SFor golf purists angered by the Saudi Arabian issues dominating their sport, a 28-year-old from Dallas could come in handy. Should Jordan Spieth win Sunday night’s Wanamaker Trophy, a complete career grand slam, there will be engaging narrative to at least temporarily offset the incessant chatter about breakaway tours, human rights and golf’s persona non grata, Phil The Shill .
Spieth arrived in Southern Hills in a form that suggests this is his best shot yet to add the US PGA Championship to the Masters, US Open and Open. He would be only the sixth man in history to win each of golf’s Big Four. It is to Spieth’s credit that he has devoted himself entirely to a different direction in writing history.
“Right now, having won the other three, it’s a elephant in the room for me,” said Spieth. “It’s a goal of mine. If you would just tell me I was going to win one tournament for the rest of my life, I would say I want to win this one given where things are. If you had told me before I started my career that I would ever win a tournament, I would say the Masters because that was my favorite tournament growing up.
“Things are changing and obviously that has significant significance. Long term it would be really cool to say that you have captured the four biggest golf tournaments in the world, played in different parts of the world and in different styles too. So you feel like an accomplished golfer when you win a career grand slam.
“I’ve come close a couple of times. This wasn’t necessarily my most successful major, but I’m feeling good this week.”
Spieth has won the RBC Heritage and finished second at the Byron Nelson since surprisingly missing a cut at the Masters. Augusta National proved to be a head scratcher for the man himself. “I shot 76 on Friday and I can’t tell you I missed a shot,” he said. “It was bizarre. I just didn’t feel like I did much wrong. I’ve had weeks like this before. One just hopes they don’t make it to the Masters.”
According to his own statements, the old Spieth would have looked for technical changes after just 36 holes in Georgia. His slump after winning the 2017 Open makes a subsequent return to the top of golf all the more admirable.
Spieth is back in the world top 10 after ranking 92nd in early 2021. Spieth, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy jump out here as the marquee group of the tournament in the first two rounds. The trio only has the 22 majors under them.
“Both are great to play with,” says Spieth. “They are fast. You are positive. I think you have to accept it and have fun and realize that these are the kind of pairings that I can tell my kid about one day, “I gotta play with Tiger in a major.”
“Last year you weren’t sure if that would ever happen again. I know it’s great for golf, but out of selfishness, being able to play these events when you grew up with the guy you idolized is pretty exciting.”
McIlroy’s form and mood are looking positive as he seeks his first major triumph since 2014. Jon Rahm’s touch on the greens should be a big advantage for Southern Hills. Shane Lowry said he was “calmly confident” about his chances of winning.
There are only 98 days between the final round of the Phoenix Open and the same point in this US PGA. If Scottie Scheffler prevails in Tulsa, he has won five times in that window. “When I come to tournaments, it’s no different for me,” emphasized the Masters champion.
Searing temperatures, brisk winds and crossover holes mean game pace will inevitably be an issue. In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock if the second race on Saturday started early, even without the weather delays. Southern Hills offers a rigorous physical test.
As if to prove that thoughts of Saudi are never far away, Richard Bland was blunt when asked if he’d reconsidered attending their $25m event in Hertfordshire next month. The European Tour does not give permission to members like Bland to perform.
“I’ll play,” Bland said. “If I get banned, I’ll get banned. In terms of playing at the very highest level, most of my career is now behind me. I’ll be 50 in six months.
“I am a realist. Mother Nature tends to catch up with you. I have the opportunity to play these events and secure my future and I would be pretty stupid to turn it down.”
Luckily, people like Spieth value professional legacy over checks.