Some Say Spieth Too Far Ahead, Sure to Win Open – But It’s Golf
For anyone who believes that great men’s golf went out the window with Tiger Woods, you’re just not paying attention. There there, it’s all right. They said the same thing after Jack, Gary, and Arnold – and those fans weren’t paying attention, either. Tiger Woods had visual image sizzle. He would look right at home in a Superman or Batman suit. Power was his middle name. If such qualities are required for great golf, then some of you doubters are right. But what do we do with a player who takes more of a Clark Kent way of doing things into major tournaments, and wins them? Metaphorically speaking, Jordan Spieth has no cape in his closet. He doesn’t own a hammer only he can wield, and doesn’t present the demeanor that would cause anyone to waste a good hunk of kryptonite on him. He sure can play golf, though, a quiet, modest, subdued spectacular game of golf. He plays Tiger Woods level golf, just without the Batmobile. The scorecard doesn’t care. Spieth has led the field on five occasions going into Sunday in a major. And, outside of one difficult meltdown at the Masters, he’s done brilliantly.
This weekend, he’s doing it again at Royal Birkdale, in the Open – yes, the Open, that one, the original one, the British one. He’s put in three rounds under 70, and if all goes well, might become the only player to ever card four of them. Some are saying that unless someone does something utterly unbelievable to neutralize his performance thus far, Spieth winning the Open is all but automatic. One of the mileposts referred to is Branden Grace’s record of 62 on an unforgiving Royal Birkdale Course.
Yes, Spieth is a daunting third round leader in general. Overall, he was won eight of the thirteen tournaments in which he began Sunday as the one to catch. Jay Busbee has even given his superhero image a bit of a boost by calling him a “notorious frontrunner.” That may not be Excalibur or a golden lasso, but it’s a step up in making this guy sound scary. While it is true, however, that his finishing statistics are excellent, we’re still talking golf here, and what’s more, we’re still talking the Open at Royal Birkdale. It takes a lot of strong nerves to declare anything in this game automatic, and that extends to even the wonder-boy-in-progress, Jordan Spieth. It is also true that only one contender appears to be within striking distance of preventing a Spieth win. Matt Kuchar, by contrast, has had some trouble finishing, even though he is often found among the leaders. That might change the odds in a football game or boxing match, but in golf? What’s to prevent Mr. Spieth from shooting a 78 on Sunday? What if Kuchar is the golden boy with a 62? If Spieth shoots a 78, it wouldn’t be necessary.
After a faltering start, we thought that Rory McIlroy might provide the threat, and after a string of birdies, Saturday made Sunday look promising. Three consecutive bogeys later, however, Rory was all but gone. The same goes for Rickie Fowler and various other winning types. I wonder about the weather report, or what hit greens could be barely or broadly missed in a fourth round. Water where there was none yesterday? The break that just doesn’t feel like yesterday’s did? Am I ordinary Spieth or incredible Spieth today?
No, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone with an abiding interest in this tournament forsake the television because of a supposed foregone conclusion. Spieth has a three-stroke lead, fragile in most tournaments, and highly alterable on a vicious British course – and no one knows that better than Jordan Spieth. For him, it’s no more meltdowns. Then we’ll see. If his winning ways continue in the majors, we might have to assign him superhero status after all.