News & Opinion

Spieth intends to ‘go get that’ 4th major

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – "Go get that," Jordan Spieth barked to caddie Michael Greller after canning a 50-foot eagle putt on the 15th green at Royal Birkdale en route to a remarkable victory at the British Open in July.

Soon after, those words began trending on Twitter and are being uttered by golfers everywhere, including Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry at last week's Web.com Tour event. Those three words also sum up the feelings of the Spieth fan base, which would like to see him win the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club that begins today and complete the career Grand Slam. 

“That's almost like the Holy Grail in our sport, to win all four at least once,” said Ernie Els, the winner of four majors but only two legs of the slam.

Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have accomplished the feat. Eighteen golfers, the likes of Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson, have fallen one leg short. Phil Mickelson, who still yearns for a U.S. Open trophy, and Rory McIlroy, who needs a green jacket, still actively are chasing admission to one of golf's most exclusive clubs. Spieth, 24, has the added opportunity to become the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam. How will he handle the pressure?

“I just don’t feel it,” he said Wednesday in a pre-tournament news conference. “Do I have to be the youngest? No, I don’t feel that kind of pressure. Would it be really cool? Absolutely.”

Count Nicklaus among those members of the club firmly in Spieth’s corner.

“Jordan will win the PGA whether it’s this week or another year,” Nicklaus said.

Those words mirror the thinking of Spieth, who said last week that if he stays healthy, he should have 30 more chances to play in the PGA and he’ll contend for the title.

“If it’s this year and it happens, that’s great; that’s another lifelong goal that we’ve then achieved,” he said. “But I believe that I’ll do it someday.” 

Spieth can ride the momentum of his British Open victory, which included a miraculous 13th-hole bogey from the practice range before he played the last five holes in 5 under, into this week’s major (“Spieth adds to legend with British drama,” July 24, http://bit.ly/2eLAn78). McIlroy had to wait nine months from his 2014 British Open victory until the Masters in April; likewise, Mickelson had to endure an even longer stretch from his 2013 British Open triumph until the U.S. Open the following June. Spieth described himself as being as relaxed as he’s ever been before a major.

“It was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg, and that’s so fresh in my mind,” Spieth said. “I’ve accomplished something so great this year that anything else that happens, I can accept. That takes that pressure, that expectation away.” 

Spieth continues to impress his peers and many of the all-time greats. Player called Spieth the best short-game player in the world today, and put him in the class with the late Seve Ballesteros, Mickelson and Woods. Tom Weiskopf went one better.  

“He’s got the best short game I’ve ever seen,” Weiskopf said. “He puts himself in these difficult situations, and he makes it looks easy. I love watching him putt. There are no lip-ins with him. Every putt seems to go in the center of the cup.”

Said Mickelson: “When you get him near the lead, he’s extremely tough to beat because he just finds a way to gut it out. It’s just that intangible that’s hard to describe, but you can see it.”

Spieth begins his opening round today at 8:25 a.m. ET off the 10th tee alongside the other 2017 major champions, Masters winner Sergio Garcia and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (tee times: http://bit.ly/1yf8r8M). Spieth called Quail Hollow one of the most challenging courses he has played. He finished T-32 in his lone appearance here, at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship. The course is playing long, the Bermuda rough is thick, and yet the greens are firm thanks to a SubAir moisture-management system that has sucked the excess water from the putting surfaces.

“I’m hitting two extra clubs into greens, but the greens aren’t like the fairways,” Spieth said. 

No golfer has completed the career Grand Slam by winning the Wanamaker Trophy. Palmer and Watson never could hoist that mighty silver trophy. But to hear Spieth tell it, it’s simply a matter of when, not if. 

“Getting three legs of it is much harder than getting the last leg, I think,” Spieth said. “Although I’ve never tried to get the last leg, so it’s easy for me to say. We’ve had three in two years and so, I mean, if we just continue with the same process, get the right breaks and driving ranges are in play, then I’ve got a good shot at number four.”

Go get that, Jordan.

Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: golfsdrivingforce@gmail.com; Twitter: @adamschupak