St. Andrews, Scotland: Two years ago at Muirfield, Jordan Spieth was virtually the last man into the tournament for the Open. This year, he was among the last again –only in terms of arriving at the venue.
USA's Jordan Spieth (left) walks across the greens at St Andrews during practice on the eve of The Open Championships yesterday. Pic/AFP
The reason: he was busy adding another trophy to his burgeoning collection on Sunday at the John Deere Classic. Barely 16 hours after holding the Trophy – his fourth in 2015 and all of them in the past four months – he was on a charter flight from Illinois and arrived into Scotland at 10.30 am. Checking into the house for the week, he came to the Old Course, signed a lot of autographs and then hit the range.
He went out for nine holes, ended up playing 18. On the way he chatted with Tiger Woods on the 16th, had a few of hit outs from the Road Hole on the 17th. Just ensuring the 'Well-oiled Spieth machine' is in top order.
Spieth has a come long in a very short time. He knows how to lead from the front and win; and win by big margins – 10 shots at Hero World Challenge over Henrik Stenson; by six shots at the Australian Open and by four shots at the Masters ahead of Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.
He also knows how to hold his nerve and win – by a shot at US Open this year and in three of the five play-offs he has figured in.
Basically, he knows how to win. Period.
Already being spoken of in the same breath as the legends of the game like Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, Spieth is almost embarrassed about the comparison.
When the questions about him being compared to Tiger came around, Spieth said, "I think the parallels that are drawn between me and Tiger are unfair. I think that that's not something that in my mind is necessary. It's something I don't think that can be compared until at least midway through their career.
This is an early timetable. I certainly have an appreciation for how Tiger could continue and continue and continue to keep winning majors at just an unbelievable percentage."
As what it would mean to win the Claret Jug, Spieth said, "It would be amazing. It would be something I'd never forget. I've watched The Open Championships here at St. Andrews, and I don't think there's anything more special in golf than playing an Open Championship at the Home of Golf.
I have fond memories from playing here a few years back, vivid memories, one of those courses you play where you don't really forget much. There's only a couple of those maybe in the world. I think here and at Augusta National are my two favourite places in the world."
Spieth goes out with Dustin Johnson, the man who three-putted to hand over the US Open Trophy to Spieth before the anticipated play-off, and the Japanese youngster Hideki Matsuyama.
Spieth is the big favourite, but there are other contenders, both young and not-so-young. Dustin Johnson has to be one of them. He has four Top-8 finishes in last six starts – he missed the 2014 PGA – and has nine PGA Tour titles, including two WGC wins.
He has been close, including second at 2011 Open, but now needs to close to join the growing band of young Major contenders – Rory McIlroy, missing here due to a injury suffered during a 'fun football' game; Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, coming off a win at Scottish Open last Sunday.
On Spieth's chances of a Grand Slam, Johnson smiled and said, "Well, I'm playing the next two. so we'll have to see."
Also don't count out the past masters. Phil Mickelson wants another swig from he Claret Jug – he calls his 2013 win as his biggest achievement – and Tiger Woods, who after wins at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005, reckons he can do it again.
Asked if he still thought about Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Major or wherher it is a dream too far off at this point, Tiger shot back, "No, not at all. I'm still young. I'm not 40 yet. I know some of you guys think I'm buried and done, but I'm still right here in front of you."