A season the Tour couldn’t have scripted any better to make a case for its next generation now collides with one of the game’s special venues to make for a potentially historically epic British Open at St. Andrews.
The possibility of a third straight major for phenom Jordan Spieth hovers over the home of golf, setting the stage for a possible Grand Slam at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
As Spieth’s hole out at 17 for eagle on Saturday at the John Deere shows, little is seeming beyond belief any more when it comes to the 21-year-old Texan. And him hoisting the Claret Judge became a little more likely when defending champion Rory McIlroy withdrew with an ankle injury.
Will history march on at St. Andrews or will it succumb to the quirks and breaks of links golf that Spieth survived at Chambers Bay?
The sure bet is the golf world will be tuning in early to find out. Here’s an overview of the week followed by a few thoughts and a prediction from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson.
Jordan Rules? – In a season where Spieth seems to be able to do no wrong, some are quibbling with his decision to play the John Deere the week prior instead of working on his links game playing the Scottish Open or prepping at St. Andrews. And then there’s jetlag.
Just as Spieth’s impeccable putting continues to defy all belief and reason, so may he again in prevailing over the skeptics of which there shall remain few, if any, if he wins this week.
The possible payoff not just for Spieth but for golf is huge. What’s already become the Summer of Spieth will drown out NFL training camp noise in August as the holy grail of a golf Grand Slam will dominate the headlines and discussion and give us something not even Tiger could deliver.
Given Spieth’s ability to thrive in pressure situations and elevate himself against the best, and seemingly not succumb to hype, a Sunday run at St. Andrews is the only way this story gets more incredible. And it takes no imagination to imagine that right now.
Rickie’s Run – Following a slip at the U.S. Open, Rickie Fowler regained his momentum from winning The Players to win the Scottish Open and put himself in the discussion at the British. The last five winners of the British have played the Scottish the week before. Will Rickie make it six?
Chambers aside, Rickie’s record in recent majors as good as anybody not named Rory or Jordan, and we know only one of those two is teeing it up this week.
A Tall Tiger Tale? – You have heard Tiger Woods is still playing golf and just did so reasonably well for the first time in a long time – but not a win, mind you.
This has led many, including head Tiger doubter Hank Haney, to predict a big week, and maybe even a win, for Woods – which would be consistent with Haney’s prediction in his book, by the way.
Even with Tiger’s pedigree at St. Andrews (two wins) that seems like an awful big leap after a lot of awful golf, but reviving golf’s most dormant story line is the only thing that could shake up the world more than a Spieth victory.
(By the way, just for fun, can we refer to him as Old Tiger Woods just for this week? Can we? Lord knows the dude has been playing this tournament long enough … )
Louie, Louie – Given his track record in links golf, strong play at Chambers Bay (three rounds in the 60s) and the fact he won the Open the last time it was at St. Andrews in 2010, Louie Oosthuizen is carrying contender status this week.
Will Oosthuizen be that saavy veteran (think Phil two years ago) to peak and get it done again?
Grab a Jacket – For the first time in a few years, it sounds like we’re going to have some real deal British Open weather. The Golf Channel analysts are already talking about scores soaring on Saturday as the winds as predicted to pick up considerably – up to 40 mph – after heavy rains on Friday.
That would make it an old-school Open where the champion is the one who best survives the conditions as much as the course. We haven’t seen one of those in a while, but that could be the story of 2015.
Can Spieth weather the storm, or will he just morph into Hurricane Jordan and whisk away the Claret Jug. Very soon we will begin to know. Happy Open week.
Now on to Chris Mayson’s prediction:
This British Open is tough to call. With the tournament being held at St Andrews it usually goes to a player that knows the intricacy of the course and has experience playing it.
With Tiger far from his best and Rory out through injury, it seems that the door is wide open for Jordan Spieth to get his third in a row but I don’t see that happening. There is so much pressure for him to do well, and he just came off a win that will certainly take some energy away. I will be so impressed if he is close to the lead, let alone win it.
I do think the course is ideal for Dustin Johnson to play well but the scars from the U.S. Open I believe will be too fresh. Typically he would be my pick.
The weather is going to be bad this week so someone is going to have to be mentally tough and know how to play in cold, wind and rain. That’s why I am going for Henrik Stenson. He’s played well the last month and even won in Sweden when it was cold and windy.