Monday 20 November 2017

'Frustrated' Spieth ramps up pressure in pursuit of history

Jordan Spieth of the United States
Jordan Spieth of the United States

Jim White

Never mind merely chasing history, Jordan Spieth is galloping in pursuit of it at a pace which should alert Police Scotland.

After a third-round of 66, leaving him 11 under par in fourth place, the American is perfectly poised to fulfil his ambition of becoming the only man in 62 years to win the first three majors of a season.

In 1962 Arnold Palmer missed the target by a stroke, Jack Nicklaus by a hole a decade later, but the way Spieth is playing the Old Course, it would be an unwise punter who now betted against him reprising Ben Hogan's triple crown, lifted in 1953.

Heading into the delayed final round, that unease the leaders Jason Day, Paul Dunne and Louis Oosthuizen must be feeling may well turn out to be Spieth's breath on the back of their heavily sponsored collars.

Not that Spieth started his third round like a man poised on the lip of history. Dressed, like his playing partner Sergio Garcia, in a symphony of grey, on a day of fireworks, the 21-year-old began painting the greens an underwhelming shade of monochrome.


Indeed he seemed more concerned with locating the players' Portaloos than the greens. Though afterwards he denied reports that he was under the weather, suggesting instead that his several trips to the facilities before the turn were due to having merely "taken on too much fluid".

Whatever the reason, on an afternoon when the conditions suddenly turned benign, when the wind was barely strong enough to rustle the long grass in the rough,, he appeared aware that he was missing an opportunity to seize control.

After failing to secure a very good birdie chance on the fourth (one which Garcia took with aplomb), he swished his putter into his shins in irritation. He did the same at the sixth and eighth. For a player of his accomplishment, there is little satisfaction in par.

And then came the ninth hole. Twenty-four of his fellow competitors had already birdied the par-four 352-yarder before he arrived. But, after a reasonably well placed approach, he three-putted to record the day's only bogey on the hole.

Clearly irritated, he walked away in a wide arc of annoyance, before delivering a swift and purposeful right-hander into the midriff of his golf bag.

"I didn't want to hit Michael (Greller)," he said of his caddie. "So I figured I'd hit my golf bag. I was as frustrated as I've been in a tournament. To be two under at that point when the front nine is gettable and it's as easy as the conditions get, I was extremely frustrated."

Such are the demands of excellence. But the moment seemed to change his outlook. Instead of crumbling, instead of behaving as many a young man of his age might and succumbing to anger, Spieth regrouped. Displaying the resolve of a true champion, he birdied the next three holes.

And as he marched up the leaderboard, how the crowd responded. A wave of applause accompanied his progress.


In the garden of the Jigger Inn by the 17th fairway, John Daly watched on admiringly, a pint cradled in his right hand. And, as Spieth and Garcia made their way over the stone bridge on the 18th fairway, a man leaned out of the top window of one of the houses flourishing a giant Stars and Stripes.

But Spieth is not simply carrying the hopes of the many Americans who have colonised St Andrews this week.

Golf as a whole could use the publicity that would accrue through a historic third major on the bounce recorded by this personable golfing poster boy. And the thing about Spieth is he appears to be not remotely disturbed by any concomitant pressure.

"There's really no downside," he said of the gathering expectation. "If we have a chance to win and we execute tomorrow, then we're going to be okay."

To put into context the astonishing possibility of what lies ahead, it is worth noting that Paul Dunne, the youthful Irish amateur newcomer who cheered many as, for the first time in his life, he found himself atop a serious leaderboard here, is a year older than Jordan Spieth. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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