Jordan Spieth is playing in a tournament he first won as a teenager this week ahead of flying to Scotland for the British Open and his date with destiny. He is on track for completing the calendar year Grand Slam and his quest has been made easier after a bizarre injury to Rory McIlroy which means he is almost certain to miss the tournament. Only Ben Hogan in 1953 has won the first three majors and no player has won all four in the same year. Tiger Woods held all four at the same time spanning two seasons.
Open Champions at St Andrews
The world number one and two currently hold all four majors and the Old Course at the home of golf was setting up to be a pivotal showdown. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Severiano Ballesteros have all won the Open at St Andrews and the most iconic course in the world usually produces an iconic winner. Louis Oosthuizen was lucky with his draw and the weather in 2010 but several of the greats have won the oldest championship in the world on the sport’s most famous course. It would be the pinnacle of McIlroy’s career to date if he won this year but he looks like missing the championship after injuring his ankle ligament playing soccer.
Spieth would probably swap 10 John Deere Classics for the Open next week as a win in Fife would put him one step away from history. Most of the leading players are competing in the Scottish Open this week or practising on links courses in Britain and Ireland. Spieth’s preparation for the Open is even more surprising when you consider the course his playing this week is totally different to the Old Course at St Andrews. He is playing out of loyalty and principle because he won the 2013 renewal aged 19 and thus became the first teenager to win on Tour for 80 years.
TPC Deere Run
This week’s PGA Tour event is being plated at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. This tournament, taking place in a town with about 7,000 inhabitants, has one of the smallest prize funds of the year. The sponsors manufacture tractors which fans can board to get around the course. In the context of the lucrative stops on the schedule TPC Deere Run is small time but the event has attracted the player trying to be only the second golfer to win the first three majors of the year. The tournament director expected Spieth to withdraw but there was no phone call and he plays.
The course does not provide a great warm-up for the Open as it could hardly be more different than the Old Course. Although it is a TPC stadium course Deere Run does offer some reward for accuracy, especially from the fairway. In particular there are some difficult par 4s such as the 9th, where a long and awkward approach shot is required and the 15th and 18th which both have well protected greens. The tournament has now been given a regular slot in the week before the British Open which has affected the quality of the field.
Contender: Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson is one player who always enters and then makes the transatlantic journey to England or Scotland. Over the last four years he has the best course form of the entire field and made the cut each year in the Open Championship. Two top tens in this spell proves the double is feasible and Spieth dealt with jet leg when making the cut in his only two Opens. Johnson excels on course that puts a premium on accuracy over distance which applies to Deere Run and the links course of Britain.
Nicklaus and Woods have endorsed Spieth’s decision to play in the States this week. They both put forward the theory that when you are playing great golf you can transfer form over a variety of courses. In their opinion winning tournaments and scoring well is more valuable than one extra practice round at the following week’s venue. Spieth could make history at St Andrews next week but it could have been so different if McIlroy had not played soccer with his friends in Ireland.
Click here for the field for the John Deere Classic.
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