The 146th Open Championship had been over for less time than it took Jordan Spieth to play the 13th hole on Sunday, and he was already talking about history.
Jordan Spieth already looking ahead: "My goal now is to try and complete the career grand slam."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) July 23, 2017
And why wouldn't he? At 23, he's the second-youngest ever to complete three legs of the career Grand Slam. He lacks only the PGA Championship, and he'll have a swing at that in August at Quail Hollow (more on that in a minute).
It's easy when you cover (or follow) sports to get swept away by the moment. We love to crown whoever is next on a whim. We live for coronation days. What's hard is stepping back and putting the micro into the proper macro context.
But let's consider for a moment what Jordan Spieth has done in the last three years. Since the beginning of 2015, Spieth has teed it up against 1,481 golfers in major championships. He has beaten 1,355 of them and lost to just 126. That's a 91 percent clip. Spieth has sustained a preposterous level of success for 12 straight majors (and I'm not even including his runner-up at the 2015 Masters).
This points to what I'm getting at. We crown some folks too soon, and others who are actually kings, it seems like we are sometimes reticent to crown to the degree which they deserve to be crowned.
Even though Spieth has shut down nine of 10 tournaments in which he's held the 54-hole lead, he's not going to win at that rate for the entirety of his career. What Spieth is great at, though, is giving himself a chance late in majors. That's all you want, a chance. A shot at winning multiples of these things. Or in Spieth's case, maybe more.
Tiger Woods ruined our ability to properly contextualize what we're seeing in golf. Winning 14 majors by the age of 32 will do that. So it's impossible to decipher what Spieth's actual trajectory is as he's won more majors at a younger age than Tiger. But if we consider his recent success and seeming bent on becoming an all timer, we can take a stab at seeing what he could become.
"To be in that company, no doubt is absolutely incredible," said Spieth of the Woods conversation. "And I certainly appreciate it. And we work really hard to have that, with that being the goal. Therefore, I enjoy moments like you saying that.
"But I'm very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I'm anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it's a good start, but there is a long way to go."
We talked about Spieth's future for a while on our podcast. I have no idea how to frame it, but I believe it's going to be special. His swing is not violent, and his short game is transcendent. He wins majors with his mind. This is 25-year stuff. Can he win 10 of these things? Yes, he can. Will he? Who knows.
Spieth has the rarest ability in golf, and that ability is to insert himself into the conversation for major championships even when he's not playing his best. He now has seven (!) top-four finishes at majors and two other top 15s in the last 15 majors. That's outrageous!
It's also now all coming to a head with Rory McIlroy in two weeks at the PGA Championship. Those two are a combined 51 years old but share seven majors. It feels for now like McIlroy is still the alpha of this generation, but Spieth is four and a half years younger and within one of him in total majors.
They have to pair Spieth and Rory at Quail Hollow right? The Golden Child going for the slam at Rory's de facto home turf. Epic theater.— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) July 24, 2017
Will they go toe-to-toe for the next decade and both end with double digits? Will McIlroy turn it on and just vaporize Spieth at Quail Hollow and then Augusta in April? He certainly has the goods to do so. Or will Spieth flip the script on him, blow by his major total and never trail him again?
I'm here for every single one of those potential narratives.
What I hope for most of all, though, is that we enjoy the show. Those two golfers have separated themselves from both a winning tournaments and claiming majors standpoint. Only 20 golfers have ever won four or more big ones. Only 44 have ever won three or more. They're both among them far before turning 30.
It's an exquisite time to be a golf fan, and Spieth's win at Royal Birkdale was a reminder of that. To me, it was a harbinger of a future rife with many more titles. Five, six, eight or 10 more -- I don't know. But I know there will be many, and I believe it will be just as hard to define what Spieth is doing then as it is now.
I also know we're going to have a hell of a good time trying to do it.