Jordan Spieth: A Bogey for the Ages

Posted by: mike July 25th, 2017

By Jeff Shain

@JeffShain

 

This was Seve Ballesteros from the carpark at Royal Lytham. Arnold Palmer from the blackberry bush at Royal Birkdale. Bubba Watson from the deep pines right of Augusta National’s 10th fairway.

Or it could have been Phil Mickelson by Winged Foot’s merchandise tent. Rory McIlroy traipsing around Augusta National’s cabins. A barefoot Jean Van de Velde wading into Barry Burn.

Jordan Spieth from behind the equipment trucks was bound for one of those lists. A “what-am-I doing-over-here” moment that, good or bad, was going to define a major championship.

We all know now it belongs in the first category. An all-world bogey from Royal Birkdale’s practice range not only kept Spieth’s round from spinning completely off its axis, it might have provided just the spark for what happened next.

And more than Spieth’s record-tying Masters performance or his U.S. Open slog at Chambers Bay, Sunday at Birkdale should be the first image that comes to mind whenever Spieth’s career is put into perspective.

Bogey. Reset. Birdie. Eagle. Birdie. Birdie. Claret Jug.Jordan Spieth

“The greatest finish I have seen in championship golf,” decreed NBC analyst Johnny Miller, who usually reserves such accolades for, say, Oakmont in 1973.

Then again, how else to describe it?

From the moment Spieth ascended that big dune right of Royal Birkdale’s 13th fairway, the 23-year-old Texan operated in a different stratosphere.

The anxiety that gripped him from the opening hole disappeared. This was take-charge Spieth – asking questions, declaring an unplayable, marching down the back side of the dune, poking around one trailer and then another, trying to keep in line with the target.

Then came line-of-sight relief. Left of the trucks? Right of the trucks? Where to move the spectators?

“The last thing you want to do here leading The Open is to be out there directing traffic,” NBC’s Peter Jacobsen remarked amid the chaos.

Some 20 minutes later, Spieth and rules officials settled on a spot. And when Spieth salvaged his 8-foot bogey, the tournament changed.

Though Spieth was no longer in front, he trailed Matt Kuchar by just one.

“That 5 was massive,” Spieth said. “I was able to go on the driving range, be able to get it up near the green and make a 5, when I was staring 6 or 7 in the throat and out of the tournament.”

Moreover, Spieth’s senses had awakened. Caddie Michael Greller sensed it, too, grabbing Spieth as they headed off the 13th green.

“That was a momentum shift,” Spieth heard Greller say.

At that point, you might say it already was well underway. Starting with the Spieth’s 3-iron from the practice range, the next eight shots were darn near perfect.

His tee shot at the par-3 14th came within two inches of smacking the flagstick, setting up a bounceback birdie. Two huge shots at the par-5 15th set up a 48-foot eagle, which ended with Spieth brashly telling Geller, “Go get that!”

“Kind of like an old-school move,” he explained later, “when the caddies used to get it out of the hole when guys holed a chip. … I didn't really know what I was doing at that point.”

Playing out of his mind, perhaps?

“It’s like he flipped the switch,” Jacobsen said on the broadcast. “After he got behind for the first time, just a totally different demeanor. More aggressive, more positive with every shot.”

Nor was it over. Two more birdies extended Spieth’s lead to two, running home mid-length putts in the manner he’d shown a day earlier.

Consider this: Kuchar played that same four-hole stretch in 2-under par, and went from one shot in front to two behind.

“All you can really do is sit back, tip your cap and say, ‘Well done,’ ” Kuchar said. “And it was certainly a show that he put on.”

For all of Tiger Woods’ dominance, chances are his everlasting major memory isn’t his record-setting romps at Augusta, Pebble Beach or St. Andrews. It’s his U.S. Open triumph at Torrey Pines, literally winning on one good leg as he hobbled through his Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate.

The glow from Sunday at Royal Birkdale will be no less enduring for Spieth.

“Boy, this was eventful,” he deadpanned. “Seventeen pars and a birdie would have been fine, too. But there's a lot of roads to get there.”

No doubt, Spieth took one never traveled before.

“If Spieth were to somehow get this out and win this tournament,” Jacobsen mused as the scene at No.13 unfolded, “they might have to put a plaque over there.”

“I don’t think many people would see it,” Dan Hicks countered.

Point taken.

 

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Jeff Shain is a former Orlando Sentinel golf writer, part of nearly two decades covering the sport that includes other stops at The Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina. He's also a digital contributor to PGATour.com and Pro Golf Weekly, and co-hosts the Prime Sports Golf podcast at PrimeSportsNetwork.com.