It was one of the most incredible major Sunday's in living memory. Jordan Spieth wins Open Championship - Neil Tappin tells the story of a dramatic final day
Jordan Spieth wins The Open 2017
When Jordan Spieth capitulated on the 12th hole of the 2016 US Masters, making a seven on the iconic par 3 to virtually end his chances, we knew it was bad. A man who until this point had looked immune to the pressures of major golf, crumbled. His confidence disintegrated with one, woeful, painful swipe of a golf club. Today, at the Open Championship, we discovered just how hard coming back from this golfing tragedy would be. The demons were there for all to see but somehow Spieth fought hard to prevail in the most dramatic of ways.
For three days, the American cut a sublime path through these historic Lancashire dunes. One of England’s most revered and toughest courses was made to look simple, straightforward, lacking in teeth. Well on Sunday, Birkdale bit back.
One of the hardest opening holes on the Open rota set the tone as Spieth started with a bogey. His drive finished in a heavy lie and he, like many before, carded an opening five.
As the round progressed, the real surprise came not with his long clubs but how one of the game’s best putting strokes misfired. The tap-ins that had looked routine for three days now seemed double the length, the hole shrinking before his eyes.
By the time Spieth reached the 13th tee alarm bells were ringing. And then he hit that drive. It was way right, over the crowd and barely on the Birkdale property. It took an eager crowd a few minutes to locate it and suddenly golf’s golden boy cut a rather sorry, sad figure. Winning majors isn’t supposed to be easy but Spieth was making it look impossible.
While Spieth was having his own Van de Velde moment, Matt Kuchar was looking on, like a footballer waiting for an injured player to be carried off on a stretcher. Despite the calamitous scenes and the endless, and somewhat ridiculous, rules negotiations, the tall American remained calm, focused. Kuchar is and always has been a par machine. With madness all around, he was sanity personified.
Watch Jordan Spieth's incredible finish at The Open
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Spieth’s calamitous 13th however, was the turning point. It created a moment of sobering clarity for him. As soon as he found himself trailing Matt Kuchar, the old Jordan came out to play. Like a boxer peeling himself up off the canvas, he came out swinging and connected everytime. He birdied the 14th after stiffing his tee shot and then made a barely believable eagle on 15. Another tram-liner followed for birdie on 16. He threw in another birdie on 17 – what the hell was happening?
During the course of the final round, Jordan Spieth had gone from imperious favourite to feckless choker and back again. Whilst there were a host of other players in with a sniff of the Claret Jug, this was Jordan Spieth’s story. He was the script-writer, director and lead actor – nobody else mattered.
Perhaps the greatest irony of this most topsy-turvy of final days was that Spieth ventured up the 18th hole with a two shot lead. This was the most comfortable he looked all day and the turmoil of the preceding 90-minutes was a distant memory.
The simple truth is, however, that after his meltdown on the 13th, Spieth played the last fine holes in five under par. This was box office stuff, the quality of golf over that final stretch was up there with the very best ever played. This would have been a remarkable passage for any major victory but having apparently thrown it away, it was barely believable.
Jordan Spieth wins The Open 2017
On the 23rd July 2017 Jordan Spieth became the Champion Golfer. He wrote his name into the history books by joining Jack Nicklaus as the youngest golfer to have won three majors. The Claret Jug, the toughest and greatest prize in world golf was his. These are the facts, but they don’t even begin to tell the story.