Jordan Spieth didn’t win a third leg of the grand slam this season, but he certainly came close. Spieth simply couldn’t catch Jason Day, who played phenomenal golf with the lead in the final round of the PGA Championship.
There was nothing he could have done, Spieth would later tell Day in the scoring trailer.
But, the 22-year-old American shot a respectable four-under 68 — which he thought would be enough to overtake the Australian at the start of the day — and finished at 17-under for solo second, which comes with a nice $1.08 million paycheck. What’s more, Spieth surpassed Rory McIlroy in the world rankings to vault to no. 1.
“The fact that I would have had to shoot 7- or 8-under (today) to win, if you told me that at the beginning of the week, I’d have told you I missed the cut,” said Spieth. “A lot of positives come out of today. To be no. 1 in the world as a team is fantastic. Certainly it was a lifelong goal of mine, and that was accomplished today.”
Spieth couldn’t even be too upset with coming runner-up to Day.
“It’s by far the best consolation, by far the best loss I think I’ve ever had,” he said.
That’s how much respect he paid to Day’s performance. Walking to the 6th tee after Day had just holed his birdie putt, Spieth said to his caddie Michael Greller, “He’s on today, so we have our work cut out for us.”
Indeed. Spieth tried his best, but he came up three shots short.
“It was fantastic,” said Spieth of Day’s play. “We play a lot of golf and we played a lot of major championship rounds together and that was the best I’ve ever seen him play.
“Just given the timing of it and whatever, he’s impressive to watch strike the ball, but it was nothing like today. He took it back and he wailed on it and it was a stripe show. It was really a clinic to watch.”
Spieth kept waiting for Day to make a mistake, but it never really happened. Even when Day chunked a wedge on his approach into no. 9, he ended up getting up-and-down, draining a 10-footer to save par and keeping the momentum in his hands.
“As he pulled driver late in the round, I kept having hope, as he took it back, that maybe one of these drives he’ll miss and he’ll get a bad break and maybe he’ll have a double and it will just startle him. If you’re left in the position of hoping that, you don’t want to be in that position.
“You want to be able to control it. I just never had the opportunity to really control the round today, even in the middle of that round I could have made up a couple more shots, gotten it to maybe one shot or two, one or two shots with six holes to go.
“But he still was in control. He was still making birdie on the holes that I didn’t birdie. So I wasn’t going to gain that much momentum.”
Spieth fought as hard as he could. Sure, he could have made more putts, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It would have been hard to shoot 8-under and to go 15-under on the weekend,” said Spieth. “That’s just very hard to do at a major championship. “When I think about it that way, I’m really proud of the way that we fought. I’m proud of the way that we finished the round off, couple of the up-and-downs I had today were a couple of the best ones I ever had in my life and it was Jason’s day. I mean power to him. Congratulations, he played like he had won seven or eight majors before. There’s a pep in his step and it was going to be his day.”
On the par-3 17th, Day had a long lag putt and rolled it to tap-in range. Before the ball even stopped, Spieth acknowledged that it was a good effort and gave Day a thumbs-up. Now, that’s simply another level of class.
Still, it’s obviously been a spectacular year for Spieth, who won the Masters and the U.S. Open and missed out of a playoff at the Open Championship by one shot. His runner-up finish at the PGA means he placed 1-1-4-2 at the majors in 2015 — not too shabby.
“It’s amazing to think about, you can look at it two different ways, I think,” he said. “You can look at it as four shots shy of the Grand Slam or can you look at it as — when you say that, you could look at that from a negative view of what could I have done or you could look at it where maybe one putt and I would only have one major this year. If Dustin (Johnson’s putt) goes in at the U.S. Open, I should be fortunate that we caught a break there. Then we had a chance to win another one.
“It was amazing. You only get four a year, to have an opportunity to win all of them is so cool. I hope to have a season like this one at the biggest stages again.”
But the most significant silver lining was dethroning McIlroy as the world no. 1 player.
“Obviously this is as easy a loss as I’ve ever had because I felt that I not only couldn’t do much about it, as the round went on, I also accomplished one of my life-long goals and in the sport of golf. That will never be taken away from me now.
“I’ll always be a no. 1 player in the world. That’s what, when I look back on this year, the consistency that we have had this year and especially being able to step it up in the biggest stages, that’s a huge confidence builder and that’s what’s allowed us as a team to become the best, the no. 1 ranked, I should say, and I believe right now the best in the world. Second best behind Jason Day, of course, given this week.”
Even McIlroy himself congratulated Spieth — and Day — with the following tweet.
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) August 16, 2015
With Spieth at no. 1, McIlroy at no. 2 and Day at no. 3 in the world rankings, I’d say the new era in professional golf has officially arrived, and given that they’re all pure class with great character, the game is certainly in good hands. The next 15 or so years of golf are filled with stupendous promise.