Spieth rejects Tiger comparisons but embraces Grand Slam chase

Jordan Spieth says it's way too early to be comparing his early-career success to that of Tiger Woods.

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – A long trip that had begun 3 miles south of Moline, Ill., had stretched into a cool, gray evening in this seaside town and yet, the glory of the latitude being what it is in July over here, plenty of light afforded golfers a priceless calm for their pleasures.

And so Jordan Spieth played along the back nine at the Old Course, accompanied by his caddie, Michael Greller, and his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, no matter that dinner time had arrived. Or maybe it was lunch time. Or even breakfast time. Who knows where Spieth’s body clock was at the moment, for he was not yet 24 hours removed from winning the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., and flying the prearranged charter that had taken him and others from Quad City International Airport to Edinburgh, from where a transportation service shuttled him up to the doorstep of history — the chance to join Ben Hogan as the only man to win the first three legs of the professional Grand Slam.

That his quiet, late-afternoon Monday practice round arrived at the 16th green, only to be halted when it met up with Tiger Woods, was not seen as something that stopped his rhythm. Nor did Spieth read any sort of symbolism into it, as if Woods were there to pass the torch, or as if it showed that Spieth were as one, on par with the iconic one.

“The parallels between me and Tiger are unfair,” Spieth said.

But Spieth is the first to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season since Woods in 2002. And Spieth, at 21, has won twice in his first nine major starts as a pro and Woods didn’t win his second major until his 12th major start as a pro.

Respectful and in tight embrace of perspective, Spieth shakes his head. Woods is 39 and carried on his brilliant start as a pro into incomparable greatness, the owner of 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins. Spieth is still shy of his 22nd birthday by 12 days, has “only” five PGA Tour victories and feels beholden, not equal, to Woods.

“I think that’s something that people (and the media) are looking for, but is not there with anybody right now. It’s something I don’t think that can be compared until at least midway through their career. This is an early timetable.”

His character and groundedness accepted as anchors, Spieth does not shy away from the opportunity that awaits him at the Old Course this week. “I like to study the history of golf,” he said, and so he is well aware of the particulars. He is just the sixth player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same season, joining Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods. Of them, only Hogan in 1953 went on to win the British Open. But the Open conflicted with the PGA Championship that summer, so Hogan never was afforded the opportunity to win the Grand Slam.

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Spieth, should he win this week, would head into Whistling Straits next month with the opportunity to stand alone.

“It would be amazing,” he said, easily the leader in the clubhouse for understatements this week. “It would be something I’d never forget.”

Who among the winners of the previous 29 British Opens at the Old Course does forget their weeks here? Likely, none. Certainly Bobby Jones (1927) didn’t, for his passion for St. Andrews was legendary. Nicklaus, Woods, Nick Faldo, Louis Oosthuizen feel similarly.

That Spieth could add his name to that list is incredible stuff for the kid from Texas.

That he could go even further and create a list where his is the only name? Well, hype it up, if you like, because Spieth doesn’t deny that, “I’m aware . . . and I’m embracing that opportunity.”

But at the same time, he insists that his focus will be on this week. “By the time I start on Thursday, it won’t be in my head.”

Ah, but Jordan, it will be on our minds, if you don’t object.

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