Jordan Spieth faces ‘elephant in the room’ at PGA Championship

TULSA, Okla. – Jordan Spieth knows what’s at stake this week. He also knows this might be his best chance of him yet. And he’s not running and hiding from it.

That attitude may be his best weapon… other than his putter.

Spieth is one PGA Championship victory away from completing the coveted career Grand Slam and joining the rarified air of some of golf’s greatest players.

Only five men have accomplished it – winning at least one Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA Championship: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

This week’s PGA, which begins Thursday at Southern Hills, represents Spieth’s sixth try at completing the career slam.

Interestingly, he’s grouped with Woods and Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds. Woods was the last of the five players to complete the slam in 2000, and McIlroy needs only a Masters win to complete his own career slam.

“I don’t think I talk about it much with other people, but it’s certainly at this point, given having won the other three, it’s an elephant in the room for me,” Spieth said Wednesday. “It’s a goal of mine. If you just told me I was going to win one tournament the rest of my life, I’d say I want to win this one, given where things are at. If you told me that before my career started I was going to win one tournament ever, I’d say the Masters because that was my favorite tournament growing up.

“But things change, and that has obviously significant meaning,” Spieth went on. “Long-term it would be really cool to say that you captured the four biggest golf tournaments in the world that are played in different parts of the world and different styles, too.

Jordan Spieth during a PGA Championship practice round at Southern Hills on Tuesday.
Jordan Spieth during a PGA Championship practice round at Southern Hills on Tuesday.
AP

Spieth, ranked No. 8 in the world, comes to Southern Hills in form. And interestingly, that good form came after he had his nose bent out of shape when he missed the cut at the Masters, the first time he’s ever done that.

“It was annoying, because Friday’s round, I shot 76, and I can’t tell you that I missed a golf shot,” Spieth said of his second round at the Masters. “It was bizarre. I just really didn’t feel like I did much wrong, and I’ve had weeks like that before. You just hope that they’re not the Masters. That Friday night, I was very upset. It tested my patience.

“Once it happens, you can be down on yourself or you can turn it around the other way, and I chose to do the latter.”

“The latter” was a win the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head the week after Augusta and then game his runner-up finish last week at the Byron Nelson in Texas, a home game for him.

Since he won the third of the four legs to the slam, the 2017 British Open, Spieth’s five attempts at winning the PGA included a tie for 28th in 2017, a tie for 12th in 2018, a tie for third in 2019, a tie for 71st in 2020 and a tie for 30th last year.

“(I’ve) come close a couple times,” he said. “This hasn’t necessarily been my most successful major, but I feel good heading into this week.”

His mindset is not to put too much pressure on himself to complete the slam. He’s 28 and should have plenty of chances to make a run at it.

Jordan Spieth speaks during a PGA Championship press conference on Wednesday.
Jordan Spieth speaks during a PGA Championship press conference on Wednesday.
Getty Images

“I think looking at it long-term thinking… man, if I’m healthy, I’d look to have 20 chances at it, and maybe one out of 20 (I’ll do it),” he said. “I’m not trying to force it this week I guess is the best way to say it. Just try and do what I’ve been doing, stick to my routine, my game, block out any outside noise, and shoot as low a score as I can. “

Spieth, who came to Southern Hills for a practice round with Justin Thomas last Monday, said he “likes where things are at” with his game at the moment. He likes the golf course, which is similar to some he played back home in Texas. And he likes his grouping him with Woods and McIlroy.

“They’re both just great to play with – they’re quick, they’re positive, they’re the two with maybe the most majors in the whole field – obviously guys who know what they’re doing around tracks like this and tournaments like this, ”Spieth said. “I think you’ve got to embrace it and have fun.”

If Spieth keeps that mindset, he may well make history by day’s end on Sunday.

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