The celebration had been building for hours. Many of the 5,000 viewers clearly expected Spieth to prevail. A native and resident of Dallas, he was theirs.
They followed Spieth through a front of nine where he made his only ghost of the round. Hundreds more waited on the 10 tee. The gallery tripled when Spieth, sipping a chocolate drink, drove up from the ninth green with a one-shot lead he had taken at number 3 and stretched to two in the eighth. par 5.
“Even though I knew Charley was playing well and the wind was easing, he would have to birdies,” Spieth said. “I made better swings in the last nine today.”
His gallery grew, especially in 16, par 3 with the bunker in the middle of the green where everyone gathers to have a pretzel or a beer. Hoffman made a birdie. Feeling like Spieth might need them now more than ever, many of those who had sat on 16 for most of the windless day now headed to the next tee.
The Loyalists followed Spieth to the next hole, where he made that crucial birdie. Spieth had a two-shot lead with one hole left to play.
Then he remembered what it took to finish a tournament.
“For me, it’s about delivering results and instead working for freedom,” Spieth said. “If I feel free, I love what I do, and if I love what I do, I will do it well.”
In Austin, some 40 members of the University of Texas Golf Club gathered for the finale at the Founders Bar. Many of them remembered Spieth from his first year on the men’s golf team, which won the NCAA National Championship. 2012 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Around the corner from the bar, a display case had a signed Masters flag, a cardboard cutout of the old Longhorn, and a signed Wheaties box, among other artifacts. Spieth never left Austin and never will.
In Florida, John Fields, the team’s head coach then and now, followed Spieth’s round by phone as his players competed in a college tournament. Fields could see the last hole, down to the last putt. He hoped his current team would be as moved as he was by what he saw.
Fields brought up the fact that Spieth hadn’t made desperate changes during his winless streak. He was left with his only caddy, Michael Greller. He retained his lifelong instructor, Cameron McCormick.
“Resilience,” Fields said. That’s what he wants his players to see when they watch Sunday’s highlights from Spieth in San Antonio.
“Sheds light on that resilience,” Fields said. “This is real”.
There was plenty of sunlight left when Spieth putt to win. Greller removed the flag from the flagpole. Hoffman gave Spieth a big hug.
“I know what he’s been through,” Hoffman said.
Then the music started. Spieth wondered when and how it would all sink in. Annie Verret hadn’t reached her husband yet when she and everyone else at TPC San Antonio heard through the speakers that familiar keyboard riff, and then that familiar voice: Steve Perry from Journey, yelling “Don’t Stop Believin”. , ”That familiar hymn of hope.