CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just our luck that the one time Jordan Spieth was most on target all week, it was when he had warned everyone about how hard it is to win a major on demand. He had said he was not burning to become the youngest golfer ever to complete the career Grand Slam, hinting that golf enthusiasts should not get their hopes up.
Everyone is just going to have to get over it, as Spieth seems to be doing.
He finished the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday the same way he began it, 3 over par and nowhere near contention after his 71. So, he has lost his one shot at that distinctive claim on history.
It is a tough break for the sport, which would have received a major boost had he headed toward Sunday with a chance. We can only imagine how exciting it would have been.
“That’s what I was trying to say before the week started. I didn’t have it written in a diary from when I was young that I need to win the career Grand Slam as the youngest ever,” the 24-year-old said.
Even if he should win the PGA next year, he will be older than Tiger Woods was when he achieved the slam. So be it. “That wasn’t the goal. The goal was to try win them all,” Spieth said, meaning that he always wanted to win them all before he retires, not before he is 25.
Actually, he added, “The goal was to try and get on the PGA Tour and then from there, see what happens. And yeah, I have a lot of opportunities.”
But this just seemed so deliciously compelling, after the thrilling way he won the British Open — driving way right on the 13th hole, taking somewhat just short of forever before settling on a drop in the driving range, saving bogey and going on a tear.
He never was nearly as sharp this week, especially with his vaunted putting. Spieth gave it one last shot early in the round on Saturday, shooting aggressively at flagsticks. That did not work. He eventually got on a bit of a roll once he began concentrating on hitting greens in regulation. It was too late.
As much as he was the center of attention, this just was not his week. In a touching coincidence, he hit way right again, had a sizable delay again and made bogey again. That was on the par-5 10th hole Friday. Only this time, the result cost him momentum.
The best part of his week, from this observer’s perspective, was that he gave the best explanation yet for having put poor Matt Kuchar through the agonizing wait in the final round at Royal Birkdale. “The second I go take the drop where I figured it needed to be taken, the second it’s called in by three people,” he said, “and someone alerts you three holes later you’ve got a two-stroke penalty.”
Fair enough. That one is on the silly rules that allow TV viewers to change outcomes.
Now it’s time to move on. To his credit, Spieth on Saturday struck the perfect balance of asserting he will have many chances to win the PGA and acknowledging that there is no guarantee he ever will (Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never did).
“The PGA Championship, I think, is going to be the toughest for me. I think I play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it’s set up,” he said.
Still, he is enough of an optimist to resist calling this week a disappointment.
“Disappointment’ would have been going home after two days,” he said. “I think I saw some highlights today. At the U.S. Open Sunday, I was out of it but I gathered a little something off that Sunday round that led to two wins in two tournaments after that, including a major.”
He added he is just starting the fourth quarter of the season. Next stop: Long Island and the Northern Trust at Glen Oaks. He’ll live. He’s not the youngest ever to complete the slam. Instead, he is a little older and wiser.