Has Spi­eth hit mys­tique level af­ter Open win?

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DOUG FER­GU­SON

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND — Jor­dan Spi­eth was happy enough to see his name on the claret jug with­out won­der­ing where he fit in among the rest of the Bri­tish Open cham­pi­ons whose names are en­graved on the old­est tro­phy in golf.

In that re­spect, noth­ing has changed.

Spi­eth wasn’t keen on com­par­isons when he be­came the youngest Mas­ters cham­pion since Tiger Woods, the youngest U.S. Open cham­pion since Bobby Jones or the youngest to win two ma­jors since Gene Sarazen. And now that Jack Nick­laus is part of the con­ver­sa­tion, he shies away from them even more.

Spi­eth and Nick­laus are the only play­ers to cap­ture the third leg of the Grand Slam at age 23.

“I’ll be care­ful with my an­swer,” Spi­eth said Sun­day when asked about his place among the greats. “It’s amaz­ing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don’t think com­par­isons ... I don’t com­pare my­self. And I don’t think that they’re ap­pro­pri­ate or nec­es­sary. So to be in that com­pany no doubt is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble, and I cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

To hear his name listed in such elite com­pany is merely a re­ward from the work he put in to get there.

“So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go,” he said. Maybe. But if he were to win the PGA Cham­pi­onship in three weeks, he will be only the sixth — and youngest — to have all four ma­jors.

The prospect is ex­cit­ing, though re­cent his­tory il­lus­trates why suc­cess can be so fleet­ing in golf.

Rory McIl­roy looked un­stop­pable when he won the Bri­tish Open and PGA Cham­pi­onship at the end of 2014, and then headed to Au­gusta Na­tional for a shot at the Grand Slam. Who could pos­si­bly beat that blend of power and scor­ing? Spi­eth won the Mas­ters in a run­away. McIl­roy has fin­ished six shots be­hind at Au­gusta in each of the three chances he has had to com­plete the Grand Slam.

More than win­ning at Royal Birk­dale was the man­ner in which Spi­eth did it.

There were Tiger­like qual­i­ties that emerged from a six-hole stretch of golf at Royal Birk­dale that be­came part of ma­jor cham­pi­onship lore. Spi­eth sal­vaged a 5 on the 13th hole while play­ing his third shot with a 3-iron from the driv­ing range, so far away that he wasn’t even sure of the yardage and couldn’t see any part of the hole. He faced a del­i­cate pitch over a pot bunker and then a must-make putt.

What fol­lowed was a 6-iron that nearly went in for an ace, a 50-foot ea­gle that found the cen­tre of the cup and a 30-foot birdie across the 16th green. Was this re­ally hap­pen­ing? The feel­ings must have been sim­i­lar watch­ing Nick­laus make his charge on the back nine to win the 1986 Mas­ters. The drama was sim­i­lar to Woods run­ning off three straight birdies at Val­halla when he won his third straight ma­jor in a play­off at the 2000 PGA Cham­pi­onship.

The pay­off for Spi­eth was more than the third leg of the Grand Slam. It might have been a big step in cre­at­ing a mys­tique, a trait shared by pre­cious few over his­tory.

“These are the in­tan­gi­bles, the things I just don’t un­der­stand,” Zach John­son said. “I’m not sug­gest­ing I can’t do it. He just does it all the time.”

Ernie Els even raised the prospect of Spi­eth reach­ing the 14 ma­jors won by Woods.

“When you get on a roll like that, guys kind of start­ing know­ing that you know how to win,” Els said. “And al­most like Tiger, where peo­ple can maybe feel like they can’t do it against Jor­dan.”

And as he showed Sun­day at Royal Birk­dale, Spi­eth has a sense of the oc­ca­sion.


Amer­i­can Jor­dan Spi­eth is po­ten­tially three weeks away from be­com­ing the youngest golfer ever to win all four ma­jors.

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