ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — With a chance to match history at the home of golf, Jordan Spieth is trying to make the British Open feel like just another event.
That might be one of his toughest challenges at St. Andrews.
Ben Hogan in 1953 is the only other player to capture the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same year. Only three players since then — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods — have ever come to Scotland with hopes of a Grand Slam.
Spieth’s news conference attracted a full house Wednesday, creating an atmosphere normally reserved only for Woods and Rory McIlroy. The 21-year-old Texan is the main attraction at St. Andrews, especially with McIlroy — the defending champion and No. 1 in the world — out with an ankle injury.
And yes, Spieth is very aware of what’s at stake this week.
“I like to study the history of golf, and it’s extremely special what this year has brought to our team,” he said. “And to have a chance to do what only one other person in the history of golf has done doesn’t come around very often. I’m sure embracing that opportunity.
“But by the time I start on Thursday, it won’t be in my head. It’ll be about how can I bring this Open Championship down to just another event, get out there and try and get myself into contention.”
He set out for his final practice round on a cool morning with an overcast sky, occasional rain, and not much wind, and there is plenty of talk about how ready Spieth will be for his shot at history.
He chose last week to play the John Deere Classic so he could find out where he needed work, and feel the pressure of contending. In that respect, the preparation went well. He wound up winning in a playoff for his fourth victory of the year, and he arrived at St. Andrews on Monday.
“I don’t think anybody is going to argue with a win,” he said.
Spieth played 18 holes that day, 10 holes on Tuesday, and planned a full round Wednesday. His only other experience at St. Andrews was in 2011, when he was a freshman at Texas on his way north to the Walker Cup.
“Coming over earlier certainly could have helped,” he said. “I just liked the fact that I could go somewhere I could play hard, and possibly win a PGA Tour event in preparation. But certainly, more time on this golf course couldn’t ever hurt anybody.”
The jet lag hasn’t been a problem. Besides, Spieth won the Australian Open in late November, flew straight to Dallas, went to Florida the next day for the Hero World Challenge and beat an 18-man field of top 50 players by 10 shots.
The only concern is the weather. It has been reasonable all week, though the forecast is for wind to increase to as much as 35 mph (55 kph) with shifting directions.
“It seems a little easier than I think it’ll play,” Spieth said. “So I would have liked to see tougher conditions in practice rounds to get used to prevailing winds and wind switches. That’s part of the fun and the adjustment.”
Everything seems fun to Spieth at the moment.
Just two years ago, he didn’t even have a full PGA Tour card when he won the John Deere Classic by holing a bunker shot on the 18th and winning a playoff. The next day he was in Muirfield, and the 19-year-old was three shots off the lead going into the weekend. He faded badly.
“I remember almost thinking like that was too big for me at the time in a way,” Spieth said. “I felt like I wanted to compete, I loved the pressure, and I felt like I could do it, but it was a position I’d never been in, and it was an odd feeling being in contention in a major on a weekend. It was brief. I didn’t finish well that round.”
It’s different now.
Spieth played in the final group at the Masters a year later, losing to Bubba Watson, and this year he dominated at Augusta National and tied Woods’ record score of 270 in a wire-to-wire victory. In the final hour of the U.S. Open, he kept reminding himself that he had won a major and others in contention had not.
Now, the trick is to forget about the green jacket and the U.S. Open trophy.
“When I step on the tee Thursday, I don’t look at this as trying to win three in a row,” Spieth said. “I look at this as trying to win The Open Championship at a very special place. That’s the hardest thing for me, is trying to forget about where you are because being here at St. Andrews and looking at the past champions and who wins Open Championships here, that’s elite company.
“And that’s something I’m just going to have to forget about more than the other two majors.”