Spi­eth feels sharp as ’15 grows faint

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL -

SOUTH­PORT, Eng­land — With a chance to close out the match, Jor­dan Spi­eth fired his sec­ond shot into the par-5 15th at Royal Birk­dale and it never left the flag, bound­ing onto the green about 20 feet be­hind the hole.

His part­ner Tues­day was Justin Thomas, who watched the flight of the ball and said, “I like hav­ing him on my team when he’s play­ing like this.”

Ev­ery­one is on their own when the Bri­tish Open be­gins Thurs­day, and Spi­eth is look­ing sharp enough to be listed as a co-fa­vorite with Dustin John­son, the No. 1 player in the world. Spi­eth is com­ing off his sec­ond vic­tory of the year last month at the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship. And when his put­ter is work­ing — it re­ally hasn’t been this year — he is re­garded as a fa­vorite at just about ev­ery tour­na­ment.

Still to be de­ter­mined is how much he thrives on links cour­ses such as Royal Birk­dale.

What stands out is St. An­drews in 2015, when the 23-year-old Texan was go­ing for the third leg of the Grand Slam and missed the play­off by one shot. Even so, he hasn’t fin­ished higher than 30th in the other three Bri­tish Opens he has played.

So much of his mys­tique is built around that 2015 sea­son — the Masters and U.S. Open, five vic­to­ries, the FedEx Cup. So many of the ex­pec­ta­tions of Spi­eth now are

mea­sured against that sea­son. Those are rare even for the great­est play­ers, and it might be Spi­eth’s bad luck that it hap­pened to him so early in his ca­reer.

He still wouldn’t trade it. Asked to mea­sure his game now com­pared with two years ago, Spi­eth said his long game is bet­ter, but he hasn’t been mak­ing putts.

“I rec­og­nize that be­ing five years in now … and five years doesn’t make me a vet­eran, but it helps me re­al­ize kind of how things go,” he said. “And last year I was pretty caught in 2015. This year I’m not. Hope­fully, we can have an­other one or two like that. But if we keep on try­ing to im­prove each part of the game, stick to the process, then we’ll have the re­sults we want.”

Tues­day brought more sun­shine to the Lan­cashire Coast and only a light wind that came out of a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion. The course is fast, and balls are bounc­ing high when land­ing, which is links golf at its best.

AP/DAVE THOMP­SON

Jor­dan Spi­eth is re­garded as a fa­vorite at just about ev­ery tour­na­ment, as long as his put­ter is work­ing, just like it did when he won the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship last month. He’s look­ing sharp enough to be listed as a co-fa­vorite with Dustin John­son to win the Bri­tish Open, which starts Thurs­day at Royal Birk­dale in South­port, Eng­land.

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