Mem­ber­ship to an elite club of leg­ends beck­ons

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - BY ANDY SCOTT

• What A Year For Spi­eth! • Mag­is­te­rial Mat­suyama Wins WGC Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional

Spi­eth's dra­matic vic­tory on the links at Royal Birk­dale in north-west Eng­land saw him add the Open's fa­mous Claret Jug to the Mas­ters green jacket he won at Au­gusta in 2015 and his US Open ti­tle the same year. The Texan has now em­u­lated the great Jack Nick­laus in win­ning three dif­fer­ent ma­jors be­fore the age of 24.

At the mo­ment Nick­laus is one of just five play­ers to have claimed

all four ma­jors, Spi­eth could be the youngest to get there. "It's in­cred­i­ble. It's a life goal of mine. It's a ca­reer goal. Grow­ing up play­ing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in ma­jor cham­pi­onships and com­pete with the best in the world, and things have hap­pened very quickly," said Spi­eth. He sur­vived a ma­jor wob­ble in the last round at Birk­dale to end on 12 un­der par and beat com­pa­triot Matt Kuchar by three shots.

He was al­ready the fourth-youngest man to cap­ture two ma­jors with his 2015 dou­ble, hav­ing pre­vi­ously be­come the youngest win­ner on the PGA Tour in over 80 years at the John Deere Clas­sic in 2013. Adding to his achieve­ments, Spi­eth warmed up for Birk­dale with a vic­tory at the Trav­ellers Cham­pi­onship, which al­lowed him to match Tiger Woods in reach­ing dou­ble dig­its for tour, wins by such a young age. "It's good and bad, be­cause a lot comes with it. And a lot more at­ten­tion, ver­sus just be­ing able to kind of go about your own thing. And I never re­alised how un­der­rated that was."

Praise from Nick­laus

Along with Nick­laus, the other play­ers to

have com­pleted the ca­reer Grand Slam are Woods, Ben Ho­gan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen. But Spi­eth is not a fan of com­par­isons be­tween him and the greats of the sport. "I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don't com­pare my­self. And I don't think that they're ap­pro­pri­ate or nec­es­sary.

"To be in that com­pany, no doubt is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble. And I cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate it. And we work re­ally hard to have that, with that be­ing the goal," said Spi­eth af­ter be­com­ing the youngest Bri­tish Open cham­pion since a 22-year-old Seve Balles­teros won at Royal Lytham in 1979.

"But I'm very care­ful as to what that means go­ing for­ward be­cause what those guys have done has tran­scended the sport. "And in no way, shape or form do I think I'm any­where near that, what­so­ever. So it's a good start, but there is a long way to go."

Spi­eth showed great nerve af­ter quickly frit­ter­ing away a three-stroke overnight ad­van­tage and then al­most blow­ing it com­pletely on the back nine. A way­ward tee shot on the 13th forced him to take a drop and play his third from an ad­ja­cent prac­tice ground. He es­caped with a bo­gey to sit just one stroke be­hind Kuchar be­fore three birdies and an ea­gle in the next four holes sealed the deal. It was a re­mark­able show of guts, all the more so with mem­o­ries still fresh of his col­lapse at the 2016 Mas­ters, when he blew a five-stroke lead on the back nine on the last day.

His vic­tory, and the man­ner of it, drew praise from Nick­laus. "He's won 11 tour­na­ments and I had won eight be­fore 24," Nick­laus, now 77, wrote on Twit­ter. "If you look at his vic­tory to­tal, his win to­day and the way he won, Jor­dan has shown an amaz­ing dis­play of ma­tu­rity for some­one so young, and he has been do­ing that for a quite a while."

Jor­dan Spi­eth

Rolex tes­ti­monee and cham­pion golfer of the year Jor­dan Spi­eth

Hole 18 at the 146th open at Royal Birk­dale Golf Club

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