Open champion Jordan Spieth has '˜long way to go' to match Tiger and Jack

American Jordan Spieth with the Claret Jug after winning the Open at Royal Birkdale (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA).American Jordan Spieth with the Claret Jug after winning the Open at Royal Birkdale (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA).
American Jordan Spieth with the Claret Jug after winning the Open at Royal Birkdale (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA).
Open champion Jordan Spieth remains wary about comparisons with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, despite his remarkable achievements continuing to make them inevitable.

Spieth’s dramatic victory at Royal Birkdale saw him join Nicklaus in becoming the only other player to win three different majors before the age of 24.

The world No 2 can surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of a career grand slam by claiming next month’s US PGA at Quail Hollow.

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Woods was 24 years, seven months and 25 days when he won the 2000 Open at St Andrews by eight shots, part of the ‘Tiger Slam’ of the US Open, Open and US PGA that year and the 2001 Masters.

Spieth celebrates his 24th birthday on Thursday, exactly a fortnight before the US PGA gets under way in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Asked about being in such exalted company following this three-shot victory over Matt Kuchar on Sunday, Spieth said: “I’ve answered this question a few times a couple years ago, so I’ll be careful with my answer.

“It’s amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love, but I don’t compare myself – and I don’t think that they’re appropriate or necessary.

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“So to be in that company, no doubt is absolutely incredible and I certainly appreciate it, and we work really hard to have that, with that being the goal. Therefore, I enjoy moments like you saying that.

“But I’m very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport, and in no way, shape or form do I think I’m anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go.”

Spieth came agonisingly close to having the chance to complete an unprecedented calendar grand slam in 2015, when he won the Masters in record-breaking fashion and then edged out Dustin Johnson in the US Open at Chambers Bay.

A month later, he arrived in St Andrews on the back of a victory in the John Deere Classic and missed out on a play-off for the Open title by a single shot, having four-putted the eighth hole during the final round.

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Two years on, he again made the trip across the Atlantic having won his previous start by holing a bunker shot to win a play-off in the Travelers Championship, although this time there were three weeks in between and, crucially, a different result.

Three shots ahead of Kuchar starting the final round, Spieth found himself a shot behind after his fifth bogey of the day on the 13th, which involved a 20-minute ruling and playing his third shot from Royal Birkdale’s practice ground.

This evoked memories of Seve Ballesteros playing from a temporary car park on the right of the 16th hole at Royal Lytham on the way to his first Open title in 1979.

Although Spieth could only make bogey from his unorthodox occasion, it proved to be a turning point on his path to becoming fittingly the youngest Open winner since 22-year-old Ballesteros.

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Spieth played the next four holes in five under par with a barely believable run of birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie and will be the first of three players to have a chance to complete the career grand slam in the next three majors.

Rory McIlroy needs to win the Masters to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods in having won all four major titles, while Phil Mickelson’s trophy collection is missing only the US Open.

“It’s a life goal of mine. It’s a career goal,” added Spieth. “Growing up playing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world and things have happened very quickly.

“It’s good and bad, because a lot comes with it. A lot more attention versus just being able to kind of go about your own thing.

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“I never realised how underrated that was. I wanted to be in this position, but then it becomes harder when it doesn’t go your way and you’re harder on yourself because you expect so much.

“I thought before the (final) round I have a reputation as being able to close, but I was hesitant in saying ‘majors’ to myself because I put a lot of pressure on myself unfortunately, and not on purpose, just thinking this is the best opportunity that I’ve had since the 2016 Masters (when he collapsed on the back nine).

“And if it weren’t to go my way, then all I’m going to be questioned about and thought about and murmured about is in comparison to that, and that adds a lot of pressure to me. But closing Sunday was extremely important for the way I look at myself.”