Jordan Spieth has a green jacket in his closet, a silver U.S. Open trophy on his mantle and a chip on his shoulder.
The world No. 2 is far from content despite having a year most would consider a good career — winning the first two majors at the Masters and U.S. Open and adding two other PGA Tour titles to his resumé and $9.3 million to his bank account. Instead, the British Open has left a bad taste in his mouth that will linger when he tees it up Thursday at Whistling Straits in the first round of the PGA Championship.
On the Old Course in St. Andrews, Spieth’s unprecedented bid to win the modern day Grand Slam came up one shot short of a playoff. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play in the oldest championship in golf but couldn’t close the door on history or clutch the Claret Jug.
Instead of joining Ben Hogan as the only player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same year, the Texan left Scotland with his chili running hot. And it’s still simmering.
“Unlike the first two majors I had a chance to win and I didn’t pull it off. And that was the hardest part to get over for me,” Spieth, 22, said Wednesday at Whistling Straits after wrapping up his final preparations for the PGA.
“My frustration was we were tied for the lead with two holes to go, with one of them being a birdie hole and we didn’t close it out. We didn’t even get into a playoff. That was the hardest part for me and I certainly have a chip on my shoulder off of that that I’m wanting to get off.”
There’s unfinished business to settle. And there is plenty of history Spieth can make this week on the course along Lake Michigan. With a victory — and he’s clearly the favorite — he’d join Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three majors in a season in the modern era. He would also become the only player to win the American Slam — capturing all three majors played in the United States.
Further, and of no less importance, he has a chance to overtake Rory McIlroy as the world No. 1.
There are other motivating factors. While he’s only played in two, Spieth has not made the cut in the PGA Championship, and that irks him. And while he’s only been a member of the PGA Tour for three years, he hasn’t met his goal of making the cut in all four majors in the same season.
“I still haven’t accomplished that goal set at the beginning of the year that I said I wanted to make the cut in all the majors,” Spieth said. “And you wanted to contend and have a chance to win at least one of them. Certainly they have gone according to plan up to this point, but that first part of that goal has yet to be accomplished. So I got some work to do these first two days, and from there we’ll adjust and work our butts off to try and get a third major this year, which would be a pretty cool place in history to be a part of.”
Spieth certainly worked his butt off Wednesday playing nine holes. As he approached every green, he spent plenty of time finding — and then hitting from — the worst places around the putting surfaces. He even jumped down to the beach of an inland lake bordering the fifth green and hit shots off the sand toward the hole.
In anticipation of the wind picking up in the first round, Spieth wanted to ready himself for anything.
“There are a lot of tricky spots in the rough, because you have changing rough around the greens, from some of it being blue grass to some of it being a fescue-type grass. It plays extremely different, depending upon where it lies, so I wanted to get a variety of shots,” Spieth said.
“You have to be prepared for the worst. … So that’s what we tried to see today, rolling balls off of greens and around greens.”
As far as rolling balls on the greens, the game’s best putter said the surfaces are pure — which doesn’t bode well for the other 155 players in the field. He also likes the layout and knows all about the hundreds of bunkers, each a difficult challenge.
And he’s coming off a final-round 66 in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational that vaulted him into a tie for 10th and gave him momentum heading to the Badger State.
He will be a force to handle just as he has been all year. And his year isn’t over. He will play with Zach Johnson, who won the British Open, and McIlroy in the first two rounds. McIlroy is returning to play after missing two months due to an injured ankle. But he didn’t stop watching Spieth.
“Whenever you see someone put together a season like this, of course you become motivated,” McIlroy said. “But as well you’re inspired. I think the performances that he put in at the Masters and the U.S. Open and even at St. Andrews when he was so close, they were inspirational performances. That’s something really, for him, to be proud of, especially how he handled everything at St. Andrews going into all the Grand Slam talk. I think even though I’m not that much older, I probably wouldn’t have handled it quite as well as he did.”
Spieth is set to go once more. He is confident and in form, running a bit hot and chasing the Wanamaker Trophy and the No. 1 ranking in the world.
“I did not have a time frame set (to become No. 1),” Spieth said. “When that was a goal that was just a career goal, that at one point in my career I would like to be No. 1.
”Given everything that’s happened, I believe now that I would like it obviously to be sooner rather than later, and then to be able to hold on to it. That’s a whole other animal as I’m sure Rory knows, Adam Scott knows, Luke Donald knows, there’s Tiger … there’s a number of them that understand what it’s like. I don’t know what that feels like yet. That will be a new goal.”
courtesy of Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Sports