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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Spieth among PGA favorites in search of career Grand Slam

TULSA, Ocala ( Associated Press) — Not long ago, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Jordan Spieth would one day capture golf’s career Grand Slam.

Until recently, it looked like he would never contest an election again.

After scorching a Tiger-esque path during his first five years as a pro, including wins at the Masters and US Open in 2015 and the British Open in ’17, things suddenly went sideways for Spieth. That crisp ball-striking that was once the envy of so many left her, her driver a little upset, and her short game let down.

The former No. 1 went almost four years without a win, falling to 92nd in the world rankings.

However, in making thousands of shots with the re-tooled swing, and confident after winning at Hilton Head and second in Byron Nelson last week, The popular 28-year-old Texan reached this week’s PGA Championship once again among the favorites to raise the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

And finally, join that most exclusive club.

“Definitely at this point, having won the other three, it’s an elephant in the room for me,” Spieth admitted before heading out for Wednesday’s practice round. “If you told me now that I’m going to win a tournament for the rest of my life, I’d say I want to win it, which is where things are.”

History doesn’t necessarily have to be on his side.

None of the five Grand Slam winners have waited more than three years for the final stage. Gene Sarazen in 1935, Ben Hogan in ’53 and Tiger Woods in 2000 did it on their first attempt; Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were also not far behind.

Even some of the greatest players in the game never do that.

Arnold Palmer’s victory at the 1961 British Open left him, like Spieth, only needing the PGA to finish it, yet he would go on to play the tournament 34 times without a win. Phil Mickelson’s audacious history of second place at the US Open is well documented. The same tournament is also missing from the resume of three-time PGA Champion Sam Snead. Byron Nelson and Raymond Floyd never won the British Open while Lee Trevino won every major (twice) except the Masters.

“Long-term,” said Spieth, “it would be really cool to say that you’ve captured four of the biggest tournaments in the world, played in different parts of the world, and in different styles too. You feel like that. You are a skilled golfer.”

Looks like Rory McIlroy, who will play alongside Spieth and Tiger Woods for the first two rounds in Southern Hills, knows that all too well. The two-time PGA champion has taken eight swings to win the Masters as it becomes the only Major to disappear from its own laser, and has been in the Top 5 four times since finishing second earlier this year.

“I think the most consistent way to get yourself to stand a chance at winning these major championships is to adopt a conservative strategy,” McIlroy said. “Tiger did it most of his career, and well, he did get some big wins there, but being conservative with his strategy at times, letting other people make mistakes – Pars is very good at major championships, and That’s the kind of philosophy I believe in moving forward.”

Another word for conservative can be intentional, and that’s a good way to describe speth these days.

When stuck in the medial, he tore his swing and began to rebuild it. Spieth applied a curious pre-shot walkthrough—almost mechanical in nature—designed to get into the proper position at the right speed. Deliberate routines aren’t just for driving ranges or practice rounds. Spieth takes it on the course with him.

“I get to my ball quicker, I play faster than I used to, I’m not slowing anyone down, and I swing better, more committed with it,” he explained. “At this point, that’s where I’m at, and that’s what I’ll keep doing. It’s just trying – as I mentioned before – going back to moving forward, going back to my DNA that I made the club How did you grow up?”

Like he was swinging in 2015, when Spieth won the first two majors of the year and people started whispering about the Grand Slam. Or a few years later, when they added the claret jug to their trophy case, only the PGA is still missing.

Justin Thomas said, “You want to win any big,” and it will always be put on the pedestal a little higher for him than the other guys. I know he’ll be fine. And I’m not saying this just because he’s one of my best friends. I mean, I just saw him when he’s not playing well. I have seen him play well when he is playing well. We all go through little fights. It’s just him, it’s just been tough. I mean, he’s going to be fine.”

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More Associated Press Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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