What Spieth still can accomplish in 2017

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.: After Jordan Spieth putted out on Quail Hollow’s 18th hole Monday, more than two hours before the PGA Championship contenders did, caddie Michael Greller assumed that his boss felt deflated.

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After all, Spieth has lofty standards. He entered this PGA Championship with a chance to supplant Tiger Woods as the youngest male to complete the career Grand Slam, but he was never in contention.

“Michael’s telling me walking off 18, ‘Hey, just want you to know, that’s a great year in the majors.’

“I go, ‘Buddy, we won one of the majors. I understand that’s a great year in the majors.’”

Spieth, who turned 24 just 18 days ago, finished his 2017 majors season thusly: T11 in the Masters, T35 in the U.S. Open, won the British Open, T28 in the PGA.

Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the 11th green. AFP PHOTO

Granted, it’s not as impressive as his 2015 major tournament finishes of first in the Masters, first in the U.S. Open, T4 in the British (one shot out of a playoff) and 2nd in the PGA. The reality, though, is Spieth probably will never exceed or duplicate that year.

“Yeah, the U.S. Open and here, I didn’t have a chance to win, which is a downer,” Spieth said. “But overall, when I look back on the year of the major championships, shoot, it was fantastic. If I did this every year I would go down as the greatest to play the game.

“I need to look at it that way. And I am.”

Better than peers
This week will be 33-year-old Dustin Johnson’s 26th as the world’s No. 1-ranked player, but in this year’s majors he missed the Masters after slipping on stairs and hurting his back, missed the cut in the U.S. Open, tied for 54th in the British and tied for 13th at Quail Hollow.

“Definitely a little frustrated,” Johnson said Sunday. “Because going into Augusta I’m playing the best golf of my career. Everything is working well and then, unfortunately, I don’t get to play in the Masters and then just struggled a little bit this whole summer.

“It’s all due to what happened right before Augusta, slipping and hurting my back.”

Rory McIlroy, 28, has gone three full seasons since winning his most recent major titles, the 2014 British Open and PGA. In this year’s majors he tied for seventh at the Masters, missed the cut in the U.S. Open, tied for fourth in the British and tied for 22nd here.

On Sunday, McIlroy said he could feel muscle spasms in the left side of his back, probably a residue from a rib injury that plagued him much of this season.

He said he is evaluating how much, if at all, he will play in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.

“It’s tough,” he said of another year added to his major title drought. “I want to get back into that winner’s circle. You don’t want to be teeing off at 9:45 [a.m.] on the final rounds of a major.

“The next big thing is April, and that’s really what my focus will be on from now until then.”

Slam chase
The 2018 season will be the 84th since the Masters joined the U.S. and British Opens and PGA as major tournaments.

It’s been 17 years since Tiger Woods in 2000 became the fifth and most recent player to complete the Slam, joining Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

Three active players have completed three legs of the Slam — Spieth, McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Spieth’s missed bid to complete the Slam this week puts McIlroy up next, with a chance to complete the Slam at next April’s Masters.

Mickelson’s next chance to complete the Slam will come at next year’s U.S. Open, but he will turn 48 that week. In majors this year, Mickelson tied for 22nd in the Masters, didn’t play in the U.S. Open while attending his daughter’s high school graduation and missed the cut in the British and PGA.

Spieth’s next chance will come next August in the 100th PGA Championship, played at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. How great would it be to make history at the 100th PGA?

“The good news is it’s always going to be the PGA Championship that Jordan will need to complete the Grand Slam,” PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said.

Rest of 2017
Though the majors season is complete, much remains to be accomplished for Spieth.

He is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, the PGA Tour’s season-long points competition, which culminates with the playoffs in September and the Sept. 21-24 Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

Spieth won the FedEx Cup in 2015. He described this PGA as the start of the fourth quarter of his season, which will include the Presidents Cup a week after the Tour Championship.

“I’m definitely going to have some recovery going in,” Spieth said. “I’m going to approach the first two [playoff]events trying to obviously win, but looking to kind of crescendo into East Lake and peak there and consider East Lake a major at this point, as far as our preparation goes.”

Being a lifelong Dallasite, Spieth knows as well as anyone that many sports fans will be more focused on college and pro football in the coming weeks.

Spieth on Sunday was asked if he has a prediction on the Cowboys’ season.

“I think Vegas has frozen the lines right now because of Zeke’s potential suspension, or suspension,” he said. “They are stacked. They are very good. Last year was phenomenal. It will be fun to watch, for sure.”

TNS

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