News & Opinion

Note to engraver: It’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ in ‘Spieth’

SOUTHPORT, England – Las Vegas oddsmakers believe that Jordan Spieth is a near-lock to win the British Open, updating the third-round leader with 1-4 odds.

It’s not worth the bet. Making $25 on a $100 wager is what is known in the business as a sucker bet.  

If Las Vegas has anything to say about it – and the hub of U.S. legalized gambling usually does – then expect Spieth, who holds a three-stroke lead entering today’s final round at Royal Birkdale, to win his third major championship. If so, he would join Jack Nicklaus as the only three-time major champions before age 24.

That is the likeliest scenario, but maybe it’s not such a sure thing.

Spieth can point to experiences in his career when he faltered, most memorably at the 2016 Masters. He held a five-stroke lead heading toward the back nine Sunday at Augusta National but shot a 5-over 41 and tied for second with Lee Westwood, three strokes behind Danny Willett.

“I think I'm in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I've gone through, the good, the bad, and everything in the middle,” Spieth said. “I understand that leads can be squandered quickly, and I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one.”

Spieth, who shot 5-under 65 on Saturday for an 11-under 199 total, intends to approach Sunday as if he were tied for the lead with his closest pursuer, fellow American Matt Kuchar (66–202).

Beyond Sunday’s final pairing of Spieth and Kuchar, the other contenders have a lot of ground to make up. Canadian Austin Connelly (66) and American Brooks Koepka (68), who won last month’s U.S. Open, are tied for third at 5-under 205. Another stroke back, South African Branden Grace, on the strength of a major-championship-record 62, shares fifth with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (66) at 4-under 206.

Essentially, the 146th British Open has come down to Spieth and a few chasers, making the frontrunner’s path to the Claret Jug much more straightforward. There are only two likely scenarios by which somebody might catch him:

Someone shoots a number that is so extraordinary – ala Grace’s 62 – that nothing Spieth could do would make a difference.

The second is if Spieth were to back up to the field, which seems just as unlikely. He is the only player this week to post three rounds in the 60s and has shown nothing to indicate that his game is not better than all others’.  

In Vegas terms, he appears to be a lock.

Spieth climbed to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory last month at the Travelers Championship, which renewed his self-confidence. Still, he will wait to finalize his game plan until after he sees how the course plays for today’s early starters.

That is the level of confidence and attention to detail that Spieth will employ for his potential third major victory. 

“I'm going to have to see what's forecast, and I'm able to fortunately watch coverage, see where misses are, see what putts do,” Spieth said. “It's actually a nice advantage to have, but I don't think my game plan changes much. I'm hitting the ball really nicely. It's all about greens in regulation. If the conditions are tough and you have to lay it further back, and play further away from holes, so be it. But having a putter in my hand for birdie is the most important thing.”

Las Vegas is not always right, but in this case it’s hard to believe that Spieth won’t be holding the Claret Jug late in the day.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli