When caddies and fellow players call him the golden child, it is partly in jest.
The label is now serious; Jordan Spieth has become only the sixth player in golfing history to claim the Masters and US Open back-to-back. The last man to achieve such a feat? Tiger Woods, once the most golden of them all. Spieth hasn’t so much dealt with expectations as vaulted over them.
Further glances at history endorse the scale of Spieth’s achievement on a sun-kissed afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. At just 21, he is the youngest player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to place multiple major success beside his name.
Suddenly, Spieth is halfway towards a career grand slam. “You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first two,” he said during his victory address. “So we are going to go St Andrews looking for the Claret Jug. I believe we can get it done.” Arrogance? Not a bit of it. The confidence is perfectly justified.
Chambers Bay was a controversial major venue but it produced a stunning champion; a young man who is showing little regard whatsoever for ceremony when continually swatting aside all before him. Spieth’s unwillingness to simply compete, his ability to prevail in completely different scenarios, set him apart from those with considerably more experience.
As the Texan celebrated his latest triumph, it was impossible not to feel sympathy for Dustin Johnson. The 30-year-old continues to find new ways to pass up major championship opportunities; from bizarre rules breaches to complete blow-ups to, on this occasion, three-putting the 72nd hole.
In what proved a quite incredible US Open denouement, Johnson had a 12ft eagle putt to win the championship. As that effort slid 4ft past, there was a sad sense of inevitability. Already in the locker room at five under par, Spieth was soon to be crowned the champion. He didn’t even need a Monday 18-hole play-off to seal his title.
There was a time when Michael Greller caddied for amateurs at Chambers Bay. His aim back then was to somehow make it to a US Open. Not only has Greller done that, he has carried the bag of a champion. It isn’t only Spieth who is rapidly turning dreams into reality.
On a quite epic day, Spieth believed his chance may have gone. Leading by three with two to play, he double-bogeyed the par three 17th after a horrible tee shot. This opened the door for Johnson, who birdied the penultimate hole and played a glorious five-iron into the last from 247 yards. Disaster was to strike thereafter, as it has so many times in Johnson’s enigmatic career. This stumble will wound him more than any other.
“On the last green, I was thinking, ‘This is why I’m here. This is why I play the game of golf.’ It just didn’t work out,” said an understandably shellshocked Johnson.
Different players had flirted with glory. Branden Grace was tied with Spieth before carving his tee shot on 16 out of bounds. Louis Oosthuizen played the Sunday back nine in just 29 shots for a four under total. Oosthuizen, denied a playoff by one, will look back ruefully on an opening round of 77. There was little shock attached to the fact that Jason Day, who had earlier suffered from the effects of vertigo, watched his challenge peter out. Day signed for a 74 and tied for ninth place.
Day’s compatriot, Adam Scott, showed the benefits of having Steve Williams back on caddie duties. Scott signed off with a 64 for a share of fourth with Grace and the 21-year-old Australian Cameron Smith.
As this nail-biting conclusion was being played out, Ian Poulter took to social media to offer a lengthy criticism of Chambers Bay. The Englishman had promised to keep his counsel over the venue until the conclusion of his fourth round and kept to that vow.
Poulter admitted he “didn’t play well enough to be remotely close” but added: “It is disgraceful that the USGA hasn’t apologised about the greens they simply have said ‘we are thrilled the course condition this week.’
“It wasn’t a bad golf course, in fact it played well and was playable. What wasn’t playable were the green surfaces. If this was a regular PGA Tour event lots of players would have withdrawn and gone home on Wednesday but players won’t do that for a major. They were simply the worst most disgraceful surfaces I have ever seen on any tour in all the years I have played.
“The US Open deserves better than that.”
Whether merited or not, the tournament threw up an unforgettable closing chapter. If Rory McIlroy is the finest golfer in the world, there can be no doubt over the man to capture hearts and minds thus far in 2015. Scarily, this is still only the beginning of Spieth’s career.
This article was written by Ewan Murray at Chambers Bay, for theguardian.com on Monday 22nd June 2015 04.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010