Spieth: St Andrews left me with a chip on my shoulder
Published 13/08/2015 | 02:30
Rory McIlroy is the odd man out in the marquee three-ball on day one of the 97th US PGA championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
On one side is Jordan Spieth, the sensation of 2015 with the Masters and US Open trophies registered on his golfing CV.
On the other is Zach Johnson, the 39-year-old who crashed the young guns party and took the Claret Jug after a play-off at St Andrews.
Three Majors played this year, none in McIlroy's possession.
Today and tomorrow he plays alongside Spieth, the guy who wants to knock McIlroy off his World No 1 pedestal. And the winner of this year's first two Majors admitted he has wrongs to make right after just failing to make it into the play-off at St Andrews.
"My frustration was only that we were tied for the lead with two holes to go, with one of them being a birdie hole, and we didn't close it out.
"And we didn't even get into a play-off. That was the hardest part for me and I certainly have a chip on my shoulder about that Major that I'm wanting to get off.
"This week I'm looking to try and get myself into that position again and see if I can improve on it," Spieth said yesterday.
The World No 1 certainly did not begrudge Johnson his victory and looks forward to joining the Open champion and McIlroy on the first tee today. And no, he's not buying into the grudge match theme with McIlroy.
"I think that's just what you guys want to see.
"He and I just want to go out there and try and win the tournament, but we have to beat each other in order to do that, along with 154 other people in the event."
Spieth was impressed with McIlroy's unexpected early return which adds to the quality of this week's field.
"We're all very happy to see him back," he said. "What an incredible rehab that was to get back so soon and to get to a 100pc.
"I know he wouldn't play unless he was, especially on this golf course. It's a tough course to walk."
Spieth is a formidable player but admits to a touch on envy about McIlroy's driving.
"I wish I could hit it as far as he does, yeah. I work towards that.
"I've gotten a little bit longer each year and hopefully can continue to do so.
"There's not much I can do about it right now except try to hit my approaches even closer and make a few more putts.
"But, yeah, Rory's an inspiring player, as you guys already know, and I enjoy playing with him," said Spieth.
The galleries are certain to swarm around this three-ball.
Meanwhile, Shane Lowry comes off the back of a superb victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone last Sunday.
Is there another big week left in the tank?
"I didn't deal very well with the expectations at St Andrews so it was nice to play well and get the win at Firestone. I'm going on holidays next week so we'll probably have a few shandys, but I want to do well this week and show people that this guy is here to stay," he said.
Graeme McDowell, US Open winner at Pebble Beach in 2010, continues to show signs he's ready to contend again.
He took a few steps forward at Firestone, opening with 66 and shooting 69 in the third round, with a 71 and 73 also thrown into the mix as he closed at one-under par and tied 17th for the tournament.
"I've been grinding away and I'm starting to see good things happening. There were certainly a lot of good things on a golf course like Firestone, which hasn't been a great venue for me over the years.
"The comfort level is back a little bit, the enjoyment level is back. I'm starting to believe in what I am doing and starting to see the ball behave itself.
"It is getting there. It is a hard process and not necessarily a fast process," said McDowell.
Padraig Harrington has to hope his injured right knee can hold up throughout the week.
He already said if this was not a Major, he would opt out, but is doing all he can to compete, including having had a pain-killing injection.