Golf

Jordan Spieth has history on his mind on eve of the British Open

Jordan Spieth followed his drive from the fourth tee during a practice round at the British Open Golf Championship at the Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, on Tuesday.
Jordan Spieth followed his drive from the fourth tee during a practice round at the British Open Golf Championship at the Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, on Tuesday. The Associated Press

Jordan Spieth is certainly the center of attention this week at the British Open.

Spieth has won the first two legs of golf’s Grand Slam, and he will try and become only the second golfer to make it three in a row when he competes in the British Open starting Thursday at St. Andrews in Scotland.

Spieth, a 21-year-old Texan, became the second-youngest Masters champion behind Tiger Woods when he won that tournament in April. He followed that with a U.S. Open triumph last month at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.

“I like to study the history of golf, and it’s extremely special what this year has brought to our team,” Spieth said during a news conference Wednesday. “And to have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often. I’m sure embracing that opportunity.

“But by the time I start 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, get out there and try and get myself into contention.”

While it is not easy to do, Spieth is trying to treat the British Open no differently than last week’s John Deere Classic in Illinois. He won that tournament in a playoff Sunday for his fourth PGA Tour victory of the season, then arrived at St. Andrews on Monday following an overnight flight.

Spieth got in 28 holes of practice in two days after arriving at St. Andrews and planned a full round for after his news conference Wednesday.

Spieth said that he understands where critics are coming from when they say he could have used more practice time at St. Andrews. His only other trip to St. Andrews was in 2011 when he was a freshman at the University of Texas.

“Coming over earlier certainly could have helped,” he said. “I just liked the fact that I could go somewhere I could play hard, and possibly win a PGA Tour event in preparation. But certainly, more time on this golf course couldn’t ever hurt anybody.”

One problem for Spieth could be the weather. The forecast is for winds to reach 35 mph during the tournament and shift directions.

“I would have liked to see tougher conditions in practice rounds to get used to prevailing winds and wind switches,” Spieth said. “That’s part of the fun and the adjustment.”

This is Speith’s third time in the British Open. Two years ago, after gaining his first PGA Tour win at the John Deere Classic, Spieth was 3 shots back entering the weekend at Muirfield before finishing in a tie for 44th place.

“I remember almost thinking like that was too big for me at the time in a way,” Spieth said. “I felt like I wanted to compete, I loved the pressure, and I felt like I could do it, but it was a position I’d never been in, and it was an odd feeling being in contention in a major on a weekend. It was brief. I didn’t finish well that round.”

Last year, Spieth tied for 36th place at Royal Liverpool.

Now, with a victory he would be within one triumph of a calendar-year Grand Slam as it is known today. The PGA Championship starts Aug. 13 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The first golfer to win a calendar-year Grand Slam was Bobby Jones in 1930, but the four tournaments he won were the U.S. and British Open and Amateur tournaments. The Masters began in 1934, and it is now the first leg of the Grand Slam, followed by the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA Championship.

While no golfer has won all four of those events in the same year, five have done it in their career (Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen).

Spieth has impressed Kansas City native Tom Watson, a five-time British Open champion who at age 65 is likely playing in the tournament for the last time this week.

“Jordan obviously has the game to win there,” Watson said. “The main thing is to prepare properly there. St. Andrews is a very difficult golf course to understand, very difficult....

“He’s an adult. He’s mature. I like his fire. I like his grit. I like the way he thinks.”

Spieth said he gained a lot of confidence from his win at the Masters because he led the entire way and putted better than he had ever done before. And he likes the fact that he was able to win the U.S. Open despite not playing his best golf.

“That tournament right there established, hey, we can do this going forward in each one if we get the chance,” he said. “We’ve done it before, so why can’t we do it again?”

Star news services contributed to this report.

To reach Tom Smith, call 816-234-4240 or send email to tomsmith@kcstar.com.

End of Grand Slam runs

Five golfers have won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year but only one, Ben Hogan, went on to win the British Open. But he could not compete in the PGA Championship that year because the events overlapped.

Year

Golfer

Finish

1941

Craig Wood

not played (World War II)

1951

Ben Hogan

did not enter

1953

Ben Hogan

won by 4 shots

1960

Arnold Palmer

lost to Kel Nagle by 1 stroke

1972

Jack Nicklaus

lost to Lee Trevino by 1 stroke

2002

Tiger Woods

tied for 28th after shooting 81 in third round

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