Jordan Spieth takes a shot at golfing history

Jordan Spieth begins his bid for a third consecutive major victory at The Open today fully aware he is on the brink of golfing history but equally determined to cast it from his mind once he reaches the first tee at St Andrews.

Jordan Spieth takes a shot at golfing history

The Masters and US Open titles have already come into the possession of this remarkably assured 21-year-old from Dallas, and now Spieth can emulate fellow Texan Ben Hogan by becoming only the second man to win the first three majors of the year.

Should he equal Hogan’s record, he will be chasing even more rarified air as he hones in on becoming the first person to complete a modern-era calendar Grand Slam.

Even the great Hogan could not achieve that feat. He was unable to contend for the 1953 PGA Championship because its dates overlapped with the Open.

First things first, though, and Spieth has the more immediate challenge of getting over this hurdle and this piece of golfing legend.

“Sure, I’m aware,” Spieth said when Hogan’s record was raised yesterday. “I like to study the history of golf. To have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often.

“I’m embracing that opportunity, but by the time I start on Thursday, it won’t be in my head. It’ll be about how can I bring this Open Championship down to just another event, get out there and try and get myself into contention. But I am certainly aware of it.”

There is no doubt that Spieth’s prospects for victory have been enhanced by the absence of world No.1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy, forced to watch from his armchair as he nurses ruptured ligaments in his left ankle.

An Old Course softened by rain with more to come on Friday and Saturday could turn into a bombers’ paradise with McIlroy able to render many fairway bunkers obsolete and reach two or three par-four greens off the tee.

There are still bombers in the field, not least Dustin Johnson and the sneaky long Louis Oosthuizen, who won last time out at the Home of Golf in 2010. Yet a missing four-time major champion and top-ranked McIlroy removes much of the intrigue surrounding Spieth’s tilt at further glory.

The weather will play its part like no other major, with winds changing direction throughout the second round and forecast to gust between 30 and 40 miles per hour during Friday afternoon and Saturday. That brings quality links players into the mix, not least Rickie Fowler, the Players champion whose Scottish Open win last Sunday has primed the American world number five well for this week’s major, or even Ireland’s in-form Shane Lowry, fresh from a tie for ninth at the US Open and a similar placing at last year’s Open.

Fowler’s success has also served to highlight Spieth’s decision not to prepare for The Open on a links, rather to honour his commitment to last week’s PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, which he won late on Sunday night before jumping on a red-eye flight from Illinois to Scotland.

As a result, Spieth, who had played St Andrews only once before this week has had only a golf simulator at his home in Dallas to study on before arriving here and playing 46 holes between Monday and Wednesday. To clasp his mitts around the Claret Jug the American will have to silence those who questioned those preparations but if his exploits over the past two seasons are any guide, Spieth rarely puts a foot wrong or makes a bad decision.

“I think here and Augusta National are my two favourite places in the world, and I’ve really enjoyed our time getting back here, even in a shortened week,” he said.

“I still got a lot of holes in, and our preparation is almost complete, and I feel really good about last week heading into here, and over the past couple months heading into here. All in all, I’m extremely excited. It would mean the world to me to try and win this championship and to do it here would be even more special.”

Special as it would be for any of these 156 golfers, so many of whom have dreamed of winning The Open at the Home of Golf.

Lowry is most certainly among them, and despite bridling against the increasing expectation about him the world number 45, Ireland’s highest ranked player in the field, was striving to keep hopes in check.

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves there again.” he said. “Do I feel like I can compete this week? Yeah, why not? If I give myself a chance to win it on Sunday afternoon I know I’ve got what it takes to win it down the stretch. There’s no more I can say. Do I feel like I’m one of the best players in the world? At the minute, yeah, my game feels good. I feel like I’ve never played as well and I’ve never been as good mentally.”

Graeme McDowell, too, is feeling good about himself following on from what he hopes were a season-turning couple of rounds at the Scottish Open last week.

“This is my third Open at St Andrews, I feel comfortable on it,” McDowell said yesterday. “Weather depending, I think I can compete.

“Knowing how this course plays in various wind directions is quite important. Looking at the forecast Thursday, it’s going to blow hard out of the east and then switch to southerly on Friday. These past three days are going to make for great preparation as we’re going to see a different test tomorrow. The Dunhill Links and previous Opens will stand guys in good stead.”

As quick a learner and as accomplished a golfer as Spieth obviously is, will he have banked enough Old Course experience to prevail here come Sunday evening?

It will be the most intriguing question of all as the 144th Open Championship progresses this week.

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