Could we be entering the era of Jordan Spieth? | More sports | DW | 24.07.2017
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Could we be entering the era of Jordan Spieth?

In winning the British Open after a nightmare start on the final day, Jordan Spieth put a few demons to rest. He also took his place among some lofty company and could now dominate golf for years.

Big prizes are often perceived as being won by the flashes of inspiration that mark out sporting greats. But Jordan Spieth's British Open victory on Sunday was a triumph borne of a resilience that allowed his brilliance to flourish.

The 23-year-old's wild, wayward drive at the 13th hole of the Royal Birkdale course has already passed into golfing legend, to be filed alongside Seve Ballesteros' birdie from the car park on the Spaniard's way to winning the 1979 Open.

"I don't know how I made [a bogey] five on 13, I don't think I'll ever know, it's like I got away with murder," Spieth said just moments after lifting the Claret Jug.

Mental strength the defining factor

Like Ballesteros, but unlike Frenchman Jean van de Velde – who became synonymous with golfing meltdowns after removing his shoes and socks to enter the water on his way to blowing the 1999 Open title - Spieth will be defined by his recovery.

After his moment on the unlucky 13th hole, Spieth shot birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie before playing it safe with a par on the the 18th, when victory was all but assured. His mental fortitude after having had to play from beyond the driving range on 13 was even more impressive given his start to the day, when three dropped shots in the first four holes contributed to compatriot Matt Kuchar drawing level and, for a moment, becoming the favorite.

Further still, Spieth was able to nip a fledgling reputation for choking, gained after he let a five-shot lead slip on the back nine at the Masters in 2016, in the bud

"I was thinking, ‘are we going through this again?'" Spieth said. "But I’m over it. Closing in a major today was extremely important for the way I look at myself. I thought before the round, 'I have a reputation as being able to close,' but I was hesitant in saying 'majors.'"

Rushing to greatness

He needn't be hesitant any more. His win on Sunday made him just the third man, after Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen, to win three majors before turning 24 and  this has already led to comparisons with Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, widely considered to be the two men at the top of the golfing tree.

Both Woods and Nicklaus were quick to congratulate their heir apparent, with Nicklaus tweeting: "Wow! What a wild back nine! Is Jordan Spieth something else?" and praising the youngster's many qualities.

He certainly appears to be something else. While Spieth has some way to go to match Nicklaus' record 18 majors or even Woods' 14, he is now emerging as the superstar the sport has lacked since Woods' decline began almost a decade ago.

Since Spieth's breakout win, he's won three of the 11 available majors, while the other eight have gone to eight different men - all first time winners, all yet to repeat their feat. And the Texan doesn't seem like a man to rest on his laurels.

"The career grand slam is a life goal of mine. Growing up I just wanted to compete, but things have progressed quickly," he said, looking ahead to the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Championship, which could complete his collection next month.

UK Golf Open Championship | Jordan Spieth (Reuters/P. Childs)

Spieth gets acquainted with the Claret Jug

Of course, dominance of an individual sport is tough to achieve and even harder to retain, just ask Novak Djokovic. Spieth will have to keep improving if he's to pull away from the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

That particular quality appears to be a given in such a driven individual and his other great advantage is his consistency. Spieth ranks top of the PGA statistics for scoring average (lowest shots per round) and top-10 finishes in 2017. He is also in the top five in terms of the number of strokes he is ahead of the average score and his percentage of greens in regulation. When he putts like he did on the back nine on Sunday, that last one is particularly critical.

Just five years after he turned pro, the American has already achieved more than most golfers will in a lifetime, and at 23 he is likley nowhere near being the finished product. With the mental and physical tools he has at his disposal, it could well be that we're entering the era of Spieth.   

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