clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jordan Spieth eyes career grand slam at PGA Championship

After a convincing 3-shot win at the British Open, Jordan Spieth should be favored to beat Rory McIlroy to the career grand slam.

U.S. Open - Preview Day 1 Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jordan Spieth, who staged a furious comeback Sunday to win the British Open and avoid another potential major championship nightmare like the one he endured at last year’s Masters, has the chance to become the first golfer in history to complete the career grand slam at the men’s final major of the season.

Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, joined Jack Nicklaus as just the second player to win three legs of the grand slam before age 24. Spieth ought to be favored to claim next month’s PGA Championship after outlasting Matt Kuchar by three strokes, 12-under to 9-under, in The Open finale. Should he win the PGA, Spieth would beat Rory McIlroy, whose most recent of four major wins came at the 2014 PGA, to the grand slam and overtake Tiger Woods as the youngest golfer to own all four major titles.

“To be in that company, no doubt, is absolutely incredible,” Spieth told reporters Sunday about his excitement at going for the gold in three weeks. “What those guys [Nicklaus and Woods] have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape, or form do I think I'm anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it's a good start, but there is a long way to go.”

Spieth, who won the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open and almost prevailed at that year’s British Open, teed off on Sunday at Royal Birkdale with a three-shot lead over Kuchar and seemed a shoo-in to lift the Claret Jug — until the game actually started. A cold putter and wayward tee shots put Spieth’s victory in doubt early as he scuffled to a 3-over score through four holes playing alongside Kuchar in the final round of the tournament.

Then, just as it appeared that Kuchar might grab the upper hand after his playing partner lost a drive some 100 yards wide right of the fairway on the 13th hole, Spieth took an unplayable lie that required line-of-sight relief and — 20 minutes after teeing off — left him with a shot from the driving range. Four-over for the day at that point, he went on to make a miraculous, tourney-saving bogey and he rode the momentum down the stretch for the victory.

From there, it was all over but the trophy presentation, as Spieth nearly aced the par-3 14th, buried an unbelievably clutch eagle putt from downtown on the par-5 15th, and made another lengthy putt for a birdie-4 on 16. A birdie on 17 sealed the win, and he cruised in with a par for a final round 1-under 69.

Now it’s on to the men’s final major of the season at Quail Hollow, a track on which he has a little bit of history:

Spieth is not the only player with a chance to capture the career slam in the near future. In fact, it could happen at each of the next three majors:

Of the three, Mickelson, who has not won worldwide since he captured the 2013 British Open, and who missed the cut this time around, would seem to be the most unlikely to achieve the Slam first.

That leaves Spieth and McIlroy, who won his third major at 25 and seemed on the precipice of legendary greatness after hoisting the PGA trophy three years ago. Now 28, McIlroy recognizes how difficult it is to conquer the best of the best and acknowledged that he hoped to have socked away more major Ws by now.

“You look at Jack Nicklaus. He went through a stretch where he didn't win a major in three years,” McIlroy said after finishing with a final round 67 and in a tie for fourth. “I'm not comparing myself to Jack. It's hard to win them. It's very hard. It's the reason especially in this generation, excluding Tiger, no one's got above five. So it's tough to win them.”

McIlroy noted that he had 15 to 20 years in which to add to his major tally.

“I feel like three years has been too long. But at the same time I'm not going to rush it, I'm not going to stay impatient. I'm going to play my game,” he said. “And hopefully my chance arrives at some point and I'm able to take it.”

Spieth has certainly eclipsed the Ulsterman of late. McIlroy mounted his own late charge Sunday on the coast of England. But a shaggy start to the British that required a kick in the pants from his caddie to get him to the weekend — after a fractured rib earlier this year has limited him to just eight PGA Tour starts in 2017 — left him ruing “a lost opportunity” at Royal Birkdale.

Couple Rory’s struggles with Jordan’s triumphs, marked by the way Spieth roared his way to the finish line on Sunday, and it would be folly to bet against Sunday’s winner being the first of the marquee trio to achieve the slam.