Beats fellow American Kuchar by three shots; claims victory after roller-coaster final round
SOUTHPORT (England) — July 23, 2017: British Open champion Jordan Spieth was haunted by bad memories today as he faced up to the possibility of throwing away another big lead in the final round of a major.
The 23-year-old American frittered away a three-shot advantage and after he drove his ball into an unplayable lie at the 13th hole his playing partner Matt Kuchar edged ahead.
Spieth led last year’s U.S. Masters by five shots going into the back nine of the fourth round but found water twice in a quadruple-bogey at the 12th hole and lost the title to Danny Willett.
“Today took as much out of me as any day that I’ve ever played golf,” Spieth told reporters. “I knew that another major win would be the one thing that would prove I’m capable of closing these majors out.
“I didn’t really do much wrong, just hit a couple of bad swings. And all of a sudden it was in my own head ‘How could I not close out a five-stroke lead with nine to play?'”
After lengthy discussions with rules officials, Spieth struck his next shot at the 13th from a practice area but, unlike in his Masters meltdown, the incident seemed to inspire him.
He went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to move two shots ahead and a solid par at the last sealed a three-stroke victory and his third major title.
“You just don’t know really what your mind is going to do to you,” Spieth said.
“You can control it to an extent but certain situations are going to bring more tension and you have to kind of channel that the right way.”
Spieth became the second player after 18-times major champion Jack Nicklaus to win three legs of the career grand slam before the age of 24 and he is the youngest British Open champion since Spain’s Seve Ballesteros in 1979.
“It’s incredible,” Spieth said. “This is as much of a high as I’ve ever experienced in my golfing life. And I’m going to enjoy it more than I’ve enjoyed anything that I’ve accomplished in the past.”
He won the U.S. Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 and if he lifts the U.S. PGA Championship trophy will become the sixth man to claim all four majors, joining an illustrious group of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.
“It’s amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love. To be in that company is absolutely incredible and I certainly appreciate it,” Spieth said.
“But I’m very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I’m anywhere near that whatsoever. So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go.”-Golf-American Spieth emerges from epic duel to win British Open
Spieth survived a roller-coaster final round after beating fellow American Matt Kuchar by three strokes in a thrilling duel at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth began the day with a three-stroke lead but saw that evaporate on the front nine, where he made four bogeys and a birdie to enter the turn sharing the lead with Kuchar on eight-under, before he steadied himself and surged to victory.
Clutching the Claret Jug awarded to the winner, Spieth, the youngest American to win the British Open, said his victory was a dream come true.
“I drank some wine from the Claret Jug when Zach Johnson won it two years ago and people said that was bad luck. I started to believe them too after nine holes today,” he added.
“I’m going to take this back to America which may upset a few of you all but I’ll return it. Thank you very much, what an incredible honour.”
After his struggles on the front nine, the real drama began when Spieth drove wildly into the dunes on the 13th hole.
He was forced to take a penalty stroke after deeming the ball unplayable and after some confusion and a lengthy series of deliberations, he played his second shot from the edge of the practice range next to the television trucks.
Spieth scrambled to make a creditable bogey out of the par-four hole but that still handed the lead to 39-year-old Kuchar, who was playing the more solid golf as the wind rose and temperature fell.
However, the sight of his rival alone at the top of the leaderboard appeared to click a switch in Spieth who responded with a birdie on the par-three 14th, where he was close to a hole-in-one.
He then brilliantly sank a 45-yard putt to eagle the par-five 15th and followed that with birdies on the 16th and 17th to banish any thought of a repeat of his U.S. Masters meltdown last year.
As he received the trophy Spieth paid tribute to Kuchar, saying he had enjoyed the battle and describing him as a great champion and class act.
“I took about 20 minutes to play a shot today. Matt took it in his stride with a smile. He sets a great example for all of us,” Spieth said of his rival, who had been given underdog backing from the Birkdale crowd.
China’s Li Haotong finished third on six-under-par after a superb last-round 63 left him on the range hoping, in vain, that a few more bogeys from the leading pair might give him a shot at a playoff.
Irishman Rory McIlroy produced his best round of the week with a 67 to leave him on five under for the tournament and tied in fourth place with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello who shot 68. – Reuters