranteed automatic entry into the four major championships. Spieth also signed on with Under Armour, which has helped him to fund his travels for a busy tour schedule.

Spieth doesn’t seem inclined to let up anytime soon—his victory on Sunday earned him the final opening for this week’s Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland.