Spi­eth wins Bri­tish Open

The Western Star - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Dur­ing one of Jor­dan Spi­eth’s many low points Sun­day in the 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 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-year-old Texan fol­lowed with a birdieea­gle-birdie-birdie stretch that al­lowed him to close with a 1-un­der 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 birdie from the car park when he won at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1979 - was when Spi­eth dis­cov­ered the range was part of the course.

His tee shot was so far to the right on the par-4 13th hole that it sailed some 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 had the pres­ence to ask 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 bo­gey.

And then came the fin­ish­ing kick like Phelps, the go-ahead jumper like Jor­dan.

Spi­eth hit 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 play­fully barked at cad­die Michael Greller to pick it out of the cup. “Go get that,” he said, point­ing to the hole.

And he wasn’t done.

Spi­eth rolled in a 30-foot putt across the 16th green for a twoshot lead, and he kept that mar­gin by pour­ing in a 7-foot putt to match birdies with Kuchar.

The fi­nal putt for par was a tap-in, as easy a shot as he had all day.

“To fol­low that bo­gey on 13 with great golf shots and great putts, and play the fi­nal five holes in 5-un­der par, I was just very happy for him and very im­pressed to watch all that guts, de­ter­mi­na­tion and skill,” Jack Nick­laus posted on Face­book.

Spi­eth and Jack Nick­laus are the only play­ers to win three dif­fer­ent ma­jors at age 23.

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

For so much of Sun­day, it felt like a re­cur­ring night­mare.

Just 15 months ago, Spi­eth lost a five-shot lead on the back nine at the Mas­ters, com­ing un­done with a quadru­ple-bo­gey 7 on the 12th hole. It was more of a slow bleed at Royal Birk­dale, with three bo­geys on the open­ing four holes and four putts in­side 8 feet that he missed on the front nine to fall into a tie with Kuchar.

“I put a lot of pres­sure on my­self un­for­tu­nately, and not on pur­pose, be­fore the round to­day, just think­ing this is the best op­por­tu­nity that I’ve had since the ‘16 Mas­ters,” he said. “And if it weren’t to go my way to­day, then all I’m go­ing to be ques­tioned about and thought about and mur­mured about is in com­par­i­son to that. And that adds a lot of pres­sure to me.

“Clos­ing to­day was ex­tremely im­por­tant for the way I look at my­self.”

AP PHOTO

Jor­dan Spi­eth of the United States holds the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish Open Golf Cham­pi­onships at Royal Birk­dale, South­port, Eng­land, Sun­day

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