JORDAN Spieth is well aware of the mark he can make on history this weekend. But, when the young American steps on to the first tee just after 9.30am today, to begin his quest for an Open Championship title at St Andrews, he says he will be fully focused on the job in hand, not the role it could play in helping him equal Ben Hogan’s feat – achieved in 1953 – of winning the season’s first three majors.
On the eve of the oldest major of them all, the reigning Masters and US Open champion spoke of his regard for the event, the venue and the man whose achievement he would replicate, if he can conquer the conditions and stave off the challenge from the other 155 players in the field.
“All in all, I’m extremely excited. It would mean the world to me to try and win this championship and to do it here would be even more special,” said Spieth, a Texan like Hogan.
“Sure, I’m aware [of Hogan’s record]. I like to study the history of golf, and I think it’s extremely special what this year has brought to our team and to have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often.
“I’m sure embracing that opportunity, but by the time I start on Thursday, it won’t be in my head. It’ll be about how can I bring this Open Championship down to just another event, get out there and try and get myself into contention. But I am certainly aware of it.”
While the 21-year-old is a grounded individual, there is no false modesty. He knows he is in great form and although top-level success has come quicker than anticipated, having won majors before he knows he has what it takes to triumph again.
“I just wasn’t sure how I’d be able to handle the Masters this year leading all four rounds and being able to close it out. You don’t sleep well on the lead in a major, and so to do it for a few days and still continue to play the best golf I’ve ever played and putt the best I’ve ever putted, that gave me a lot of confidence, and really that tournament right there established, hey, we can do this going forward in each one if we get the chance. We’ve done it before, why can’t we do it again?”
The last time he was in Scotland on Open duty, at Muirfield in 2013, he couldn’t have imagined he would be heading into this year’s event with so much belief.
“When I played at Muirfield, which is still to this day one of my favourite courses and one of my favourite tournaments I’ve ever played, I got into contention there on Saturday and started to make a little move, and I remember almost thinking like that was too big for me at the time in a way.
“I felt like I wanted to compete, I loved the pressure and I felt like I could do it, but it was a position I’d never been in and it was an odd feeling being in contention in a major on a weekend. It was brief. I didn’t finish well that round [he ended up 44th].
“But I’m now in the position I’m in today and I certainly feel like that’s where I want to be. That’s where I expect myself to be versus feeling odd in that position. There’s certainly a difference in the way that I would feel contending in a major now having contended in a few and won a couple.”
Today he is out in a morning grouping, which also includes Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson, meaning he could be faced with the worsening winds when they head out again tomorrow afternoon. But, if he can tame this course, the way he harnessed the challenges of Chambers Bay last month, he would earn his place in the record books alongside Hogan, one of his golfing heroes and a man he hails as one of “the greatest”.
“I think of him being the guy that would head to the right side of the range so his back is to everybody else, focused on his own