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Jordan Spieth could complete 'American Slam' at PGA Championship

Jordan Spieth looks on during a practice round

Jordan Spieth looks on during a practice round ahead of the 144th Open Championship at The Old Course on July 14, 2015 in St Andrews, Scotland. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Redington

Two out of three ain't bad. Nor are two major championships in three attempts this season the whole story on Jordan Spieth's season.

His story involves coming ever so close to getting into a playoff in the third major, the British Open, and declining to storm off and stew about just missing out on a shot to be the first ever to win the modern Grand Slam. Instead, he stayed around St. Andrews to congratulate the winner, Zach Johnson, and flew home with him.

The Spieth story also includes the eyebrows (and criticism) he raised by eschewing rest and preparation for the British Open in order to fulfill a commitment to the John Deere Classic (which he won). And his story goes even further back, telling how he eschewed rest and preparation for the John Deere to fulfill a commitment to play in an Iowa charity event hosted by Johnson.

So what does that make Spieth, the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion, at the PGA Championship this week? It makes him the story.

He will be the headliner on the scenic, quirky, bunker festooned Whistling Straits layout in Kohler, Wisconsin, especially because defending champion Rory McIlroy has not played since injuring his ankle playing soccer on July 4 (McIlroy appears intent on playing) and Tiger Woods is trying to inch his game back into respectability.

What impresses people the most about the golfer who recently turned 22 is that he is so unaffected by everything that he has done so far -- and with Spieth, it is always about "so far" because he gives the impression that there are many more chapters to come.

"What he did in honoring his commitment is beyond classy and just goes to show, once again, how much he truly gets it," Johnson, 39, said this week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. "My wife keeps pointing out, well, you could be his dad, which is technically true, scary enough. He's just easy to be around. To me, he's just Jordan."

Spieth defeated Johnson in a playoff to win the 2013 John Deere, his first PGA Tour victory. The two became friendly through the chiropractor who treats both of them. They grew in mutual respect when they and their caddies shared a private flight to a tournament. Still, it came as a shock to Johnson when Spieth insisted on showing up for his charity pro-am at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the Monday of this year's John Deere tournament week.

So instead of flying to Scotland and getting acclimated to the country and a course he had played once four years ago, rather than obsessing about his potential place in history, rather even than taking it easy before a tournament that preceded a major, Spieth was playing a course in shorts with fellows who had paid big money to get in the marquee group.

To people on tour, that is just Jordan.

Hunter Mahan, who got to know Spieth when they were Ryder Cup teammates last fall, said the other day that he recently ran into the two-time major winner at a course in Dallas, near their respective homes. "He's just in there, hanging with the guys after his round. There's just nothing about him that says 'I am great, look at me. I'm special,' " Mahan said during a trip to Manhattan Monday as defending champion of The Barclays.

"It's historic in a sense, isn't it? He's just so mature and he has such a great understanding of himself and his game, unlike anyone I have ever seen," Mahan said. "He is so in charge of everything he does in every part of his life. For a 22-year-old it's weird. Not many 22-year-olds know exactly what they want to do, how they want to do it, how they want to play, how they want to live their life. It's just fascinating. It's like a case study."

Spieth was a study in humility after the British Open. He flew back from Scotland with Johnson and a few other American pros and had no qualms about being photographed drinking from Johnson's Claret Jug. A big sports fan, he does not think there is a hex similar to the one that says if you touch the Stanley Cup before you win it, you never will win it.

"I don't believe in a jinx. If I did, I wouldn't be sitting here in front of you right now," Spieth told reporters at his pre-Bridgestone news conference Wednesday. "I was disappointed, obviously, at the time, and I still am, that it wasn't mine, but wasn't going to let me down from being a friend."

He acknowledged that he feels he let the British Open get away, having lost the lead on the final two holes. And it is hard for anyone to imagine what the PGA would be like this week had he won at St. Andrews and headed to Whistling Straits with the Grand Slam in sight. But he is taking it in stride.

"I recognize that there's only been a couple times that people have won three majors in a year, and that would be just such special company. But just like at the Open Championship, when I get there, it's just going to be about that tournament, and that's all that will be on my mind," said the golfer whose story still is evolving, and who knows that three out of four won't be bad.


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