British Open 2017: Jordan Spieth's third major could come at Royal Birkdale
Can Jordan Spieth win his third major before his 24th birthday?
Jordan Spieth's 24 birthday is in two weeks. If he wins the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, he will join some rarefied air of golfers with three or more majors before turning 24. It's been two years since he won his last one at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and Spieth is hungry for another.
And he will get one. Spieth will win an Open Championship in his career. He's too tough, and his short game is too good for him not to go all the way. The question is not "if" but rather "when?"
Royal Birkdale this year could be the spot, but one has to be super straight off the tee, which has not always been Spieth's forte. He understands fundamentally what it takes to hang in and contend at this event, though.
"This is my fifth one now," said Spieth on Tuesday. "I've seen really dry and favorable conditions, like Muirfield. And then last year was pretty wicked on, I think, Friday. And I've kind of seen a bit of everything in four years' time. To say that it may be the easiest of the majors to win, if you had to pick a major, just because the draw can take out half a field. But the type of golf you have to play is totally different than what we see in the other three majors. You have to have a lot of imagination and a lot of ball-flight control.
"So I'm not saying it's easy based on competition or anything like that, I'm strictly saying that because a lot of the time some of the field is thrown out and you're actually playing against a smaller field, your percentage chances go up."
The question for Spieth is whether he's on the proper side of the draw. He'll tee off with Si Woo Kim and Henrik Stenson at 4:47 a.m. on Thursday which means he got a morning-afternoon draw. Will that be the right one? And will it matter?
"I felt like I did a good job of it last year.," Spieth said of not getting frustrated with getting the wrong side in 2016. "It's frustrating. It's very frustrating, especially when you feel like you're in form and it really makes that much of a difference, because it's that much harder.
"Last year I was kind of in form. I was definitely on the bad end. But yeah, to yourself it's good to do that, but I don't think anybody wants to hear that, so just keep it to yourself."
Spieth finished T30 last season at the Open and T4 the year before that when he took his Grand Slam chase all the way to the 72nd hole of the third major of the year. His success thus far at Opens has been moderate, but his time is certainly coming.
He is Tom Watson-like in his attitude towards golf and towards this tournament: an unrelenting bull with nothing but contempt for anyone trying to keep him from the trophy he wants. His game has been immense lately, too. He went over a speed bump a few months ago during the Players Championship and Byron Nelson but rebounded in his last outing with that thrilling, last-second win at the Travelers Championship.
The scary part for competitors is that Spieth thinks he's actually hitting it better now than he was in 2015 when he won back-to-back majors. And the stats back him up. Spieth is No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on approach shots.
"I haven't been making as many putts as I did that year this year," said Spieth. "I've struck the ball better than I did in '15. I've actually been in better position. If you took hole by hole, I've been in a better position tee to green than I was that year. If I putted the same as '15, I'd be having a better year right now. It's hard to do. I think I was top three, top five in strokes game putting '15 and '16, and this year we're just a little down, but we're close. It's just been set-up stuff that's been messing with me.
"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. And last year, I was pretty caught in 2015, and this year I'm not. This year I recognize that that kind of year 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 that we want."
The result he wants this week is drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage from a jug late on Sunday night in England. Whether he'll get it remains to be seen, but you can bet on one thing: pending a decent draw, Jordan Spieth will be toughest out of anyone in the field this week at Birkdale. Coming in off a win and playing some of the best second-shot golf of his career has him dreaming of major No. 3.
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