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Sizzling Spieth sets sights on McIlroy

Updated: 2014-12-09 07:30
By Agence France-Presse in Orlando (China Daily)

While Tiger Woods struggled in his return from a four-month layoff, it was Jordan Spieth whose overpowering Hero World Challenge victory on Sunday revived memories of Woods in his prime.

The 21-year-old American, coming off an Australian Open triumph a week earlier, fired a six under par 66 to complete a wire-to-wire triumph in the elite 18-player event at Isleworth.

Spieth's 26-under total of 262 and his victory margin of 10 strokes over Swedish world No 2 Henrik Stenson were both tournament records, and his score in relation to par was one not even Woods has matched over 72 holes.

Sizzling Spieth sets sights on McIlroy

Jordan Spieth holds the championship trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge golf tournament on Sunday in Windermere, Florida. Willie J. Allen Jr. / AP

"Right now my game is at its highest level it's ever been. This is the best I've ever played ... which is what I said in Sydney last week," Spieth said. "Hopefully I'll look back and continue to get better."

Spieth, a runner-up at this year's Masters who led late before falling to Bubba Watson, is showing form to rival world No 1 Rory McIlroy, who would complete a career grand slam and win his third consecutive major title by taking the green jacket next April at Augusta National.

"To take it to the next level, to win a major, I've got to look to Rory," Spieth said. "He's the one we're all chasing. I did a good job of beginning that chase the past couple weeks."

Spieth said in Australia he was "far, far away" from the level of McIlroy, this year's British Open and PGA Championship winner, but he feels he has closed the gap to "now just far away."

Spieth made a huge splash when he won the 2013 John Deere Classic in a playoff. Now he has designs on winning majors and climbing to the top of the world rankings.

"Rory is the youngest guy, the one with the most success. He's No 1 in the world and setting the bar. He's the one we're all chasing," added Spieth, who held the Masters lead during the final round before finishing joint second.

"I think I did a good job of starting that chase these last couple of weeks. That's only really the beginning of what needs to happen for the ultimate goal, which is to overtake him."

Spieth will be the same age then as Woods was in 1997 when he won his first major at the Masters, but the latest US prodigy played down any notion he might be the "next Tiger," stressing a first major win and McIlroy's top ranking are his targets.

"I understand that when I'm out here and I'm one of the young guys, people want to see somebody come up and do what Tiger did and change a generation of golf," Spieth said.

"That's not necessarily what I'm out here to do. I'm out here to try to win each tournament I'm in. If you happen to win majors, which is the ultimate goal, then great.

"But right now I look at No 1 in the world Rory McIlroy, what he did this year, and I'm trying to chase him more than I am anything else."

Rises to ninth

Spieth will jump to ninth in the world rankings with the victory, a leap of five places in two winning weeks.

"Moving up five spots shows me what it will take to try to move up to that No 1 spot," he said.

Spieth achieved his goal of a multi-win season, although leaving it for late and with neither of them in official US PGA events.

"I'm playing a little better than I did at Augusta," he said. "I'll have to play at this level or better to win a major."

Spieth owned a seven-shot lead after 54 holes following a bogey-free 63 on Saturday that was capped by a 60-foot birdie putt.

On Sunday, he opened with a birdie, added back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth and an eagle on the par-5 seventh.

Spieth began the back nine with a birdie, then took a double bogey at the 14th before birdies on the par-3 15th and par-5 17th.

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