New York, where dreams are made of. Can they come true for Jordan Spieth next month?
Arguably golf’s most box office player will head to Oak Hill Country Club for his seventh bid at the most underrated Career Grand Slam as the season rolls into the second major championship of the year, the PGA Championship.
So much is made of Rory McIlroy’s quest to join golf’s most exclusive club just as much as when it blows up in smoke at Augusta National. Do Spieth’s own grand slam ambitions go under the radar because the PGA Championship is dubbed as the lesser of the four majors?
But is Spieth’s grand slam bid tougher than McIlroy’s? The Masters will always be played at Augusta National while the PGA Championship moves courses every year.
Since lifting the Claret Jug at the 2017 Open Championship in Royal Birkdale, Spieth has struggled in the PGA Championship with finishes of 12th and 3rd followed by results of 71, 30 and 34. In total he has just two career top-10 finishes in ten starts in this major championship.
The Texan will always be a volatile player, mixing in the good and the bad with the absolutely ridiculous which makes for compelling viewing but amidst the chaos are really good finishes, without getting over the winning line.
Spieth has four top six finishes and it can be argued two of them should have been converted into wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship with his putting down the stretch costing him.
The three-time major champion will always be unpredictable off the tee but his ability to make something out of nothing will give him a fighting chance.
Alongside McIlroy, Spieth remains the best placed active golfer to join golf’s most exclusive club and become just the sixth player to win all four major championships.
Oak Hill will host the PGA Championship for the fourth time and Spieth can expect a tough par-70 test at 7,360 yards and designed by Donald Ross.
Shaun Micheel and Jason Dufner claimed their maiden major titles here in 2003 and 2013 on scores of four-under and ten-under respectively.
The going will be tough but that’s where Spieth tends to get going. Five of his sixteen PGA Tour wins have come on par 70 courses including the 2015 US Open and 2017 Open Championships.
In relative terms, Spieth has added consistency to his game as much as someone like Jordan Spieth can and while he intends to rest up to ease his mental fatigue after he defends his RBC Heritage title this week, at the moment he is heading for the PGA Championship in great form.
The moving of the PGA Championship from August to May in 2019 has suited Spieth down to the ground. He loves this time of year.
Last year’s run of 1-2 before the PGA Championship was a flash in the pan that came after a period of mediocre form and he was well down in the putting stats.
In 2021 he arrived at the second major of the year with seven top-10 finishes in ten starts including a run of 1-3-9.
However, there are parallels between Spieth and McIlroy’s shortcomings at the one event they need to win for golfing immortality. Poor starts.
McIlroy hasn’t broken 70 in the opening round of the Masters since 2018 – an opening 72 last week his lowest since then.
Spieth has only broken 70 once in the opening round of the PGA Championship since winning the Open in 2017. Opening rounds of 69 and 66 helped him on his way to his best finish since that day in Birkdale, a distant third behind Brooks Koepka.
Spieth’s last six opening rounds at the PGA Championship read: 72, 71, 69, 73, 73, 72. Like McIlroy he has shown his capability to recover from poor starts backing up opening rounds of 71, 73 and 72 with rounds of 66, 68 and 69.
The former world number one is bang in form and a rest period to iron out some of the chinks in his armour could set him up nicely for what seems his best chance so far of completing the grand slam.
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