ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – One of the greatest achievements in golf was tantalizingly just out of reach for Jordan Spieth.
In attempting to become the first since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the year’s first three majors, and after 72 holes over five days at St. Andrews, Spieth on Monday finished a shot shy of the playoff to decide the British Open.
When he rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt across the 16th green to reach 15-under-par and share the lead, it looked as if the Masters and U.S. Open champion had timed a late charge to perfection. Two more pars and he was assured a place in the playoff. Instead, he saw a 7-foot par putt slide by the hole on the 17th, and when a birdie try just missed on 18, his challenge was over.
He finished with a 3-under-par 69.
“Although we came in wanting to be two shots better, I’m very pleased with the way we battled,” said Spieth, who tied for fourth in his third Open. “I’ve made a lot of right decisions to close out plenty of tournaments, and this just wasn’t one of those … I won’t beat myself up too bad because I do understand that.”
His only double bogey of the tournament, on the par-3 eighth, proved costly, when Spieth hit a long putt up the green and watched it roll agonizingly over the other side.
“My speed control was really what cost me this week,” Spieth said. “On that hole I left so many putts short this week, so I said, I am not leaving this one short; I’m going to get it up there. Instead, I hit it off the other side of the green, so that was a mental mistake. Instead of being patient, I was a little too aggressive with it when it wasn’t necessary.”
Despite being 21, Spieth’s maturity and analytical clarity are striking, and his positive thinking is hard-wired. Minutes after coming so close to a monumental triumph at the home of golf, Spieth already was looking ahead to the year’s final major, the PGA next month at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
“I’m sure there have only been a few guys who have won three majors in one year,” Spieth said. “My sights are now set on the PGA Championship.”
Spieth had the grace to stay by the course after his round, and was one of the first to congratulate winner Zach Johnson.
“He said congratulations and said he was proud,” Johnson said. “Jordan is a really good friend of mine, and I can’t describe the magnitude of what he was going through, because I have never been in that position certainly. He’s a phenomenal talent, and I’m telling you right now, he’s a better person than he is a golfer.”
There will remain a buzz surrounding Spieth and a career that has flourished so quickly. It likely will be a short time before he succeeds the injured Rory McIlroy as world No. 1.