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Jordan Spieth soars down stretch to notch win

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jordan Spieth ended any discussion about a hangover from his Masters back-nine meltdown in emphatic fashion Sunday while winning the Dean & Deluca Invitational and immediately pushing his name back onto the short list of favorites for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Spieth grabbed the lead with a rush to start the back nine, scrambled to hold on and then poured it on late to beat Harris English by three strokes at venerable Colonial Country Club.

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Spieth shot a 4-under-par 66 in the final round under warm and sunny conditions and ended up at 17-under 263 after 72 holes. A native of Dallas and the world's second-ranked player, Spieth captured his second victory of the 2015-16 PGA Tour season and the eighth Tour win of his career.

Spieth assumed the lead for good with a curving 20-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 16th hole and pushed his advantage to two strokes with a stunning 42-foot chip from behind the green for birdie on the 17th hole. He then rolled in a nonchalant, 34-foot putt on the final hole for one last birdie to put a capper on his remarkable finish. He needed just nine putts on the back-nine on Sunday.

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"It's always nice to see those kind of putts and even chips go in when they really matter on the back-nine Sunday," Spieth said. "It all went down to ball-striking. I just needed to develop a comfort level and I did. Those are high-pressure situations where I just felt like I had enough of a trigger where I could produce one ball flight, that little draw, and it would be within five yards or so of where I was looking.

"No matter what happens in the next 30 years of my career, this will be one of the most important days that I've ever had," Spieth added.

English shot a final-round 66 that featured an eagle on the par-5 first hole from 83 yards to set the pace for an opening run that eventually saw him assume a two-shot lead by the seventh hole. He ended up at 14-under, but was no match for Spieth down the stretch.

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"I wish I would have had a couple more good birdie chances coming down the stretch, but that's how golf is," English said. "Jordan has played really well coming down the stretch, and I was just right there to put some pressure on him, and it didn't work out. I played some really good golf and hit some good shots coming down the stretch but obviously Spieth did some pretty spectacular stuff."

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Ryan Palmer (68) and Webb Simpson (68), who were paired with Spieth on Sunday, tied for third at 13-under. Kyle Reifers (68) bogeyed the final hole to finish alone in fifth at 12-under.

"It was just tough for me to catch those guys who were out ahead and I knew Jordan wasn't really going to give any back," Simpson said. "I walked to No. 10 thinking I need to shoot 5-under but I don't even know if that would have been good enough."

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Anirban Lahiri of India (68), Jason Dufner (70), Matt Kuchar (68) and Martin Piller (71) tied for sixth at 9-under, eight shots behind Spieth.

Spieth, who led by one stroke entering the final round, did little on the front nine on Sunday outside a crucial 32-foot putt for par that kept him within two strokes of English's lead. But he kicked it into gear when he made the turn, with birdies on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes to sweep past English and into a one-shot advantage.

"I was hitting good shots but the speed was just off on my putting on the front-nine," Spieth said. "The back-nine was just about adjusting accordingly. On No. 10, I got a good read off Webb (Simpson)'s putt, and when that one went, it kind of opened the floodgates."

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Spieth promptly bogeyed 13 when he hit his tee shot on the water-fronted par-3 into the bunker to the left of the green. He then blasted on and then off the putting surface, wedged back to two feet and made the putt.

He found trouble again on the 14th, driving his tee shot into a bunker and then coming up 32 yards short of the green with a bunker in between him and the hole. Spieth pitched his ensuing shot 14 feet past the hole and somehow rolled in the par putt, as it turned sideways into the hole on its final rotation.

That set the stage for a final charge that handed Spieth his first victory in the Lone Star State.

Chris Kirk, the 2015 champion here, carded a 69 on Sunday to finish at 6-under and tied for 14th. Ben Hogan is the only player to win the tournament in back-to-back years, and he did it twice, in 1946-47 and 1952-53.

NOTES: Play on Sunday was delayed by about two hours before it started after an inch of rain pummeled the course in the early-morning hours. ... In the previous 69 editions of the Dean & Deluca Invitational, the third-round leader or co-leader had gone on to win 35 times, but the last seven champions had won in come-from-behind fashion: Steve Stricker (2009), Zach Johnson (2010), David Toms (2011), Zach Johnson (2012), Boo Weekley (2013), Adam Scott (2014) and Chris Kirk (2015). ... The third-round leader/co-leader has now won 11 of 27 stroke-play events this season, most recently Jason Day at The Players Championship. ... The last Texas-born winner of this event was Ben Crenshaw in 1990. ... Ben Hogan, the figurehead and patron of Colonial Country Club, won this event five times, including in 1959 as his final PGA Tour tournament title. ... The top 15 finishers this year earn automatic invitations to this tournament for next year.

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