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Jordan Spieth eyes history at PGA Championship

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Jordan Spieth eyes history at PGA Championship

Brings best form to bid for career Grand Slam since 2017

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    Jordan Spieth on playing multiple majors in a short time period

    KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Jordan Spieth could tell you he’s been in the top 10 in seven of his last nine PGA TOUR starts, including his 12th victory at the Valero Texas Open last month.

    He could tell you the significance of a potential victory at this week’s 103th PGA Championship at Kiawah, where a fourth major win would give him the career Grand Slam – a distinction held by only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

    But as to when exactly he knew that he was “back” to his old self after a vexing, lengthy slump that saw him fall to 92nd in the world earlier this year?

    That’s more complicated.

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    “I'm not sure if there was a single turning point,” said Spieth, who is coming off a T9 finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week. “I think it was kind of a progression of finding some feels that allowed me to stand comfortably over the ball and hit a shot under pressure, and then doing that for multiple days in a row and then having that happen a couple tournaments in a row.”

    Those two tournaments, he added, were the Waste Management Phoenix Open (T4, including a third-round 61) and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (T3) in early February. It was, he said, the “time frame where I kind of thought, Man, I know it's not where I want it to be, but it doesn't need to be for me to at least tap in to how to contend out here.”

    Spieth, who had weather delays getting out of Dallas and was set to play the course for the first time Tuesday afternoon, is up to 26th in the world, eighth in the FedExCup. That’s not up the standards he set in 2015, when he was No. 1 in both, but then again, is that standard even fair?

    What does it mean to be back, anyway? Winning on TOUR? Spieth has done that. Winning his fourth major? It could happen this week. Revisiting the peaks he reached in 2015? That year, of course, is when Spieth won five times, including the Masters, U.S. Open, TOUR Championship and FedExCup. He was Player of the Year and reached No. 1 in the world.

    But that metric is problematic, as well.

    “I was actually a better player in 2017,” he said, “but everyone just looks at results. I had a lower scoring average. I was better tee to green. I was a better player.”

    For Will Zalatoris, who plays often with Spith in Dallas and will join him (and Webb Simpson) for the first two rounds of the PGA, being back means doing Jordan Spieth things again.

    And what exactly are Jordan Spieth things?

    “The disgusting chip-ins,” Zalatoris said, “the 40-footers that when you're playing against him they're awful, when you're playing with him they're the best thing on earth, or at least when he's on your team. But the guy, I mean, he worked so hard at it for a year and a half, just hours and hours of beating golf balls. Obviously, we get to see what goes on here, but I'm fortunate enough to see what goes on back home, and there's nobody that works harder than him.

    “It was just a matter of time.”

    A match at Dallas National “three or four months ago,” he added, left no question. Zalatoris and his partner were on the green; Spieth and partner Martin Flores were on either side of it, Spieth having pull-hooked his tee shot left of the cart path. Zalatoris knew not to get too comfortable.

    “Jordan hits this chip shot that skips through the rough,” he said, “goes up, checks on the hill, then basically just goes Mach3 and just slams into the back of the hole and goes in. Then he follows it up with like a 30- or 40-footer on the next hole. It's just like, this is just Jordan.

    “I think to me – I'd seen it for the few months leading up to that,” he continued, “but that was like the most – that was when I knew, OK, he's back. It's been fun to see.”

    Spieth said he’s tried to stay level-headed amid the mass hysteria of his high highs and low lows.

    “It’s golf,” he said.

    He said he’s not thinking about the Slam and won’t until the weekend – and that’s only if he’s contending. “I feel like I'll have a lot of chances at this tournament,” he said, “and if I just focus on trying to take advantage of this golf course, play it the best I can and kind of stay in the same form tree to green I've been in, all I can ask for is a chance.”

    Just a chance. For some players – the most riveting, can’t-turn-away players – it’s all they need. And that’s why the Slam is very much in play at Kiawah. As Zalatoris, Daniel Berger, Matt Kuchar and others know well, when Jordan Spieth things start happening, anything is possible.

    Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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