Spieth in the right place at the PGA because he has a long-term vision of his career | WGN 720 radio
KIAWAH ISLAND, SC (AP) – Jordan Spieth now has a much clearer vision than he did the last time the PGA Championship was on Kiawah Island.
For starters, he wasn’t even at Kiawah in 2012.
Spieth was in Denver that week preparing for the US Amateur while trying to decide whether to turn pro or return to Texas for his sophomore year of college. With an uncertain future hanging over him, he had to face NCAA Champion Thomas Pieters in the first round at Cherry Hills and lost on the 18th hole.
Spieth has returned to school.
“I was in the wrong place back then,” he laughed Tuesday as he headed for his first look at the windswept ocean course on Kiawah Island.
Now it is different, for various reasons.
Spieth has come out of three dark years of not winning, rarely even competing and slipping so far in the world rankings that he almost fell out of the top 100. He often says he will always bet on himself – a reference to self-confidence, not gambling – and there was a time when the odds got pretty long.
He enters the PGA Championship trying to become only the sixth player to complete the Grand Slam in his career, and that luck has been as good as any since winning the third leg of the 2017 British Open.
Spieth has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last nine tournaments, including the last four, one of these a Texas Open victory for his first trophy since the Royal Birkdale. It’s not all the way home – what does the golfer feel that way? – but is one of the favorites in the lead for the second major of the year.
And he thinks hard times have made him better.
“I have proven that I am very human. It’s kind of fun, ”said Spieth. “When I’ve played in the past, I’ve won par eight tournaments here, and that’s obviously the goal. But the ability to dodge a bad shot and come back to the next hole and make a long putt or something – just the grind – is nice when you’re on the positive momentum side.
Spieth isn’t sure when he turned the corner. He points to a two-week streak in Phoenix and Pebble Beach where he had chances to win on Sunday, proof that he was on the right track.
Will Zalatoris offered another example.
He grew up playing amateur golf with Spieth in Dallas – they will play the first two rounds together at Kiawah – and they still play at home. A game a few months ago at the Dallas National stands out.
Spieth missed the green to the left of a par 3 wagon path. His partner also missed the green. Zalatoris was sure he had won the hole.
“Jordan hits that chip shot that goes through the rough, goes up, checks over the hill, then basically goes to Mach 3 and slams right down the hole and in,” Zalatoris said. “Then he goes on with a 30 or 40 footer on the next hole. It’s just Jordan.
“I had seen him for the few months before that, but that’s when I knew, ‘OK, he’s back.'”
Nine years seems like a lifetime for 27-year-old Spieth. He only lasted one more semester in Texas and turned pro without status. It only took him nine months to become a temporary member on Sponsor Exemptions, win the PGA Tour, finish No.7 in the FedEx Cup and play in the Presidents Cup.
And it only got better. The Masters and the US Open in 2015, crowned with a FedEx Cup title. World No. 1. The third stage of the Grand Slam at the Royal Birkdale.
Spieth prefers the long haul – forward and backward.
He doesn’t read about himself, although he does get a feel for what people say and write based on questions asked. He mentioned something Tiger Woods said years ago – the media and the public tend to exaggerate the bad and the good times.
“I’ve had some pretty highs and some pretty low lows for my age, but that’s just part of the learning curve,” he said. “You just have to laugh about it and stick to your game plan and believe in yourself, bet on yourself. I’ve always done this, and I think it’s paid off pretty well so far.
“And if my next eight years are like my last eight, I would definitely go for it.”
Especially if these eight years include a Wanamaker trophy to complete his collection. None of the other five career Grand Slam players – Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen – got the final PGA Championship coin.
It won’t be easy this week, if Tuesday was any indication, with another dose of wind strong enough to make the Ocean course longer than its 7,838 yards.
The course will not play at this length. The PGA of America will move around the tees depending on the wind. Before embarking on his first round of practice, Spieth heard plenty of stories of players wearing a 3 iron and a 4 iron in some of the par 4s.
“If the wind blows this way for the rest of the week, it will be a battle to just get into the clubhouse,” said Adam Scott.
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