Rivals in awe of ‘special’ Jordan Spieth

Kenny Perry, who won the US Senior Open in July, never tasted major championship glory during an otherwise successful PGA Tour career.

Rivals in awe of ‘special’ Jordan Spieth

Twice he lost a sudden-death play-off — at the 1996 PGA Championship and the 2009 Masters.

Perry wishes he had the ability to conjure the type of black magic Jordan Spieth seemingly displays whenever it matters most.

“If he wrote a book on how he does it, I’d buy a copy and read it from cover to cover and take notes, too,” Perry said. “That guy is special.”

Spieth’s victory at the Open Championship in July at Royal Birkdale places him on the precipice of completing the career Grand Slam and joining golf’s most exclusive club.

“That’s almost like the Holy Grail in our sport to win all four at least once,” said Ernie Els, the winner of four majors but only two legs of the Slam.

Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods have accomplished the feat, and Spieth, who recently turned 24, would become the youngest to turn the trick if he were to win the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow this week.

“He can accomplish something that has to rank up there with the greatest records in the history of this 500-year-old sport,” said CBS Sports golf anchor Jim Nantz.

No golfer has ever completed the career Grand Slam by winning the PGA’s Wanamaker Trophy. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never could hoist that silver behemoth of a trophy. Spieth said all the right things before the tournament began. He said he didn’t feel any extra pressure to win this week; in fact, he’s never felt more relaxed heading into a major championship. To hear Spieth tell it, if he stays healthy he should have 30 more chances to play in the PGA. He made it sound as if it’s simply a matter of when not if.

“Getting three legs of it is much harder than getting the last leg, I think,” Spieth said. “Although I’ve never tried to get the last leg, so it’s easy for me to say.”

Spieth struggled with his putter in yesterday’s opening round. He was 3 over until he made a couple of late birdies and signed for 1-over 72.

“I don’t think I was as ‘free rolling’ as I thought I would be, as you can tell by some frustration,” Spieth said.

“It was just the putter. Everything else was fine.”

Winning the career Grand Slam is a Herculean task. It’s worth repeating that only five golfers in the history of the game have ever done it. That Fab Five all achieved the milestone quickly. Sarazen and Hogan did it in their first attempt before Palmer even had coined the modern Grand Slam.

Woods, the last player to do so in more than 50 years, endured more media scrutiny but still did it in his first try. Nicklaus and Player each did it in their third attempt.

Both Nicklaus and Player are confident that Spieth eventually will win the PGA. Just as Pádraig Harrington said Spieth has a certain “X-factor,” Player contends, Spieth has “it.”

“I cannot describe ‘it,’” Player said. “It’s something that is in my opinion a loan from God. A lot of people would laugh at that. But in my opinion it’s a loan from God. It’s something you cannot describe. Can you accept adversity? Can you enjoy pain? Can you keep your cool at the right time? Will you play the right shot at the right time? Will you accept a three-putt and go to the next tee with a positive attitude? It’s a combination of a lot of things. And I can’t describe it. And nobody can. If we could, we’d have a lot of superstars.”

Rory McIlroy did his best to describe Spieth’s otherworldly abilities.

“He has got that knack. I call it resilience. I don’t know if there’s a better word to describe what it is that he has,” McIlroy said. “But he has got this resilience where he gets himself in positions in tournaments where you don’t think he can come back from, and he does. It’s awfully impressive.”

In addition to Palmer and Watson, the list of 18 names that fell one leg of the slam short of immortality includes the likes of Raymond Floyd, Byron Nelson, and Lee Trevino. Phil Mickelson, who covets a US Open trophy, and McIlroy, who is chasing a Green Jacket, still are bidding to become the sixth member of the club, and know what it’s like to play with the burden of trying to drink from golf’s Holy Grail. Will Spieth be able to make a move today and get into contention for a weekend run? Nick Faldo, who won three claret jugs and three green jackets, isn’t one to count Spieth out. He marveled at the way Spieth barely showed his elation in victory at Birkdale.

“It was almost like, yeah, right, ticked that one off. I’m on to the next one. This is all part of a bigger goal,” Faldo said.

A “life-long goal” is how Spieth described the career Grand Slam. Three majors down, and only one to go. We could be seeing history in the making. Wouldn’t that be grand?

More in this section

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox