Spi­eth chases Grand Slam his­tory, PGA prac­tice opens

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

CHAR­LOTTE: Jor­dan Spi­eth says he isn’t car­ry­ing any extra pres­sure this week try­ing to be­come the youngest golfer to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam by win­ning the 99th PGA Cham­pi­onship. But the 24-yearold Amer­i­can, who won his third ma­jor ti­tle two weeks ago at the Bri­tish Open, wouldn’t mind mak­ing his­tory while fin­ish­ing off a dream goal this week at Quail Hol­low, where prac­tice be­gan Mon­day.

“I don’t need to be the youngest. I don’t feel any added pres­sure be­cause of that,” Spi­eth said. “I re­ally don’t feel any added pres­sure what­so­ever. If it hap­pens great. If it doesn’t then my next, prob­a­bly last, life­long goal as a pro­fes­sional golfer would be to win the ca­reer grand slam.” World num­ber two Spi­eth, the 2015 Mas­ters and US Open cham­pion, could be­come only the sixth man to sweep the four ma­jor ti­tles in a ca­reer af­ter Jack Nick­laus, Tiger Woods, Ben Ho­gan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

Spi­eth would be 24 years and 17 days old on Sun­day, about six months younger than Woods-the youngest to win all four ma­jors so far-was when he won the 2000 Bri­tish Open to com­plete his ca­reer slam. And Spi­eth could be­come the first player to com­plete a ca­reer slam with a vic­tory at the PGA Cham­pi­onship. Nick­laus, Woods and Ho­gan com­pleted their ca­reer slams at the Bri­tish Open, Sarazen at the Mas­ters and Player at the US Open.

For now, Spi­eth is among a se­lect group of 13 play­ers who have cap­tured three of the four ma­jors in their ca­reers. He joins Tom Wat­son and the late Arnold Palmer in only lack­ing the PGA Cham­pi­onship.

That list in­cludes US left-han­der Phil Mick­el­son, a five-time ma­jor win­ner miss­ing only the US Open af­ter a record six run­ner-up show­ings in that event, and North­ern Ire­land’s Rory McIl­roy, a four-time ma­jor win­ner lack­ing only the Mas­ters to com­plete his ca­reer sweep. Mick­el­son, like four-time ma­jor win­ner Ernie Els of South Africa, will make his 100th ma­jor ap­pear­ance this week at Quail Hol­low.

MCIL­ROY LOVES QUAIL HOL­LOW

McIl­roy is ex­pected to be a con­tender for a third Wana­maker Tro­phy af­ter wins in 2012 and 2014. That would put him fourth on the all-time list be­hind Nick­laus and Wal­ter Ha­gen with five and Woods with four.

“It would be nice to make that a hat trick,” McIl­roy said. And McIl­roy has s strong his­tory at Quail Hol­low. He won his first US PGA ti­tle in 2010 on the 7,600-yard, par-71 lay­out at age 20 with a fi­nal-round course record 62. In 2015, he low­ered the mark, a third-round 61 spark­ing him to a sec­ond tour ti­tle in Char­lotte.

“I play well at Quail Hol­low. I love the golf course,” McIl­roy said. “They have made a few changes but I’ll have some re­ally good vibes.” Pos­si­bly soft con­di­tions with thun­der­storms in the fore­cast into the week­end shouldn’t dampen McIl­roy’s ma­jor chances, given that he won a rain­soaked US Open in 2011 by eight strokes at Con­gres­sional.

Spi­eth will play along­side fel­low reign­ing ma­jor cham­pi­ons Ser­gio Garcia of Spain, who cap­tured his first ma­jor ti­tle at the Mas­ters, and Amer­i­can Brooks Koepka, the US Open win­ner, in the first two rounds. The fea­ture trio starts Thurs­day from the 10th tee at 8:25 a.m. (1225 GMT) and Fri­day from the first tee at 1:35 pm.

97 OF TOP 100 IN CHAR­LOTTE

World num­ber one Dustin Johnson will be in the group just be­hind them both days along with Australia’s sev­enth-ranked Ja­son Day and Swe­den’s eighth-rated Hen­rik Sten­son. In all, 97 of the world’s top 100 are play­ing this week, with num­ber 36 Brandt Snedeker drop­ping out in­jured on Mon­day, join­ing Ger­many’s Martin Kaymer (64) and Amer­i­can Scott Piercy (77).

Amer­i­can Chris Kirk re­placed Snedeker in the field. McIl­roy will play along­side Spain’s Jon Rahm and Amer­i­can Rickie Fowler in the first two rounds. De­fend­ing cham­pion Jimmy Walker, who was di­ag­nosed with Lyme dis­ease in April, will join Mick­el­son and Ja­son Dufner in an all-US trio. Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama, com­ing off a vic­tory at the World Golf Cham­pi­onships Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional, will join Els and Eng­land’s Ian Poulter the first two days.—AFP

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