Date: July 08, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Spieth in final tune-up for Open

Reigning Emirates Australian Open champion and potential Grand Slammer Jordan Spieth is nothing if not loyal.

The 21-year-old American is fulfilling a commitment to play in the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Illinois, outside Chicago this week when the whole world seems to believe he should be at the Old Course in St Andrews preparing for the Open Championship.

But Spieth’s first-ever win on the PGA Tour was at the TPC Deere Run and he is happy to come back to Illinois. “I’m focusing on trying to get another one of these,” he said today, indicating the trophy. “I have one of these at my house and there is certainly room for another.”

The Texan has the 2015 Masters and US Open titles already and next week at St Andrews has the opportunity to become the first player since the legendary Ben Hogan to hold the first three legs of the modern grand slam in one year.

Only one player – Bobby Jones in 1930 – has won the Grand Slam of golf, but that included the British and US amateur titles. The modern concept of the golfing slam was only formulated more recently, and no one has completed it. Tiger Woods held all four titles at the same time in 2001, but his wins were across two calendar years, the so-called ‘Tiger Slam’.

But Spieth seems unfussed. On holiday in the Bahamas after his US Open win at Chambers Bay he went fishing with friends, and caught a shark!  “A couple of my friends were like, ‘I’ll take over,”’ he said. “I’m like, ‘You can bet your rear end you’re not taking over. This is my fish.’”

Spieth, ranked No.2 in the world, has the chance to overhaul Rory McIlroy in the No. 1 spot over the next fortnight, especially with McIlroy having badly hurt an ankle. The Northern Irishman is doubtful for the Open at St Andrews as he rehabilitates from the injury, suffered in a game of soccer with some friends.

If Spieth finishes in the top handful in Illinois then wins at St Andrews – and McIlroy does not play – he would take over the top ranking for the first time. However his record in the Open is moderate – 44th in 2013 and 36th last year.

He has not looked back since his amazing final-round 63 at The Australian to win the Australian Open last November. He also has indicated both on that day and since that he intends returning to The Australian later this year to defend his title, with negotiations ongoing.

The John Deere Classic offers up a spot in the Open Championship field to one player finishing in the top five who is not already exempt, with a charter flight awaiting that player.

There are five Australians in the field for the John Deere but three – Greg Chalmers, Rod Pampling and Steven Bowditch – have already qualified for St Andrews. The two who have not are Cameron Percy and Aaron Baddeley.

Fifteen Australians have qualified for the Open Championship so far, almost double last year’s contingent of eight.