CARNOUSTIE, United Kingdom, July 17, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Jordan Spieth feels he is back in the groove and capable of becoming the first player since Irishman Padraig Harrington in 2007/08 to win back to back Opens.
The 24-year-old and a swathe of his fellow young Americans threatening to dominate the future of the sport will also have a returning Tiger Woods.
The man who dominated the past until personal and physical problems intervened to bring that to a juddering halt is back at the Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015.
Spieth has not won since his Open success last July but he believes his game is back in place for the rigours of Carnoustie when battle commences on Thursday, having taken some time out to relax.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple of weeks of not really working and it was nice to kind of start from scratch,” Spieth said at a press conference on Monday.
“I feel like I’m in a position now with every part of my game, I attacked the places that really needed some strong work.
“That combination with an Open Championship, the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me to kickback into shape.”
Fellow young Turks such as PGA Champion Justin Thomas, Masters champion Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka, who defended his US Open title last month, will be fancying their chances.
Compatriot Rickie Fowler could take issue with being left out of their club given he is also under 30 at 29 — the only problem being he has developed a reputation for filling the minor places in the majors.
The return of Woods, who inspired many of the 20-something Americans to take up the sport, will be intriguing to see if the sea air awakens the genius in him.
Although there have been moments of magic since he resumed playing competitively after protracted problems with his back he warns his game is not necessarily where he would want it to be in terms of winning a tournament for the first time in five years.
At the same time the 14-time major winner — including three Opens — likes the look of the course.
“No, no I don’t have to relearn how to play this style of golf because I have played in so many Opens and so many links courses over my career,” he said.
“You don’t get the chance to see Open venues this brown so often but then it was just like this in 2000 (his first win at St Andrews) and also at Hoylake (his win in 2006), as well.”
– ‘This is the one’ –
In a Ryder Cup year the European challenge looks weak by comparison in the only major played outside the United States.
The likes of Northern Irish star Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, the in form Italian Francesco Molinari and perhaps a dark horse in Sweden’s Alex Noren, who won the French Open on the course where this year’s Ryder Cup will be contested, look the likeliest to be contenders.
McIlroy for one will be desperate to end four years without a major and disprove those who think even at just 29 the wow factor of earlier years has lost its sheen.
“I’ll just treat it like any other event,” McIlroy told Golf World.
“Prepare the way I normally do and go out and play and see what happens. I’m not putting any pressure on myself.
“My record in the Open Championship’s been pretty good the last few years,” added McIlroy, who first showed what a talent he was as an amateur in the 2008 Open.
Rose admits the Open has never yielded the results he would have liked — tied for sixth in 2015 is his best finish — and wants to set that right.
“I think this is the one that would feel so good, and to have that Claret Jug on the dinner table most nights for the following year after winning would certainly be a treat.”