Entering the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, all eyes were on Jordan Spieth and his quest to become the sixth man in history to capture the Career Grand Slam.
Heck, Jack Nicklaus even narrated a video about the effort. And when you get the greatest major champion of them all involved in a project, there’s a good bet it’s pretty significant.
However, after three rounds that saw Jordan Spieth fail to break par, he’ll enter his final round more than a dozen shots out of the lead.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 12, 2017
Spieth has struggled with his approach play all week (63rd in the field in strokes gained: approach when he finished his round). His normally trusty putter isn’t backing him up either: Spieth is 58th in the field in strokes gained: putting.
What the heck is going on? Isn’t this the guy who just marched to victory at the Travelers Championship and British Open?
Golf’s Golden Boy, it seems, has something of a mental block when it comes to the PGA Championship. Regarded as the easiest of the four majors to win and featuring courses that are only moderately more difficult than traditional tour stops, the PGA Championship is hardly a fearsome foe. Still, Spieth has cracked the top 10 just one time at the season’s final major.
What gives? Well according to Spieth:
“The PGA Championship I think is going to be the toughest for me. If we historically back on my career, I think I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it’s set up. I feel like my game truly suits the other three majors maybe more than a PGA Championship. But I believe we can play anywhere and can win anywhere. It’s just a matter of having everything in sync at the right time.”
What? How? First of all, there is no “traditional PGA Championship setup.” The course rotates and the conditions, as mentioned, are a little tougher than a standard PGA Tour event, that’s it. Why does he feel better suited to compete at the U.S. Open? It would be interesting to hear Spieth’s explanation for this.
Interestingly, he also doesn’t sound upset with a ho-hum finish, rather missing the cut would have been truly bothersome
“Disappointing would have been going home after two days. I saw some highlights today.”
Again: What? Do you think Tiger Woods in his prime ever cared whether he missed a cut at a major versus finishing 50th? Or finishing second, for that matter? Anything that isn’t a win is a loss! Sure you take the positives and file them away and dissect the negatives, but Spieth’s remarks about his third-round “highlights” are curious.
Also interesting: A crucial part of the Tiger Woods myth is his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ records from a young age. Woods wanted to beat Jack in every facet of his career, knowing that Nicklaus was the high-water mark. The final goal on Woods’ boyhood chart, of course, was breaking Nicklaus record of 18 major championships by the time he’s 46.
Jordan Spieth, for his part, never had any such goal, although it’s unclear exactly what his objective was, as this remark shows…make it on Tour? Win them all?
“I didn’t have it written in a diary from when I was young that I need to win a career Grand Slam as the youngest ever,” Spieth said. “That wasn’t the goal. The goal was to try and win them all. The goal was to try to get on the PGA Tour and then from there see what happens.”
Regardless, Spieth’s remarks show, for all his greatness, he’s devoid of the Tiger Woods mindset. Woods never accepted second place. He expected to win every tournament he entered and told the media as much. And he had a clear path to becoming the greatest golfer of all time. Perhaps, Woods won’t get there. Indeed, it looks now like he won’t. But it’s clear that Jordan Spieth is not building his career based on the Tiger Woods blueprint.