SILVIS – Jordan Spieth's stated goal is to be the No. 1 golfer in the world.
If and/or when he attains that goal, the springboard could be a little patch of sand near the 18th green at the TPC Deere Run golf course in Silvis.
Last July, Spieth found himself in that bunker on his last hole. He stood at 18-under-par, two strokes behind Zach Johnson, who was the defending champion, and one behind David Hearn.
Needing a miraculous finish, he got one. His shot from the beach bounced once and landed directly in the cup for an unlikely birdie. When Johnson bogeyed the last hole and Hearn parred, the three of them were in a playoff.
Each player had golden opportunities to win, and on the fifth extra hole, it was Spieth who finally did.
On Monday, Spieth returned to the course, fresh off a tie for 19th place at The Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, as the headliner for the John Deere Classic media day. He didn't play the course, but instead fielded questions from a throng of reporters.
One of the things he wanted to stress: the bunker shot on the 18th hole would not have skittered across the green and into a pond, as many thought it would.
"It really bugs me when people tell me it was going in the water because it wasn't going in the water. I mean, I get told that, people from the crowd will yell out throughout the year, good thing that one hit the pin, huh?"
Spieth's road to PGA Tour riches was an unconventional one. He played just 1 year at Texas, where he helped the Longhorns win a national championship in 2011, before turning pro in December of 2012, midway through his sophomore season.
He relied on sponsor's exemptions to get into tournaments, and made the most of them. By March of 2013, he had made enough money to receive unlimited exemptions.
The big breakthrough came at the John Deere Classic. The win got him into the British Open, which was contested the next week at Muirfield, Scotland, as well as the PGA Championship and the 2014 Masters. It also earned him full status on the PGA Tour, meaning he could pick and choose the events he wanted to play in.
Spieth nearly won again at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2013, but lost a playoff to Patrick Reed. He capped off his year by being a captain's selection to the Presidents Cup team, and helped the United States win that event.
Spieth won the PGA Tour's rookie of the year award, and finished 10th on the money list in 2013 with just under $4 million dollars. He wound up ranked 22nd in the world, after beginning the season ranked 810th.
In 2014, Spieth is up to 10th in the world, and is fifth on the PGA Tour money list with $3,369,464. He had a chance to win the Masters, leading the event with 11 holes to play before being overtaken by Bubba Watson.
He also had a chance at another elite event, The Players Championship, before again faltering late.
It's all part of a learning process that he hopes will get him to the top of the sport. It's big-time stuff for a man who doesn't turn 21 until July 27.
"That ultimate goal of becoming No. 1 in the world is still out there, and I'm off to a good start in achieving that," Spieth said, "but it's going to take a lot harder work than I'm even putting in now, and I'd like to think I'm putting in a lot of hard work. But it's going to take that extra step that nobody else is taking."
FYI: PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2013, when he won the John Deere Classic. ... Currently 10th in the world golf ranking. ... Helped Texas win national championship in 2011