Many predicted not much more than an afternoon stroll for Jordan Spieth when he went into the final round of the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale with a healthy lead but the 146th edition will go down as one of the most bizarre in the iconic tournament’s long history.
The 23 year old Texan began making things interested when he dropped three shots in his first four holes to bring playing partner Matt Kutcher into a tie for the lead at 8-under.
On the 13th Spieth seemingly threw the tournament away, putting his tee shot into deep rough on the wrong side of a hill to the fairway.
At the bottom of the hill were the equipment manufacturer semi-trailer trucks (Titleist, Callaway, Ping etc) and the practice tee area.
Surely all that area was a no go area, maybe out of bounds. But no. After long discussion and much pointing between Spieth and a handful of rules officials it was deemed he could take an unplayable line of sight drop in the middle of the trucks. From this theoretic drop point he was able to take further relief to a spot in the middle of the practice fairway area (really?).
Meanwhile, Kuchar spent the 29 odd minutes this process took waiting beside the fairway for his second shot. Surely he would pick up at least a couple of shots and Spieth would have a bit of a final round major choke (he has down it before after all).
No-one was at first even considering Spieth had a shot anywhere near the green. But he did. His three iron cleared the hill, cleared all the spectators in his path, and ended up short of the green and a pot bunker with a chip for a very difficult up and down for bogey – which he of course made.
Having survived all this trauma, apologised to Kucher for taking half an hour to play his shot, Spieth teed it up on the par three fourteenth and went within a whisker of a hole in one.
He dropped that short birdie putt, more amazing still holed a long putt on the next hole for eagle, then birdied 16 and 17….(really again?)
So after his out of the box bogey on 13, he had picked up five shots in four holes.
The nonplussed British commentators were calling him Harry Potter, whilst the bewildered, grinning, stunned mullet expression Matt Kucher has been practicing for years was finally absolutely perfect for the situation.
On the 18th the hapless Kuchar, still seeking his first major, ended up plugged in a greenside bunker and all Spieth needed for his third major was a par for a 1-under 69.
He finished the tournament at 12-under, three clear of Kuchar (69) with China’s Haotong Li (63) alone in third.
Spieth became the youngest ever player to win three majors since the advent of the Masters in 1934. He now has the Masters, The US Open and the British Open and will be going for a career grand slam (at the grand old age of 24) in a a couple of weeks at the US PGA Championship.
“This is absolutely a dream come true,” Spieth said during an eloquent speech after being handed the Claret Jug.
Australia’s best was Marc Leishman (65) tied 6th at 4-under.
Jordan Spieth takes shot from Royal Birkdale Driving Range: Video
2017 Open Championship Final Round Highlights Video