Spieth Should Be Whistling Dixie at Whistling Straits
If it wasn’t for an unfortunate four- putt, or an untimely bogey or a 72nd hole missed tee shot, Dallas’ Jordan Spieth would be heading into Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship with history dripping from his driver. Spieth came within an eyelash of winning at St. Andrew’s a month ago and had he managed to pull off the Open Championship, he’d be going where no other golfer has ever gone before. Not Tiger, not Nicklaus, not Arnie, not Hogan or even Bobby Jones. Spieth would have had a chance of winning all 4 major professional golf championships in the same calendar year. As it is, if he wins the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits this weekend, he will join the very exclusive club of just Hogan and Tiger to win three majors in one year.
Standing in his way is one of the strongest fields of the year. Defending champion Rory McIlroy seems well enough healed from his massive ankle sprain of 8 weeks ago to be a contender. Bubba Watson nearly won on this very course 6 years ago at another PGA Championship and his length, along with the absence of trees, means he can unleash his 350 yard drives all over Whistling Straits–a huge advantage.
Dustin Johnson can also over-power this course and like Watson, has a near miss at this course that he wants to avenge. The problem with Dustin is that the small demon in his head that tells him he can’t win the big one, has now grown into a marching band of demons that seem to wait until just the right time to knock him to his knees. One golfer that Spieth will need to keep an eye on is his practice round partner Rickie Fowler. Whenever they can, Spieth and his friend Justin Thomas will play a practice round against Fowler and Phil Mickelson, which happened on Tuesday of this week. The money that changes hands (would you expect anything else with Mickelson?) is only a part of the preparation. Mickelson uses his years of experience trash talking to try and get into Spieth’s head. Spieth has obviously learned well at the knee of the master, while Phil is having some fun with the youngsters, what he’s really doing is getting them “tournament ready”.
In his five tournaments since playing in his hometown event, the Byron Nelson, Jordan has won twice, tied for 4th and had two other top ten finishes. He is Tiger-esque in the way he is never out of a tournament. You expect him to win or come damn close…and so does he. Fowler has played inspired golf and while he has yet to win his first major, he has finished in the top five of all majors in the past two seasons. He is over-due. When Spieth arrived at Whistling Straits on Monday to play a practice round, he told his coach, Cameron McCormmick of Brook Hollow Golf Club, that it really fit his eye. That should be enough to scare most of the rest of the field.
As for Woods, his warm up rounds have looked good but that’s nothing new. Most of this season he’s looked fine in practice and on the range but come Thursday on his opening hole, he’s more likely to hit a house than find the fairway and make a par. If he starts like he has in most tournaments during the past two years, his chance of adding to his list of 14 majors will be over after the front nine. Smart money will once again be on the kid from Dallas to keep the magical summer of 2015 rolling along.