ROYAL BIRKDALE — The greats find a way to get it done, Jordan Spieth’s hard-fought third major title suggests he is on an exalted path in the game of golf.
In 40 agonizing and exhilarating minutes, the 23-year-old almost blew another major in scenes reminiscent of his Masters meltdown last year, before scrapping back in majestic fashion to win the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
The Texan clinched his first Claret Jug by three shots from countryman Matt Kuchar to secure the third leg of the career Grand Slam of all four of golf’s big events.
Spieth’s battling 69 to end 12 under par leaves just the US PGA to become only the sixth player to complete the set, after his breakthrough win in the 2015 Masters followed two months later by the US Open.
Only Jack Nicklaus has won three before his 24th birthday.
Tiger Woods only won two majors before the age of 24.
Spieth is striving to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods as the elite five to have won all four of the game’s big titles at some stage in their career.
This Open title is also redemption for that fateful Masters Sunday last year, when Spieth’s hopes of back-to-back Green Jackets, both leading from start-to-finish, drowned in Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole in the final round.
His triple-bogey seven was part of a five-shot lead wiped out in three holes, but Spieth told reporters he had learnt some important lessons from that fateful day at Augusta.
However, he looked in danger of recreating similar scenes at Royal Birkdale Sunday. His three-shot lead was gone in the first four holes, and another two-shot gap squandered by the ninth.
But when his wild drive on the 13th at Royal Birkdale plugged into a high dune, the sight of the young American scampering around the practice range trying to find a suitable place to drop another ball evoked painful memories of Augusta.
The 39-year-old Kuchar, bidding for his first major title, waited patiently as the watching world held its breath.
Spieth, however, showed just what he had learnt.
He escaped from the hole with just a bogey five, giving his head a wry shake as he walked off the green, his caddie Michael Greller grinning from ear to ear.
On the short 14th, Spieth’s tee shot was an inch from a hole in one, giving him a tap-in for a birdie to draw level again with Kuchar.
And that was just the beginning. On the long 15th he drained a huge eagle putt across the green to recapture the lead, and another birdie on 16 took him two clear.
He walked up between the grandstands lining the 18th to a huge ovation and made a safe par to join illustrious names such as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Peter Thomson and Tom Watson who have won the Open at Royal Birkdale.