Jordan Spieth didn’t win the Open Championship. He didn’t win his third consecutive major. He didn’t keep the Grand Slam watch alive. It’s okay, though. Spieth is still a winner — after all, he has the Green Jacket and the U.S. Open trophy.
The 21-year-old Texan also put on the run of a champion on Monday in the final round at the Old Course; one that will inspire the generations of golfers to come. Spieth is undoubtedly a winner.
Strangely enough, it was his putter that let him down over the past five days at St Andrews. He had five three-putts in the second round, but what hurt his chances the most was a four-putt on the par-3 8th. He never quite had full control of his speed, which was otherwise pretty darn good, but perhaps not to the expectations of the guy who is ranked no. 1 in approach putting on the PGA Tour.
“I left it 40 yards from the pin on the green there (on 8), and it’s just a no-brainer,” said Spieth. “If you make bogey, you’re still in it. If you make double bogey, it’s a very difficult climb, and there’s absolutely no reason to hit that putt off the green. I can leave it short, I can leave if eight feet short and have a dead straight eight-footer up the hill where I’ll make that the majority of the time.”
Instead of being patient and trying to lag it his gimme-range, Spieth knocked his first putt 20 feet off the green and then needed another three putts to get it into the hole for a double-bogey on the par-3. He didn’t want to leave the first one short, though, so he opted to play more aggressively. He wanted to make the birdie putt. Can’t blame him.
“It’s tough to get pace practice because (the practice greens are) so small, so I didn’t have much of it this week, and I kind of had to go off my feels, when typically you’ve got enough room — I did plenty of work on the golf course, it’s no excuse, but as far as right before the round, getting a pace for that day and the conditions and how the greens are cut, it’s tough,” said Spieth.
“You have to kind of go with it after you have one long putt. That was the struggle for me in this tournament was what my — I think my biggest advantage over anybody in the world is, and that’s my first putt proximity, and that was — I think on the lower half of the field this week, and it certainly cost me at least a couple shots.”
As he walked off the eighth green after dropping two costly shots, he was fired up, throwing his ball into the hay to let out some aggression. He answered in kind. The way we’ve learned to expect from the kid. He knows how to channel the frustration into positive energy, too.
Spieth made two straight birdies on nos. 9 and 10 to get back to 14-under for the tournament, but he knew he needed to get to 15-under — that was his goal at the start of the day. Which was a hefty ask given how tough the back nine was playing. But he drained a monster putt from around 30 feet on the par-4 16th, which was ranked the third hardest on Monday, to take a share of the lead with Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman, who were both safely in the clubhouse.
On the toughest of all par-4s, the 17th, which was basically playing as a par-5 all week, Spieth left his second shot short, chipped it to seven feet and shockingly (for him) missed the putt to save par.
“If I stood on 17 tee box and you told me I had that putt for par on the hole, I would have certainly taken it,” said Spieth. “I wouldn’t say that very often on a par-4. That was as hard a par-4 as I think we’ve played all year, and just unfortunately didn’t hit a great very, very solid putt. So many putts are so straight out here, and I read too much into it instead of just playing it off the left lip, and it was unfortunate at the end.”
Spieth had another chance on the short par-4 18th. He drove it way left, which was alright since the fairway conjoins with the first hole, making it the widest fairway ever in major championship history (I just made that up, but odds aren’t bad). His lob wedge came up short and rolled back into the Valley of Sin. He now needed another small miracle, but perhaps it was too little, too late, and too much to ask from the kid who had thrilled us with such incredible golf at the first two majors of the year.
Turned out it was. Spieth mis-read it. Later, he would lament the lost opportunity on the 72nd hole.
“I know that that putt won’t break back to the right,” said Spieth. “I’ve watched Opens at St. Andrews. It was a very, very straight putt, and when you’re swinging that hard it’s hard to get it exactly on line. But it was a good putt with the right speed, and that’s all I could ask for after the second shot.
“Just a very poorly placed drive to not be able to hit my lob wedge in there where I have great control. Who would have thought a drive on 18 was going to be what really hurt me at the end there. It’s kind of hard to not hit a good one on that hole. I just wish I had given myself a little better opportunity.”
Spieth was somewhat surprised to see three guys, Johnson, Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen, reach 15-under.
“There was some fantastic golf in major championship Monday, final round, that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “There was some clutch playing by guys today, so I knew I needed to get another one on the back nine, which is not an easy place to try and steal one.”
Perhaps Spieth best showed his class when he walked out behind the 18th green for the last in the four-hole playoff. He was one of the first to congratulate, Johnson, the Champion Golfer of the Year.
Well, the Grand Slam watch was fun while it lasted. Thanks for the ride, Jordan — it was thrilling to witness. Now, onward to the PGA Championship! — where Spieth has the chance to win three out of four majors in 2015. Don’t count him out.