Starring af­ter strug­gling, Jor­dan Spi­eth wins the 146th Bri­tish Open in re­mark­able fash­ion.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

SOUTHPORT, ENG­LAND» Dur­ing one of Jor­dan Spi­eth’s many low points Sun­day at the 146th Bri­tish Open, his cad­die re­minded him of a photo from a Mex­ico beach hol­i­day two weeks ago that showed him in all-star com­pany that in­cluded Michael Phelps and Michael Jor­dan. The mes­sage: “You be­long in that group.”

Spi­eth left lit­tle doubt with a clos­ing per­for­mance that ranks among the great­est finishes in golf’s ma­jor cham­pi­onship his­tory.

Trail­ing for the first time all week­end at Royal Birk­dale — and lucky it was only one stroke, thanks to a shot from the driv­ing range — the 23-yearold Texan fol­lowed with a birdieea­gle-birdie-birdie stretch that al­lowed him to close with a 1-un­der-par 69 and win the Bri­tish Open by three shots over Matt Kuchar.

Spi­eth cap­tured the third leg of the ca­reer Grand Slam and heads to the PGA Cham­pi­onship next month with a chance to be the youngest to win them all.

“This is as much of a high as I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in my golf­ing life,” Spi­eth said. And it all started in a spot so dire, it looked as though he would en­dure an­other ma­jor melt­down.

The break of the tour­na­ment — and a mo­ment that will rate along­side Seve Ballesteros mak­ing a birdie from the car park when he won at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1979 — was when Spi­eth dis­cov­ered the driv­ing range was part of the course.

His tee shot was so far to the right on the par-4 13th hole that it sailed 75 yards from the fair­way and set­tled in thick grass on a dune so steep he could hardly stand up, let alone take a swing. The only smart op­tion was to take a oneshot penalty for an un­playable lie.

And that’s when Spi­eth showed his golf­ing brain is as valuable as any club in his bag. He asked if the driv­ing range was out of bounds. It wasn’t, which al­lowed him to go back in a straight line from the flag un­til he was on the range among the equip­ment trucks. Af­ter get­ting free re­lief from them, he still faced a blind shot over the dunes to a hole lit­tered by pot bunkers. He hit 3-iron just short of a bunker near the green, pitched over it to about 7 feet and made what he con­sid­ers the most im­por­tant putt of the day to es­cape with a bo­gey.

Spi­eth hit a 6-iron to the 14th that landed in front of the flag and came within inches of an ace, lead­ing to a short birdie putt to re­gain the lead. On the par-5 15th, he rolled in a 50foot ea­gle putt. And he wasn’t done.

He rolled in a 30-foot putt across the 16th green for a two-shot lead, and he kept that mar­gin with a 7-foot putt to match birdies with Kuchar.

Spi­eth and Jack Nick­laus are the only play­ers to win three dif­fer­ent ma­jors be­fore turn­ing 24.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Spi­eth said, gaz­ing at his name on the sil­ver Claret Jug. “Ab­so­lutely a dream come true.”

Dan Mul­lan, Getty Images

Jor­dan Spi­eth, who turns 24 on Thurs­day, kisses the Claret Jug af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish Open. Spi­eth and Jack Nick­laus are the only play­ers to win three dif­fer­ent ma­jors be­fore turn­ing 24.

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