UNIVERSITY PLACE, WASH. – Jordan Spieth loves golf history, which is appropriate for someone quickly becoming part of it.
Spieth was a freshman at Texas when he first went to St. Andrews with the rest of the Walker Cup team. They played the Old Course, soaked up the vibe at the home of golf and then headed north for their matches at Royal Aberdeen.
“It’s one of my favorite places in the world,” Spieth said Sunday evening. “I remember walking around the R&A clubhouse and seeing paintings of royalty playing golf, and it was dated 14-whatever. I’m thinking, our country was discovered in 1492 and they were playing golf here before anyone even knew the Americas existed.”
That was only four years ago, when not many outside golf circles knew Spieth. He will get more attention next time he arrives at St. Andrews.
The 21-year-old Texan, who slipped into a green jacket in April, hoisted the silver U.S. Open trophy Sunday at Chambers Bay.
Not since Tiger Woods in 2002 has anyone won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, and the short list of players who have done it is impressive:
Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer. Ben Hogan twice. Craig Wood.
Elite company? Sure, and there’s more.
The last guy to win the U.S. Open by one shot with a birdie on the final hole? Bobby Jones in 1926. The only other player to win different major championships before turning 22? A guy named Gene Sarazen in 1922.
“I didn’t think that those names would be mentioned like that,” he said after his one-shot victory over hard-luck Dustin Johnson and hard-charging Louis Oosthuizen. “That’s a piece of golf history, and as a golf historian, that’s very special and it gives me goose bumps. It’s amazing. And it gets better every week with our team. Those names are the greatest that have ever played the game, and I don’t consider myself there.
“But I’m certainly off to the right start in order to make an impact on the history of this game.”
When Spieth gets to Scotland this time, he will face massive pressure as he pursues something none of those historic names ever won: the Grand Slam.
“I’m just focused on the Claret Jug now,” he said. “The Grand Slam is something that I never could really fathom somebody doing, considering I watched Tiger win when he was winning whatever percentage of the majors he played in. And he won the Tiger Slam, but he never won the four in one year. And I figured if anybody was going to do it, it would be him, which he still can.”
Rory McIlroy, whether he wants one or not, has a rival.
McIlroy and Spieth are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. They have won the past four majors, the first time that has happened since Lee Trevino and Nicklaus in 1971-72.
The rivalry will have to wait. Spieth is chasing something far more important.