Spieth cruises to Kapalua win to tie Tiger with 7 PGA Tour wins at 22

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Monday, January 11, 2016

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Jordan Spieth brought his old form to the new year and had no trouble winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in record-tying fashion on Sunday.

Staked to a five-shot lead, Spieth made two straight birdies around the turn at Kapalua to restore his margin, and he spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the views of surf and sun on Maui. The view from the top is just as stunning at the moment -- but not so much for those trying to catch him.

Spieth made an 8-foot birdie putt to reach his target, though he didn't need it. He closed with a 6-under 67 for an 8-shot victory over Patrick Reed. He finished at 30-under 262 and joinedErnie Els as the only players in PGA Tour history to finish a 72-hole event at 30-under or better. Els set his record of 31-under with an eight-shot win at Kapalua in 2003.

"I felt like it was short, three-week break and continue what we were doing last year," said Spieth, who is coming off a five-win season that included the Masters and U.S. Open. "That's the way I'll keep on thinking about it. It worked this week. All parts were firing."

Spieth won for the seventh time on the PGA Tour and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to record that many wins by age 22 since complete records began in 1970.

Spieth won his seventh title in his 77th start as a pro. Woods won his seventh PGA Tour event in his 38th start, and he had 18 wins in his first 77 tournaments. Even so, comparisons with Woods can only mean great play, and no one is playing better.

"Nowhere near," Spieth said when asked how his record stacks up with Woods'. "I don't think there's any reason to compare. It's awfully early. We're excited about where we're at to start our career. What Tiger has done, I can't imagine ever being done. But it's nice to be in that company. It's fantastic being out here with what we're trying to do and doing it well."

The odds of Spieth winning back-to-back Masters titles this April improved from 6-1 to 5-1 after his victory, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy's chances also went up from 7-1 to 6-1, despite his not playing this week. Jason Day, ranked second in the world, actually saw his odds drop from 7-1 to 8-1 after his T-10 finish at the Tournament of Champions.

Spieth's odds to win the Grand Slam in 2016 jumped from 100-1 prior to his first start of year to 80-1 after the 8-shot victory.

Reed, the defending champion at Kapalua, got within 3 shots with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. Spieth answered with a two-putt birdie in the group behind him and then rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th and was on his way. He had talked about making 30-under his goal because in such gorgeous conditions, he might need it to hold off anyone making a big run.

As it turns out, he didn't. Reed stalled on the back nine, ended his bogey-free week on the 15th hole and closed with a 69. Brooks Koepka, playing with Spieth in the final group, had a wild start to his round but never got closer than the 5-shot deficit he faced at the start. Koepka closed with a 71 and tiedBrandt Snedekerfor third (67).

It was the fifth time in the past 13 months that Spieth had at least a 2-shot lead going into a final round, and he was never seriously challenged. That's not to suggest it felt like a breeze, especially early. His approach shot on No. 1 somehow ended up just out of a steep bunker on the very edge of sand, some 50 yards from the hole. He pitched it onto the green and let the grain take it to 4 feet for a save, and then he holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the next hole.

He missed a 3 1/2-foot birdie putt on No. 3, and then three-putted the par-5 fifth for a par. After a simple up-and-down for birdie on No. 6, he made his second bogey of the week on the par-3 eighth hole. Reed made birdie on the ninth ahead of him, which ut the lead to 3 shots.

That was as close as it got. Reed, trying to join Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy as the only repeat winners at Kapalua, opened with three birdies in five holes and went out in 32. Whatever chance he had ended when he started the back nine with five straight pars. A poor drive on the par-5 15th led to his only bogey of the week.

"I knew I had to make birdies early to put pressure on him," Reed said. "I got it to within three. The next time I saw a board, it was back to five. He's not going to shoot over par, especially the way he's playing now."

The tournament was never in doubt, and for one tournament at least, Spieth backed up his comment that 2016 isn't an encore because that would mean the show was over. The next question is how good he can get.

After a week at home in Dallas, Spieth heads to Middle East for the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the Singapore Open before resuming his PGA Tour schedule at Pebble Beach and Riviera.

Much like Woods in 2000 andDavid Duval in 1999, by winning Kapalua, Spieth sent an early messagethat he wasn't interested in seeing this wave end.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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