The Open Championship: Spieth Makes History

Posted by: mike July 26th, 2017

by Steve Trivett

 

I saw it and still don’t believe it.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything possible in the world of sports, something happens like what happened in Sunday’s final round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

What happened was Jordan Spieth and one of the most bizarre final rounds of major championship golf ever played.

In the CliffNotes version of this Open Championship, Spieth, who had started the final round with a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, won the Claret Jug by that same margin over Kuchar to become the “champion golfer of the year.”

But it wasn’t that simple. Or easy.

Or even as the finality of his own wildest imagination.Spieth

With his victory, he became the 87th player to win the Open Championship – pretty strong company seeing as how the tournament dates back to 1860.

He also became the second-youngest player in the sport’s history to gain three legs of the career Grand Slam – behind only Jack Nicklaus – and he’ll have the opportunity to gather his fourth and slam-completing major championship two weeks from Thursday at the PGA Championship to join Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only players to accomplish that feat.

He also did it with his mind as much as he did it with his skill. That delay allowed his golf IQ – which may be the best since Hogan -  to refocus him on the task at hand.

As another footnote, his victory also made him the youngest American winner of the world’s oldest professional golf tournament.

And it almost didn’t happen.

The three-shot lead Spieth started with had turned into a tie when he and Kuchar walked to the 13th tee.

The 23-year-old Texan then almost missed the golf course with his tee shot.

More than 20 minutes and an unplayable lie later, he hit his third shot at the par-4 from the practice range – which by tournament rules was still inbounds – all the while surrounded by equipment trucks.

And when he walked off the 13th green – even after making what might have been the best bogey in major championship history – he trailed the 39-year-old Kuchar by one.

What happened next defied all golf logic.

He birdied the 14th – after just missed making an ace on the par-3

He then eagled the 15th.

Birdied the 16th.

Then birdied the 17th.

And when he walked up the final fairway and between the two massive grandstands his lead over Kuchar was two shots and the tournament was his despite the fact Kuchar had played those same four holes in one-under.

Not since a young Spaniard named Seve had any player opened a bigger bag of tricks at an Open Championship.

It also erased any memories of what had happened to Spieth at the 2015 Open at St. Andrews and the 2016 Masters when he was in position to win both and instead shot himself in the foot and out of both of those major championships.

So what do you think Jordan?

“Wow!” was the first word out of Spieth’s mouth at the awards ceremony that had began with tributes to past Open Championship winners Arnold Palmer (who won his first Open Championship at Royal Birkdale) and Roberto DiVicenzo who had both passed away in the last year.

Wow indeed.

“Making that bogey (on 13) was the difference,” Spieth told the media after his victory.

“All of a sudden I felt like I could win the golf tournament.”

And win it he did.

Believe it.

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Steve is a long time veteran golf writer. He's already on the far side of 70 - which explains how Steve Trivett started covering the PGA Tour in 1963. He's an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, The late great Rocky Mountain News and The Villages Daily Sun. He once carried a single-digit handicap, but his ball striking finally reached the depth of his putting prowess.