It’s only been done five times before in the history of golf, but this week, Jordan Spieth has a chance to add his name to the list when he goes for his career Grand Slam (Masters, U.S. Open. British Open, PGA) as the PGA gets underway at Quail Hollow.
Gene Sarazan, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the five and Spieth is looking to become the sixth.
Can it happen? Sure.
Will it happen? Maybe.
Kind of ambiguous I get it, but in this day, there are probably 50 golfers that can win a major. The last player to capture a career Grand Slam (he’s done it three times) is Woods.
Tiger’s last major came when he won the U.S. Open is 2008 (yes, it’s really been that long). Back when Tiger was in his prime he was a heavy favorite every time he stepped on to the course.
Oh, there were challengers that stepped up – Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open – but the list of favorites was short – one person.
Not so much now.
You have players like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka to name a few.
Then there is a host of other golfers in the 156-player field who could make a run at winning it. On the flip side, it has been that way for a while and Spieth has managed to win the Masters, U.S. Open and recently the British Open to pull within one tournament of making history. All this by the age of 24 and he would be the youngest in history to accomplish the fete.
So, does he get it done? Let’s look at some reasons he could and some reasons why he won’t.
Why he won’t win: It’s incredibly tough to win one major, let alone back-to-back tournaments. In addition, the biggest threat to his supremacy in golf was and now is McIlroy. The ancient 28-year-old has a new caddie and renewed sense of vigor on the course. With his personal life as sound as it has been in years, and his game in a place where it used to be – what an insane exhibition of hitting the ball off the tee he displayed last week – he is hitting on all cylinders.
McIlroy’s game appears to be close to when he would run away and hide from the field. He will be shooting for his personal Grand Slam next year in the Masters.
Finally, as mentioned above, there are so many talented players in the game right now, the margin of error has almost dissipated. You want to win a major, you need to be on from start to finish.
It wasn’t that long ago, Johnson was anointed as the next big thing in the game and now he’s almost an afterthought. Don’t think that isn’t a motivating factor for arguably the most athletic golfer in the world today.
Why he could win: First, he’s unflappable. He showed it in the final round of the British Open when it appeared his tournament chances were coming apart after hitting a drive on the 13th that was as bad as many weekend amateurs.
He somehow made a miraculous bogey on the hole and then went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie over the next four holes to carry a two-shot lead into the final hole.
Lost in the brilliance of the day was what the win meant for his mental makeup. Had he blown the 54-hole lead – he lost a three-shot lead in the first four holes – it could have been devastating.
In the 2016 Masters Spieth blew a final round lead by falling apart on the 12th hole. Had he done it again in a major, then who knows what the ramifications would have been. Any time he was in contention, bad thoughts would have crept into his mind. There are thousands of golfers around the world who can hit great shots, but precious few who have the mental strength on the world’s stage.
In one, four-hole stretch, he confronted and defeated those demons, thus possible taking his already wonderful game to a whole new level.
Now he knows no matter what the circumstances, he’s got the mental game to go with his unquestionable talent.
In addition, he is one of the best putters in recent history. As has been mentioned countless times, putting is where majors are won or lost. The field has the talent to get the green, but who can make the 12-foot par putt? Spieth might be well above most of the others.
He doesn’t hit it as far as others, but there might not be a better course manager than Spieth.
Here’s hoping Sunday comes down to Spieth and McIlroy. It’s a rivalry in the making and one that could fire up the fringe golf crowd. Someone like Fowler has a legion of fans, but the game is ready to embrace the Spieth-McIlroy rivalry.
By Dennis Miller