Spi­eth seeks a grand fi­nale

He could join an ex­clu­sive club with a vic­tory at the PGA. And he’s only 24.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Art Span­der

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — He’s one of many: Dustin John­son, Ja­son Day, Rory McIl­roy — all win­ners, all ma­jor cham­pi­ons. Yet Jor­dan Spi­eth also is one of a kind, a golfer who has oth­ers in awe, has them search­ing for words when re­flect­ing on his game.

“You can’t re­ally de­scribe it,” Ernie Els said when called on to an­a­lyze Spi­eth’s suc­cess, most re­cently in the Bri­tish Open. Spi­eth was about to self-de­struct with a ter­ri­ble tee shot but went five un­der the last five holes to win.

“The guy,” Els pointed out, “finds a way of get­ting it done.”

As do all great play­ers, over­com­ing their own fail­ings, roar­ing back, cre­at­ing ex­cite­ment, cre­at­ing a leg­end.

Now Spi­eth and the oth­ers are at the 99th PGA Cham­pi­onship, start­ing Thurs­day at Quail Hol­low Club, the fi­nal ma­jor of the year but the first chance for Spi­eth to com­plete the so­called ca­reer Grand Slam, a vic­tory in each of the game’s four big tour­na­ments.

He won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 as a 21year-old. Then three weeks

ago, Spi­eth, with that his­toric fin­ish, the drive 100 yards off line and a bo­gey, fol­lowed by three birdies and an ea­gle, won the Bri­tish Open. Now? “Ex­pec­ta­tions?” Spi­eth said. “I don’t re­ally feel any. This is a chance to com­plete the Grand Slam. I’m here, so I’m go­ing to go ahead and try. But I be­lieve I’m go­ing to have plenty of chances, and I’m young enough to be­lieve in my abil­i­ties that it will hap­pen at some point.”

He is 16 days past his 24th birth­day, and the Bri­tish win made Spi­eth the only male golfer other than Jack Nick­laus to grab three ma­jors at age 23.

Golf, cer­tainly, needs Spi­eth the way it needed Tiger Woods and Nick­laus and Palmer, the way ten­nis needed Venus and Ser­ena Wil­liams — in­di­vid­u­als who cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion while they cap­ture vic­to­ries, who draw at­ten­tion and crowds.

“I’ve got an op­por­tu­nity this week,” Spi­eth said. “If I can get the job done this week and then turn into the [FedEx] play­offs with the same kind of mo­men­tum, then I would con­sider it as good or a bet­ter year than even [2015], which is pretty cool.”

But there’s no de­fense in golf, no way to stop any other player from shoot­ing a lower score. And some­one such as McIl­roy, who won twice won at Quail Hol­low when it hosted the Wells Fargo tour­na­ment, could out­play his friend and ri­val — even af­ter pay­ing trib­ute to Spi­eth’s men­tal tough­ness.

“Rory is the kind of guy who is very dif­fi­cult if you come into a one-on-one sit­u­a­tion, no mat­ter where it is,” Spi­eth said, “and es­pe­cially in the ma­jors be­cause he’s not afraid to hit the shot. I mean, he plays so ag­gres­sively, and that’s what you have to do to win.”

Spi­eth makes putts too, which you have to do to win.

“He has that knack,” McIl­roy said of Spi­eth. “I call it re­silience. I don’t know if there’s a bet­ter word to de­scribe what he does. But he’s got this re­silience where he gets him­self in po­si­tion in tour­na­ments where you don’t think he can come back from, and he does. It’s aw­fully im­pres­sive.

“Yeah, re­silience, men­tally tough, strong, what­ever you want to call it. That’s his big­gest as­set. Be­ing able to for­get about a bad shot and move on to the next one. That’s his great­est weapon.”

Like a pitcher who blows a save, Spi­eth has a short mem­ory of his mis­takes, other than be­ing de­ter­mined to cor­rect them.

“I’ve taken a lot from the wins and a lot from the losses,” Spi­eth said. “It’s just about be­ing able to adapt to sit­u­a­tions quickly and to use that to my ad­van­tage.”

War­ren Lit­tle Getty Im­ages

JOR­DAN SPI­ETH is com­ing off a thrilling win at the Bri­tish Open.

Stuart Franklin Getty Im­ages

THERE ARE PLENTY of fans watch­ing Jor­dan Spi­eth this week at Quail Hol­low as he at­tempts to com­plete the ca­reer Grand Slam.

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