SOUTHPORT, England — Before departing England in a private jet late Sunday night, the Claret Jug a welcome addition to the luggage for the flight over the Atlantic Ocean, Jordan Spieth was asked about his next destination.
A little place named history.
Following his great escape on the olden stage of Royal Birkdale to triumph in the 146th playing of the British Open, the young Texan will head to Charlotte in three weeks for the 99th PGA Championship with a chance to complete the career grand slam.
Spieth’s barrage of brilliance late in Sunday’s final round, when he turned potential ruin into victory with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie blitz on the back nine to win by three shots, gave him the third leg of the career grand slam. The first two came in the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open.
He is the second youngest to win three different majors, bested only by Jack Nicklaus. But Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, would become the youngest to complete the career grand slam with a victory at Quail Hollow in the PGA. Woods was a little more than six months past his 24th birthday when he completed his grand slam in the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews. Nicklaus was 26 when he completed his slam in the 1966 British Open at Muirfield.
Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the only other players to complete the grand slam.
Inevitably, Spieth was asked for his thoughts about being in such heady company with Nicklaus and Woods. With a measured tone, he talked about the task at hand.
“I've answered this question a few times a couple years ago, so I'll be careful with my answer,” he said. “It's amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don't think that comparisons are … I don't compare myself. And I don't think that they're appropriate or necessary. So to be in that company, no doubt is absolutely incredible. And I certainly appreciate it. And we work really hard to have that, with that being the goal. Therefore, I enjoy moments like you saying that.
“But I'm very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I'm anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it's a good start, but there is a long way to go.”
But Spieth understands he’s done so much so soon that 19th-hole chatter about his place among the giants of the game will pop up heading to Charlotte. He is the only player to win 11 PGA Tour titles and three majors before turning 24. And he knows the questions will greet him in two weeks when he plays the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitation ahead of the PGA.
Butch Harmon, who coached Woods for nine years, was asked for his thoughts on Spieth during his commentating of the Open for Sky Sports.
“I can’t say he is Tiger-esque because there is really only one Tiger Woods, but he is starting to perform like Tiger,” Harmon said. “He is hitting the ball better, he is hitting the ball further. The short game around the greens saves him. Every time he gets out of position he either pitches it in or gets up-and-down. After a while, this isn't luck. This is talent.
“If you knew him you would just say he is the nicest young man, which he is, but he also has the heart of a lion.”
After he completed his round Sunday, four-time major champion Ernie Els was asked about Spieth.
“Well, who knows where he's going to end. He could go really big. He can go up to the 14 mark, up there in majors,” Els said. “When you get on a roll like that, you kind of start knowing that you know how to win, you know? And almost like Tiger, where people can maybe feel like they can't do it against Jordan. Because he's been up there a few times now.
“In ’95 I had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the PGA, I couldn't get it done. In ’96 I missed out on another very narrow loss. And I kind of stalled. I only got four. But if you get the momentum going the other way, you can go win a boatload.”
Steve DiMeglio, USA Today