Jordan Spieth will be the only one in the field at the PGA Championship with an opportunity to make a distinctive kind of history. First, he has to make the cut.
The latter has been enough of a hurdle for the probable future Hall of Famer, who is only 25 and already has won three major championships. Those were the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, leaving him only one — the PGA Championship — shy of joining the most elite club in golf, winners of the career Grand Slam.
A victory at Bethpage Black would put him on the sport’s Mount Rushmore with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods. But his participation in the PGA will not draw the intense interest that Rory McIlroy’s Slam quest at the Masters did or that Phil Mickelson’s shot at the U.S. Open will next month.
Spieth has not been around long enough for this to become “a thing.” Nor is he the type to obsess over the career Slam as if it were the great white whale.
Most significantly, though, it is because Spieth has more immediate concerns. He is having enough trouble hitting the ball into the fairway and getting it in the hole. He has not had a victory since his wild 2017 British Open ride, featuring a key (and long-delayed as he got a ruling and pondered his options) shot from the driving range to Royal Birkdale’s 13th hole. He has not had a top-10 finish this season and has missed three cuts.
Through the RBC Heritage, he ranked 212th on the PGA Tour this season in driving accuracy (there were only 213 listed, with Ollie Schniederjans behind him). The nonpareil putting stroke that won those major trophies has been unable to save him. Also through the Heritage, he was 53rd in strokes gained putting.
Every time he has had a good couple of rounds, he has been confident of being close to turning the corner. “The swing feels good, it’s getting more consistent. It’s getting there,” he said during the Valero Texas Open, where he opened with a pair of 4-under-par 68s. But he went 1 over on the weekend and finished tied for 30th.
At Augusta, site of his breakthrough convincing win in 2015, he opened with a 75 and played well on the weekend. He tied for 21st, his best finish this season.
Throughout that week, and basically for all of his life, Spieth still has been Spieth. He still is the guy devoted to his younger special-needs sister. He still is the person who said, after winning the claret jug at Royal Birkdale, that his priorities in order are faith, family and golf.
“I've been on the top of the golf world, and then I've lived through the expectations of being young on top of the golf world, and the good and the bad in that,” he said last month at Augusta.
“I feel like I'm in a good place now of kind of seeing it for what it is. Seeing the longevity of the career and how you do go through ups and downs, and everybody does. And it's how quickly can you climb out of the lows and how high can you go for the highs, and that's the goal. I feel like I'm on the rise right now. That's just the way I feel. I don't think I need results to prove anything otherwise. I know where my game is at and I know that good things are coming soon.”
He has every pro golfer’s belief that one good week will put him right back on top of his game. He knows that if it happens during PGA Championship week, it will put him on top of the mountain.
SPIETH THIS SEASON
Tournament Finish Score (To par) Money
RBC Heritage 54th 286 (+2) $15,801
Masters 21st 283 (-3) $107,956
Texas Open 30th 281 (-7) $45,562
The Players Cut
WGC-Mexico 54th 288 (+4) $57,500
Genesis Open 51st 281 (+1) $17,523
Pebble Beach Pro-Am 45th 283 (-4) $20,919
Farmers Insurance Open 35th 281 (-7) $35,003
Sony Open Cut
Myakoba Classic Cut
Shriners Open 55th 277 (-7) $16,030