If there’s such a thing as a true closer in the game of golf, Spieth has done everything in his young career to solidify his place as a true closer. With the exception of a shotty seven-minute stretch at the 2016 Masters, Spieth has closed the door more violently than anyone other than Tiger Woods in the last 30 years. Converting eight of his last nine previous 54-hole leads into victories, there seemed to be little question that he’d slam the door on Kuchar and the field on this Sunday at Royal Birkdale. Yet, with three bogies in the first four holes, maybe it was Kuchar’s time. Steady Eddie Kuchar did what he was supposed to. Making the turn in even par next to Spieth’s three-over, they were tied at the top.
The pair plodded along Nos. 10-12 without fireworks, but at No. 13 Spieth hit a drive that Johnny Miller said “may have been the worst drive I’ve ever seen a pro hit.”
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) July 23, 2017
It was bad. Real bad. Over the river and through the woods, to a Titleist truck they went. Spieth never looked as though the wheels were falling off to that point; he just seemed uncomfortable. But when he put his hands on his head as he watched his tee ball disappear into driving-range obscurity, it seemed his fate was all but sealed. No Claret Jug for Jordan.
Yet 28 minutes later, he dropped a ball onto the impact area of the Royal Birkdale driving range after taking an unplayable lie penalty. Then he yelled at his caddie, Michael Greller, “Michael, number?” Greller turned around and looked toward the green that had to be 180 yards from the top of his sand dune. Another yell from Spieth, “Mike! You can’t stand there!”
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) July 23, 2017
Greller would move, and Spieth would hit his driving iron a little chunky. But it stopped just out of the dangerous gorse and short of a pot bunker, leaving him a chip and putt for a bogey. All the while Matt Kuchar was stuck taking a knee in the fairway as the second-to-last group made its way three holes ahead.
Bogey he would make, and Kuchar snuggled his birdie putt to leave a tap-in for par. For the first time all weekend, Spieth didn’t have a share of the lead. The final group headed into the par-3 14th with Kuchar ahead by one.
In Tiger Woods fashion, Spieth stepped up to the tee and striped a six-iron at the 200-yard par-3. He missed making an ace by less than a couple inches, deflating any hope Kuchar had of maintaining his one-shot lead with a par. Spieth would make that birdie as Kuchar logged another par. Back to all square with four to play.
THIS is how you bounce back. Spieth makes birdie on the 14th with this epic approach: pic.twitter.com/nXTA898pl6
— GOLF.com (@golf_com) July 23, 2017
Standing on the par-5 15th hole, Spieth pulled out the driver and all the world inhaled deeply, holding their breath to see if he’d rip another drive off the planet. He wouldn’t; he’d stripe it right down the fairway and Kuchar would follow. With Kuchar not on the green in two, Spieth pounded a 3-wood to the front edge, leaving an eagle putt that would be outside the normal range for mere mortals. Kuchar got it on the green and left a makeable birdie putt, but it wouldn’t matter. Spieth would drain his putt for eagle and walk off the green with instructions for Michael Greller to “Go get that!”
— Taylor Stern (@TayStern) July 23, 2017
Kuchar made a solid birdie at No. 15, but it wasn’t enough. Spieth walked to the 16th with the solo lead once again. Another long birdie rolled in for Spieth on No. 16 and sent him to No. 17 with a two-shot lead after Kuchar made a ho-hum par.
Jordan Spieth is on ????????????. #TheOpen
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 23, 2017
Kuchar and Spieth went opposite ways off the tee at No. 17, yet they both walked off with birdies after taking the three-shot approach.
After the driving-range bogey, there didn’t seem to be anything Spieth could do to make double-bogey at No. 18, and he didn’t. A slightly right tee shot left him with a decent lie and a decent number into the green. He’d put his approach on the front half of the green while Kuchar would find a pot bunker. Two putts for par was enough for Spieth to win by three as Kuchar bogeyed No. 18 and the final pairing posted a pair of 69s.
Five-under in the last five holes of a major championship is unheard of, especially after such an abysmal start by the eventual champion. Spieth has done things we’ve never seen done before since the day he came on the PGA Tour. His flair for the dramatic has shown up time and time again, most recently in his last PGA Tour win at the Travelers where he holed a bunker shot for birdie to beat Daniel Berger in a playoff. Finishing birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par at Royal Birkdale to hoist his first Claret Jug and third major victory is truly dramatic.
Spieth is the second youngest to win three legs of the career grand slam, and he’s the youngest American Open Champion ever. And it seems that everyone else is going to have to hit the driving range to give Spieth a run for his money atop golf’s modern Mount Rushmore.