To give us a little bit of perspective Jordan Spieth turns 22 in a couple of weeks and this week will be his 10th Major start as a professional.
On Thursday at 9.33am he will tee off with Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama looking to win a third straight Major. Only six men – Craig Wood, Ben Hogan (twice), Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – have captured the Masters and US Open in the same year and only Hogan, like Spieth a Texan, has also added the Open in his single start in the Championship.
For Spieth, despite all the talk and endless questions over the past month, the prospect of inking his name further into the record books won’t be at the forefront of his thoughts.
“I don’t look as this as trying to win three in a row, I look at this as trying to win the Open Championship at a very special place. That’s the hardest thing for me, trying to forget about where you are because being here at St Andrews and looking at the past champions and who wins Open Championships here, that’s elite company,” Spieth said.
“To have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often. On Thursday it won’t be in my head, it’ll be about how can I bring this Open Championship down to just another event.”
Eyebrows were raised when Spieth elected to play in last week’s John Deere Classic, a decision that was taken to honour a commitment to play in a tournament which gave him a sponsor’s exemption when he was starting out. And where he claimed the first of his five PGA Tour victories. But also the chance to play competitively the week before a Major, a tactic which paid handsome dividends at Augusta where he led, on his own, after every round.
“The toughest part here is just the time change, and it’s only six hours. It’s not like you’re going to Asia where you normally need a couple days to even be able to wake up.
“By Thursday morning I’ll be 100 per cent, which we knew ahead of time, or else I wouldn’t have played last week. I would have liked to see tougher conditions in practice rounds to get used to prevailing winds and wind switches. But that’s part of the fun and the adjustment.”
"To have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often" – Jordan Spieth
At Chambers Bay Spieth played something like 108 holes to learn its unique challenges, at St Andrews he will have had 46 holes before the gun goes off. He has previously also played one round ahead of the Walker Cup matches at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.
“We’ve done a really good job of figuring out where the pin locations are going to be. My coach has talked to guys that have given him the pins for the past two or three Majors that were held here, so we’ve got all those locations. We could overanalyze this course, and I don’t think we are doing so. I think simple is better, go off the same feels we’ve had, just try and execute fairway, green, and get into a rhythm.”
A rhythm that has worked incredibly this year – 18 starts, four wins, three runners-up and 11 top. Since the Masters he is an incredible 81 under par.
Of course we could very easily be sitting here with Dustin Johnson as our most recent Major champion. The 31-year-old enjoyed his usual preparation of some golf in Ireland, playing at Royal Dublin and Portmarnock, and the late horror of what happened at Chambers Bay seems to have been put to one side.
And you suspect, given Johnson’s nature and outlook to life, this might actually be the case despite the constant reminders.
“It wasn’t too difficult to get over it. Obviously I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the job done, but you know, I was definitely happy with the way I played. I hit two great shots, and I don’t know how my ball stayed where it did, above the hole up there and it was just a tough putt.
“I was trying to make it, but I wanted it to barely go in, and it still went four feet by. I hit a good putt on the way back, and it just bounced and missed left.”
And to reiterate the point, when asked more about his putting at Chambers Bay, Johnson added: “I don’t know if you watched the telecast, but I think pretty much everyone missed a lot of putts. The greens weren’t rolling that great. I felt like I was hitting good putts, just it’s tough to judge bounces.”
Johnson will easily be associated with the near misses but his Major record has gone from ordinary to rock solid. He now has nine top 10s, four of which have come in his last six starts.
Asked about Spieth’s chances of a potential Grand Slam Johnson smiled and replied: “Well, I’m playing in the next two, so we’ll have to see.”
Could the golf ball be rolled back for everyone?