Spieth’s latest career Grand Slam bid is a covert operation
The three-time major winner will be flying under the radar at the PGA Championship.
May 13, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
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Based on the results for Jordan Spieth this season – he’s yet to produce a top-20 finish in 13 starts – it’s doubtful many people expect him to complete the career Grand Slam this week at the PGA Championship.
Even Spieth recognizes he’ll be “flying in under the radar” at Bethpage Black.
“But I don’t mind that,” he said.
Spieth’s last career victory was the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. That gave him the third leg of the career Slam, leaving him only the PGA to become the sixth player to join that exclusive club.
A month later at Quail Hollow, he finished T-28 as longtime friend Justin Thomas won his first major. At last year’s PGA Championship at Bellerive, he finished T-12 behind Brooks Koepka.
Koepka now has as many major victories (3) as Spieth and will be one of the favorites this week as he seeks another successful defense of a major, having backed up his 2017 U.S. Open win with a second straight U.S. Open title last season.
Spieth will not be one of the favorites. But even though he was not competitive at his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson, finishing T-29 at a Trinity Forest course in which he’s a member, he will take some positives from a week in which he shot three rounds in the 60s for the first time this season.
“I don't take the disappointment. I take more confidence than disappointment,” Spieth said. “The actual result doesn't show really how well I played. We kind of had a tough draw the first two days and then still be -- what was it 11 under for the week? -- is solid playing on any golf course.”
Spieth has struggled with his driver this season – he ranks 202nd out of 214 players in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee – but felt he made some progress on Trinity Forest’s generously wide fairways. He blamed some of his poor holes, including his two double bogeys, on mental errors.
The only time he’s played competitively at Bethpage Black was in 2016 at the tournament now known as THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs. Spieth finished T-10 that week to Patrick Reed.
How much of an indicator that might be in predicting how Spieth will play this week is difficult to assess. Obviously, his game is in a different form. Plus, that tournament was held in late August.
“Probably different conditioned golf course than what we'll see this time especially with the rain they're getting,” Spieth said. “Probably just be a little bit longer. It's a great track. I real like playing it. It's a fun course to play and you really have to be on.”
The PGA Championship’s move to May does give Spieth a chance to complete the career Slam before Phil Mickelson gets his next opportunity at the U.S. Open. Mickelson, Spieth and Rory McIlroy (no Masters win) are the only three active players having completed three legs of the Slam.
Mickelson will go into next month’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach have already won at that course earlier this season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“It would be pretty cool bragging rights to try to complete the Slam before Phil,” Spieth said. “Not many people get bragging rights on Phil Mickelson. It would be pretty awesome to do.”
And if Spieth does do it? Well, he’ll no longer be flying under the radar.