Friday 23 March 2018

Box-office Spieth a Major threat to Rory's ambition

Johnson claims Claret Jug, but America's rising star has what it takes to match McIlroy

Jordan Spieth celebrates after making birdie on the 16th green during his final round 69 which fell one short of making a play-off
Jordan Spieth celebrates after making birdie on the 16th green during his final round 69 which fell one short of making a play-off

Joe Molloy

So what I can tell you about an Open Championship week spent at St Andrews? In sheer logistical terms it was a long and messy tournament. The mornings and late evenings have mostly blended into one. We sat through 14 hours of suspended play.

Tom Watson waving goodbye in the Friday night darkness feels utterly disconnected from Paul Dunne's heroics on Sunday afternoon and further still from Zach Johnson's surgical wedge play on a really electric Monday evening.

The property itself lives up to expectations, particularly around the 1st and 18th holes where Rusacks Hotel and the R&A headquarters and the Hamilton Grand provide an almost spiritual setting, right in the heart of the town. Where the galleries stand by the 18th green is a public street.

That said, it turns out the Old Course is far from spectator friendly. Be warned. It's extremely narrow, with seven shared fairways, meaning fans are essentially stuck on the outer perimeter of proceedings all the way around. It's also very flat and the lack of humps and vantage points results in one feeling too far from the action.

Meanwhile the pull of Tiger Woods as always was irresistible. He was the only player to pack out the driving range from what I could see. His ball striking on the range was very good, but these days the merest whiff of pressure seems to cripple his game. It finally feels like it's over for him.

I can't quite explain the pressure Paul Dunne must have felt on the 1st tee on Monday. He walked right by me on the way there. I'd interviewed him the previous evening and briefly wished him luck but he was in another place. He was accompanied on the practice green beside the tee box by Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and what felt like a million onlookers. Golf is so brutal in so many ways. How these guys pull the trigger in those conditions is forever impressive.

As ever, the amateur hacker, that's me, is struck by the ease with which they swing a golf club. After every tournament I resolve to swing easier, with rhythm and I look forward to failing dismally.

Monday evening, the Irish disappointment aside, was a great finale. Amidst the most volatile of leaderboards, Zach Johnson emerged the unlikely winner, admitting afterwards that "I'm not the most charismatic golfer. I get that." Really Jordan Spieth was the box-office star of events. His 50-foot putt felt iconic. Stuttering along without his best stuff, he somehow came within inches of a play-off. I'm starting to doubt my initial sense that Rory McIlroy will win more Majors than him.

Irish Independent

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