Spi­eth tries to keep it nor­mal

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

With a chance to match history at the home of golf, Jor­dan Spi­eth is try­ing to make the Bri­tish Open feel like just another event.

And that might be as tough as any chal­lenge at St. An­drews.

The press room was at ca­pac­ity and spilled out the door when he spoke to the media Wed­nes­day for the first time this week, cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere nor­mally re­served for Tiger Woods or Rory McIl­roy. Fans gath­ered around a board that listed the prac­tice round sched­ule, scan­ning up and down un­til they found Spi­eth.

“Please hold the cam­eras un­til af­ter the shot,’’ cad­die Michael Greller told the gallery. The sound of shut­ters be­gan at the top of his swing, and Spi­eth could only laugh when he launched his tee shot. “It’s like this on ev­ery hole,’’ he said.

The 21-year-old Texan does not have the aura of Woods.

He does not have the ac­com­plish­ments of McIl­roy.

He still is the main at­trac­tion at this Bri­tish Open, and would be even if McIl­roy — the de­fend­ing cham­pion and No. 1 in the world — were not out with an an­kle in­jury.

Folks know their history at St. An­drews.

Ben Ho­gan in 1953 is the only other player to cap­ture the Mas­ters, U.S. Open and Bri­tish Open in the same year. Only three play­ers since then — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nick­laus and Woods — have ever come to Scot­land with hopes of a Grand Slam.

Spi­eth knows history, too, as much as he’d rather not think about it un­til he has no choice.

“I like to study the history of golf, and it’s ex­tremely spe­cial what this year has brought to our team,’’ he said. “And to have a chance to do what only one other per­son in the history of golf has done ... I’m sure em­brac­ing that op­por­tu­nity.

“But by the time I start on Thurs­day, it won’t be in my head. It’ll be about how can I bring this Open Cham­pi­onship down to just another event, get out there and try and get my­self into con­tention.’’

He set out for his fi­nal prac­tice round on a cool morn­ing with an over­cast sky, oc­ca­sional rain, and not much wind. There is plenty of talk about how ready Spi­eth will be for his shot at history. He played two full rounds and 10 holes lead­ing up to the start Thurs­day. He played the Old Course four years ago on his way to the Walker Cup.

Then again, St. An­drews has rarely been this green, this slow, be­cause of re­cent rain. That takes some of the roll out of the fair­way, and with it the un­pre­dictable na­ture of links golf.

Spi­eth is the bet­ting favourite, and it didn’t hurt that he won the John Deere Clas­sic on Sun­day for his fourth PGA Tour ti­tle of the year. What­ever he lost in study by not com­ing over early, he might have gained in con­fi­dence that not much has changed since the U.S. Open.

“Com­ing over ear­lier cer­tainly could have helped,’’ he said. “I just liked the fact that I could go some­where I could play hard, and pos­si­bly win a PGA Tour event in prepa­ra­tion. But cer­tainly, more time on this golf course couldn’t ever hurt any­body.’’

The jet lag hasn’t been a prob­lem. Be­sides, Spi­eth won the Aus­tralian Open in late Novem­ber, flew straight to Dal­las, went to Florida the next day for the Hero World Chal­lenge, and beat an 18man field of top 50 play­ers by 10 shots.

But this is a full field, and the old­est cham­pi­onship in golf on the links where it all be­gan.

“Maybe a slightly big­ger stage,’’ Spi­eth said.

The only con­cern is the weather. It has been rea­son­able all week, though the forecast is for wind to in­crease up to 35 mph (55 kph) with shift­ing di­rec­tions.

“It seems a lit­tle eas­ier than I think it’ll play,’’ Spi­eth said. “So I would have liked to see tougher con­di­tions in prac­tice rounds to get used to pre­vail­ing winds and wind switches. That’s part of the fun and the ad­just­ment.’’

Ev­ery­thing seems fun to Spi­eth at the mo­ment.

Just two years ago, he didn’t even have a full PGA Tour card when he won the John Deere Clas­sic by hol­ing a bunker shot on the 18th and win­ning a play­off.


United States’ Jor­dan Spi­eth plays from the rough on hole 16 dur­ing a prac­tice round at the Bri­tish Open Golf Cham­pi­onship at the Old Course, St. An­drews, Scot­land, Wed­nes­day.

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