JORDAN Spieth, the new Masters champion, is hoping to arrive in St Andrews later this year for the Open Championship with a chance to complete the third leg of golf’s Grand Slam.
The 21-year-old has risen to world No 2 behind Rory McIlroy after completing a hugely-impressive wire-to-wire win to become the second-youngest player to claim a coveted Green Jacket.
Spieth’s next major assignment will be the US Open at Chambers Bay in June but, after his four-shot success at Augusta National, he told The Scotsman that he already has one eye on this year’s Claret Jug joust.
It will be the Texan’s first competitive outing on the Old Course but his appetite has been whetted by a visit there with the US Walker Cup team prior to the 2011 match at Royal Aberdeen.
“To go to the ‘home of golf’ and what I consider one of the coolest places in the world, with maybe the most knowledgeable fans in the world, as Masters champion is going to be really special,” admitted Spieth.
“I look forward to enjoying the town, obviously the tournament. I’m sure that it will be great to enjoy the whole experience of playing in an Open Championship at St Andrews. It will be really cool.
“Hopefully at that point, maybe I’ll be trying to go for the third leg of a Grand Slam. You can’t win four unless you win the first one, right?”
The fact he said that with a smile showed that Spieth knows the enormity of a task that has never been achieved before, but, based on his incredible performance over four days at Augusta National, it certainly can’t be ruled out as a possibility.
He became just the fifth player in 79 stagings to lead from start to finish in the season’s opening major and was the first to achieve the feat since Raymond Floyd in 1976. His 18-under-par total of 270 earned him a share of the tournament record with Woods. His haul of 28 birdies was the most ever recorded in the event.
“It’s incredible – this was arguably the greatest day of my life,” admitted Spieth, who, in addition to the 2011 Walker Cup, has also played in both a Ryder Cup and Junior Ryder Cup in Scotland. “To have this Green Jacket forever is something I can’t fathom right now.
“I was already hungry from last year [when he finished joint-second behind Bubba Watson on his debut] and I also came here knowing that I was playing well [finishing first-second-second in his previous three outings]. The combination of the two allowed me to keep my head down, not worry about anybody else in the field and just concentrate on playing a golf course that is my favourite one in the world.
“The hardest part is just managing the situation and managing the mental side. I knew physically I could be up there.”
Spieth’s success came in the week when his fellow Texan and two-times Masters champion, Ben Crenshaw, said his farewell to the event after his 44th and final appearance.
He texted Spieth before the final round, which unfolded without the overnight leader finding himself in any real danger of being caught as he finished four shots ahead of both Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. “He said: ‘You’re playing great so stay patient, keep your head and stay focused as this is going to be yours’,” said Spieth of the message that helped him open a new chapter for the Lone Star state in this event.
While Crenshaw, the winner in 1984 and 1995, has helped by passing on his knowledge of the course, it is astonishing how quickly Spieth has mastered one of the toughest tests in golf. In eight rounds here, he has not found himself sitting outside the top five. He said it was down to the fact he likes a test that requires “imagination” and “feel”, which suggests that his game should also be suited to St Andrews.
“I grew up playing a lot more than I did hitting balls on the range and just hitting the same thing over and over again,” he commented. “Kind of like Bubba, I like to see shapes and, especially, I like to see lines on the greens. I like seeing putts that break. I like being able to cast something out and let it feed in and be very speed-base.”
Time and time again over the course of the event, Spieth holed putts of that description. In his eyes, the most important one was late on Sunday at the 16th to save par as playing partner Rose, the 2013 winner, tried to hang on to his coat-tails.
“I would call that the biggest putt I’ve ever hit in my life,” admitted the new champion, who will arrive in the home of golf this summer – he’s unlikely to warm up for The Open by playing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane due to the fact it clashes with the John Deere Classic, his first PGA Tour success two years ago – as the proud owner of a Green Jacket.
“This isn’t an honour that’s carried lightly,” declared Spieth after coming off the 18th green arm in arm with his parents, Shawn and Chris. “The members of Augusta National demand the highest quality on and off the course from their champions and I feel ready to carry that baton.”
He will start with an appearance later this week in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in South Carolina.
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