Spieth enters U.S. Open with target on his back
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Jordan Spieth didn't bring his green jacket with him to the 2015 U.S. Open this week, but he did slip it on last week while watching television at home in Dallas.
“Just kind of felt like it,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I put it on, to be honest with you?”
The reigning Masters champion called winning his first major a life-altering event outside the ropes, but once he slips inside them the mission is unchanged. Spieth, 21, is the only golfer with a chance to win the Grand Slam this season. He’s also well aware that no golfer has won the season’s first two majors since Tiger Woods in 2002. As for the last player to win multiple majors at age 21 or younger? Try “The Squire,” Gene Sarazen, in 1922 and '23.
“I have a chance to make history in many ways, but in order to do that I have to really focus on this week, focus on the major championships and how I’m going to prepare for them,” Spieth said.
One school of thought is that Spieth is no longer the hunter; he is now the hunted, with a target on his back. He’s the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world. He has more experience than most at Chambers Bay and his caddie, Michael Greller, lives 25 minutes from the course and looped there part-time in the summer from its opening in 2007 until 2011, including during the 2010 U.S. Amateur.
But Spieth’s previous trip to Chambers Bay didn’t go well. He posted an 83 in the medal-play portion of the U.S. Amateur. In his pre-U.S. Open news conference, Spieth said only that he “didn’t remember it much from the 2010 U.S. Amateur” and added, “it was a short-lived trip.”
Spieth returned in 2012 and removed the sour taste from that experience when he played in a pre-wedding foursome before Greller’s nuptials. He shot par and won a few bucks from his caddie. Spieth played 18 holes Saturday and 18 holes Sunday. He headed out for a late-afternoon nine on Monday, and plans to play nine more on Tuesday and Wednesday. Expect Greller to provide local knowledge, especially off the tee with sight lines, and the quirky and challenging putting surfaces.
“Michael’s about as experienced as anybody that will be there,” Spieth said.
Talk to Greller, however, and he’ll sing a very different song.
“People think I’m the Carl Jackson of Chambers Bay,” Greller said, referencing Ben Crenshaw’s longtime caddie at Augusta National. “He did 54 Masters. Other than the (2010) U.S. Amateur, I’ve never seen it in tournament conditions.”
Greller’s real talent may be in reminding Spieth that, as he put it, “the deck is stacked in his favor.”
“Everyone is saying he has all this pressure on him," Greller said, "but I look at it the opposite way. He’s already won a major this year so it’s all gravy from here on out. So there’s actually no pressure at all."
The pursuit of the year’s second major-championship trophy begins for Spieth at 2:17 p.m. PDT Thursday with Jason Day and Justin Rose. Spieth said he likes the afternoon-morning tee times that he drew for the first two rounds. He also likes the way he is playing heading into the championship, noting he wished the tournament had started two days ago. The word satisfiedisn't part of the Masters champion's vocabulary. He has goals still to be achieved.
“If I didn't do anything the rest of the year, I'd be pretty frustrated at the second half," he said. "My goal this week is to give myself a chance to win again, see if we can duplicate what we did, whatever, two months ago.”
Spoken like a man who still dreams of a Grand Slam when he watches TV in his green jacket.
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