JOR­DAN SPI­ETH

● Greller says ‘tempo talk’ helped cham­pion es­cape melt­down ● Tips Texan to re­peat his­tory with back-to-back ma­jor vic­to­ries

The Scotsman - - Sport - By MARTIN DEMP­STER at Royal Birk­dale

on win­ning three dif­fer­ent ma­jors be­fore the age of 24 – and the cad­die whose words of wis­dom made all the dif­fer­ence.

“This is as much of a high as I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in my golf­ing life. I’m go­ing to en­joy it”

Hav­ing watched from close quar­ters as Jor­dan Spi­eth con­jured up the great­est fin­ish in Open Cham­pi­onship his­tory to get his hands on the Claret Jug at Royal Birk­dale, his cad­die Mike Greller is ex­pect­ing his­tory to re­peat it­self next month, with the young Amer­i­can tipped to win back-to-back ma­jors for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer.

Spi­eth achieved that notable feat in 2015, fol­low­ing up his break­through win in the Mas­ters at Au­gusta Na­tional by also tri­umph­ing in the US Open at Cham­bers Bay, be­fore miss­ing out on a play­off by just a shot in the Open Cham­pi­onship at St Andrews in his bid to be­come the first player to pull off a cal­en­dar Grand Slam.

Now, hav­ing be­come just the sec­ond player to win three dif­fer­ent ma­jor ti­tles be­fore the age of 24 – he turns that on Thurs­day – the Texan heads into the USPGA Cham­pi­onship at Quail Hol­low in a fort­night’s time with an op­por­tu­nity to be­come just the sixth player to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam af­ter Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nick­laus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

“I think there’s no pres­sure,” in­sisted Greller, who quit a teach­ing job to be­come Spi­eth’s cad­die when he turned pro­fes­sional in 2012 and has played a big part in the phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess the Texan has en­joyed in such a short spell. “He’s ab­so­lutely freerolling it. He’s go­ing to play in 30 more PGAS the rest of his life. He’s just won a ma­jor. He’s played it [Quail Hol­low] be­fore, in 2013. I think it’s a great course for him.”

Greller, who has a re­la­tion­ship with Speith that mir­rors that of Phil Mick­el­son and Jim “Bones” Mackay be­fore their split this year, cer­tainly earned his money on Sun­day. With Spi­eth, af­ter start­ing the day with a three-shot lead, in the mid­dle of a ma­jor melt­down sim­i­lar to when he blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to play in the 2016 Mas­ters, Greller said all the rights to help turn things around as he won by three shots from play­ing part­ner Matt Kuchar.

“I just told him to go back to the tempo of the Trav­el­ers be­cause it was re­ally sim­i­lar,” said Greller of the PGA Tour win recorded by Spi­eth in his pre­vi­ous out­ing be­fore the sea­son’s third ma­jor. “He was lead­ing wire-to-wire and was hav­ing some tough things hap­pen­ing. It just so hap­pens this was a ma­jor. He knows what to do. This was the 13th time he’s had the lead in a ma­jor, so it’s not like this was his first time inthissi­t­u­a­tion.hewaseasyto work with. He’s ma­tured a lot in the last six years since I met him. It wasn’t that dif­fi­cult.

“He’s hurt a lot since that 2016 Mas­ters, and I’m sure some­where in there some doubts had crept in. He just said, ‘You know what, I know how to do this’. He’s done it twice be­fore and now three times. It was just cool to see him with his back against the wall, more than at Au­gusta in 2016. To do what he did just shows his char­ac­ter and his grit.”

It could have been cat­a­strophic for his ca­reer if this one had also got away from Spi­eth, but, just as Nick­laus and Woods did so of­ten, he pulled through thanks to in­cred­i­ble men­tal tough­ness, cou­pled, of course, with some sheer bril­liance as he fol­lowed a great bo­gey at the 13th by cov­er­ing the last five holes in five­un­der.

“Once he made that putt on 13, there was just a dif­fer­ent en­ergy in him those last five holes,” noted Greller of Spi­eth eclips­ing Hen­rik Sten­son’s four-un­der fin­ish over the same stretch at Troon 12 months ear­lier. “But the turn­ing point was 13 [where Spi­eth lim­ited the dam­age to just one shot af­ter be­ing forced to take a penalty drop fol­low­ing a drive that was 100 yards off line and then played his third from the prac­tice range]. I think 21 min­utes they told me that took.

“We’ve been in sit­u­a­tions enough where I know, and he knew, that we just had to slow it down, find a way to get this back in play and find a way to grind out a bo­gey. We took our time get­ting the line, get­ting the num­ber. He hit a re­ally good shot. The up and down was just ridicu­lous. That’s what Jor­dan has al­ways done.”

Ad­mit­ted­ly­helped­by­favourable weather on three of the four days, Spi­eth’s 12-un­der­par 268 to­tal was 15 shots bet­ter than Padraig Har­ring­ton’s win­ning to­tal at the same venue in 2008 and 12 fewer than Mark O’meara when he claimed the Claret Jug in the Open be­fore that at Birk­dale, in 1998. A stut­ter­ing 12 holes aside in the fi­nal round, it was a ma­jes­tic per­for­mance from Spi­eth, who is now up to world No 2 be­hind Dustin John­son on the back of his 11th vic­tory in just over four years.

“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,” Spi­eth said. “And it’s good and bad, be­cause a lot comes with it. A lot more at­ten­tion, for in­stance, ver­sus just be­ing able to kind of go about your own thing. And I never re­alised how un­der­rated that was. I wanted to be in this po­si­tion but, when you are, it be­comes harder when it doesn’t go your way. And you’re harder on your­self be­cause you ex­pect so much.

“There­fore, I’m go­ing to thor­oughly en­joy this. I look back on 2015 and thought, yeah, I en­joyed it, but I never re­alised the sig­nif­i­cance un­til you kind of hit a low, hit a pit­fall, to ap­pre­ci­ate the high so much. And this is as much of a high as I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in my golf­ing life. And I’m go­ing to en­joy it more than I’ve en­joyed any­thing that I’ve ac­com­plished in the past.”

Spi­eth’s lat­est ac­com­plish­ment earned praise from Nick­laus, the only other player to win three dif­fer­ent ma­jor ti­tles be­fore the age of 24. “It was a great dis­play of guts, de­ter­mi­na­tion and skill,” said the 18-time ma­jor win­ner on a post on Twit­ter. “I think you have to learn to play links golf. Not only is it fun, but it’s also an ac­quired skill. You have to spend time learn­ing how to do it and what to do in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. It is a huge ex­er­cise in dis­ci­pline.

“Much was said about the fact Jor­dan and I were able to win three legs of the Grand Slam be­fore the age of 24. But, if you look, he’s won 11 tour­na­ments and I had won eight be­fore 24. If you look at his vic­tory to­tal, his win to­day and the way he won to­day, Jor­dan has shown an amaz­ing dis­play of ma­tu­rity for some­one so young, and he has been do­ing that for a quite a while.”

SIGHTS ON SLAM “He’s hurt a lot since that 2016 Mas­ters, and I’m sure some­where in there some doubts had crept in. To do what he did just shows his char­ac­ter and his grit” “The turn­ing point was 13. We took our time get­ting the line, get­ting the num­ber. The up and down was just ridicu­lous”

MIKE GRELLER

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