ST. ANDREWS, United Kingdom: Tiger Woods has seldom, if ever, been upstaged in a major golf tournament, but at this week’s British Open, golf’s new poster boy, Jordan Spieth, will run him close.
The former world No.1 and 14-time major winner will still draw the crowds at St. Andrews where he won in style in 2000 and 2005.
But such has been his fall from grace this year—he is now ranked 241st in the world—that it would not come as a huge surprise if he misses the cut for the second major in a row, something he has never endured before.
Spieth, on the other hand, is the man of the moment, gunning to become just the second player ever to win the first three majors of the year, after Ben Hogan in 1953.
That would open the door for a crack at the calendar year Grand Slam—a feat which proved too much for Hogan, Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
The 21-year-old Texan has said little since arriving in Scotland on Monday straight after winning his fourth tournament of the year – the John Deere Classic.
But he made it clear after winning a playoff for the title in Illinois that – despite criticism that he should instead have played links golf in Scotland – he would go his own way.
“I’ve got plenty in the tank,” he said.
“The only hard part is obviously the time zone adjustment, but there’s enough daylight there where I can play either really early or really late.
“So I’ll pick a game plan as we get on the flight here. I’ll talk to my instructor who’s over there and we’ll figure out what’s the best option to know St. Andrews as well as we can.”
It has been done before – notably by the late Tony Lema in 1964 – but many players and coaches believe that despite his superb short-game and excellent course management skills, Spieth could suffer at St Andrews, especially if, as forecast, the wind blows.
On the other hand, helping Spieth’s case is the fact that he will not have to deal with world number one Rory McIlroy, who injured an ankle playing football with friends, ruling him out the defense of his British Open crown.
The two hold all four major titles between them and their rivalry had been due to be the focal point of the 144th Open.
Instead the top five world ranking players competing this week will be Americans with Spieth at their head—the others being Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk.