Someone Special Has Arrived
When Dustin Johnston three-putted the 72nd hole of this year’s US Open, thereby failing to qualify for the 18-hole playoff that would have followed, Jordan Spieth was confirmed as winner. This follows his very impressive 4-shot victory in the year’s first major, the Masters.
After winning at Augusta, this column used the heading Someone Special Has Arrived. That same heading needs repeating, if only to emphasize how special this guy really is.
In winning his second major, on the trot, Spieth showed his character during that drama-charged final round. Whilst he was tied 15th against the field in total putts, he was best when it really mattered; getting up and down on eight of nine attempts on Sunday and holing an impressive 16 of 18 final round putts from inside ten feet. As was noted at the Masters, this guy knows how to get the ball into the hole – better than any other.
Spieth’s efforts put him alongside some of the game’s greats. He joins Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as one of only six players to win the Masters and US Open in the same year. At just 21 years old, he is the youngest US Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923, and the youngest to claim his second major since Gene Sarazen won the 1922 PGA Championship at age 20. He also joins Tiger Woods as the only players to have won four times on the PGA Tour before turning 22.
Spieth will no doubt spare a thought for fellow Texan Ben Hogan, who won the Masters, the US Open and Open Championship in 1953. Alas, he couldn’t complete the Slam as the PGA was, at that time, played at the same time as the Open. At two from two, Spieth has to be thinking about St Andrews and next month’s next major. If he isn’t, the world’s golfing media certainly is.
Spieth showed he has grit and determination in spades, and a huge ability to concentrate when it really matters. After the double-bogey on 17, his penultimate hole, he then split the 18th fairway with his drive. Under the circumstances he had to go for the par-5 18th in two, a high risk and reward shot on a treacherous layout. Remember, this guy has not the length of a McIlroy or Jason Day. And certainly nowhere near the power-hitter Dustin Johnston, who was lurking immediately behind Spieth, on the same score and waiting to bomb it on to 18 with something like a five-iron.
That Spieth managed to make the green in two, then two-putt for his birdie was testament to his grit, following what to many would have spelt disaster – that double-bogey on the previous hole. He then waited while Johnston, following a massive drive down 18, hit 5-iron to within 13 feet. His eagle attempt went some 4-plus feet past. He missed the return and with it the chance of a play-off.
As is usual with US Opens, there was much debate about the course, its set-up, quality of putting surfaces and so on. Some have been vociferous in their condemnation:
Ian Poulter: “Mike Davis the head of the @USGA unfortunately hasn’t spoke the truth about the conditions of the greens. They were simply the worst most disgraceful surface I have ever seen on any tour in all the years I have played. The US Open deserves better than that.”
Sergio Garcia: “I think a championship of the calibre of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces than we have this week but maybe I’m wrong!”
Colin Montgomery: “The greens are extremely poor. A course of this demanding nature had to be in perfect condition and unfortunately, it is not.”
Gary Player: “The worst golf course I might’ve ever seen in the 63 years as a professional golfer.”
Personally, I side with the USGA who gave us a memorable Open once again. To those who said “the luckiest golfer, not the best could win this thing”, consider the following:
A final day leader board showing names such as Spieth, Johnston, Day, Scott, Oosthuizen and McIlroy is not half bad. Twenty-one under-par rounds on day one and a winning score of five-under par suggest this course was not unplayable. It gave the TV viewer a marvellous spectacle as well as a thrilling finish, gripping. Yes the greens were suspect, but overall, well done USGA.
As a final word on this US Open, we repeat what this column stated following Spieth’s Masters win, just two months ago. What really makes Jordan Spieth stand out is the quality of the man. His character seems a mixture of humility and self-assuredness, mental toughness and empathy. His lack of hubris is marked, yet so is his confidence. His willingness to acknowledge his competitor’s good play, his mental strength and character, and the way he carried his 21-year-old self throughout the week, on and off the course, mark him as someone special.
Jordan Spieth going head to head with the Open’s defending champion, Rory McIlroy, at St Andrews next month – bring it on.