This is Australian Open golf winner Jordan Spieth, of Texas, with his girlfriend Annie Verret. They make a cute couple. Awwww. But Spieth's real love affair this week as the 23-year-old won his second Australian Open golf title at Royal Sydney? The city of Sydney itself.
Spieth is head-over-heels in love with the Harbour City. "It's my favourite city that I've ever travelled to," the young golfing prodigy said after beating Aussies Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall in a tense playoff on Sunday afternoon.
Spieth, like all top professional golfers is well-travelled. But this year he cut down on his international golfing adventures. After early season tournament visits to Hawaii (OK, not an "international" destination for an American but technically still "overseas"), then Singapore and Abu Dhabi, Spieth mostly spent the year in the U.S. -- give or take a trip to Scotland to play the British Open.
But there's one trip he wouldn't sacrifice for anything and that's to Sydney to play the Australian Open. As he said on Sunday "even if overseas travel is trimmed down, we still come here".
Spieth is currently world number five. In America, he is a superstar and easily the most recognisable golfer since Tiger Woods. The remarkable thing is that the Australian Open is no longer a must-play event for the world's great golfers, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s when the likes of Jack Nicklaus (regarded by most as the greatest ever player alongside Tiger Woods) came, and won, on multiple occasions.
Its total prize pool of $1.25 million is dwarfed by the $5 to $10 million on offer at tournaments week in, week out, on the U.S. PGA Tour. You don't come for the money or the world ranking points. So why come? Because as mentioned, Jordan Spieth of Dallas Texas, can't get enough of Sydney.
And yes, he's been to Melbourne. He's played Melbourne's famous sandbelt golf courses (in his own time, not in tournaments), but somehow, Sydney Harbour just does it for him more than the Yarra and laneways.
This reporter interviewed Spieth when he first visited Sydney in 2014 to play the Australian Open, and he said he had this moment at the Sydney Opera House bar on the eve of the tournament when he just went "wow". He should have been tucked up in his hotel room by then, but hey, life is to be enjoyed. And sometimes, that helps your golf game too. Spieth went on to a runaway 6-stroke victory which set him on a rapid rise to world number one, with a Masters green jacket on the way.
This year, Spieth said some friends in Sydney showed him a bunch of places he'd never seen before. Now he loves Sydney even more. He also did the Sydney Harbour Bridge BridgeClimb. And loved it.
"The bridge itself is incredible, and the views, wow. And I'm kind of a geography nut."
Spieth wouldn't 100 per cent commit to coming back to defend his title in 2017, but you get the strong feeling he'll find a way to squeeze it in. You can watch his full post-victory press conference below. It's nice the way he says "we" when talking abut himself -- mindful that a successful golfer is very much moulded by his caddie, his coach, and his whole entourage.Suggest a correction