Jordan Spieth became the second-youngest player in the modern-era to win three major championships, aged just 23, with a victory at The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
The American edged closer to a career-grand-slam by adding to his 2015 Masters and US Open titles and pushes back Tiger Woods (24-years-old) and Rory McIlroy (25-years-old); only Jack Nicklaus got to three majors at a younger age.
Spieth headed into the final round with a three-shot lead – having led wire-to-wire – over Matt Kuchar and, in a day of twists and turns, saw off his fellow-American to claim a three-shot victory at 12-under-par.
Spieth, a man usually so collected under pressure, showed uncharacteristic signs of nerves on the first hole with a tee shot straying left and an approach straying even further left; he would open with a bogey to reduce his lead to two immediately.
Both leaders upped their games on the second as Kuchar puts his approach to a foot and Spieth not much further outside. Spieth would miss his birdie attempt, though, as Kuchar tapped in and within two holes the lead was cut to just one.
A scrambled third hole would lead to bogeys apiece for the top two and brought Haotong Li, five-under-par going down the 18th, somewhat into contention. Li would then knock in a final birdie to close out a round-of-the-week 63 and set the clubhouse target at six-under; the way the leaders had started, a score not to be ruled out.Embed from Getty Images
Spieth’s nervy start continued with a second consecutive missed short putt and a second consective bogey as he opened the front four holes in three-over and was now tied for the lead with Kuchar at eight-under-par.
The Texan would then stick his approach on the fifth to six feet. The birdie that would follow would regain him the lead and was perhaps just what he needed to get his round on track. Kuchar would then bogey the next hole, allowing Spieth to open his lead to two again.
Two pars apiece followed before the pair reached the ninth. An excellent approach shot for both left birdie opportunities but only Kuchar could capitalise. Spieth ended up three putting and the two-shot-swing brought the leaders level at eight-under.
Both of the leaders opened the back nine with three pars before Spieth found trouble of epic proportions on the 13th. His drive went 120 yards right of line and, after finding his ball deep in rough on the back of a hill, he took an unplayable lie penalty, spent 20 minutes figuring where to take it, and eventually rallied to make a very credible bogey. For the first time all week, though, Kuchar was outright leader at eight-under-par.
What better way to respond than almost holing out for an ace on the par three 14th. Spieth’s tee shot missed the pin by inches, but he would come back for a birdie to rejoin Kuchar at eight-under-par. Quite the contrast of tee shots between the two holes.
Spieth’s rally continued as he found the front edge of the green in two on the par five 15th and, from 40-feet, only required one putt to make eagle, move to 10-under and reclaim his seemingly long lost solo lead, despite Kuchar’s birdie.
Another holed long-range putt gave Spieth birdie-eagle-birdie from 14 to 16 in an incredible response to his trouble on the 13th; he moved back to level par for the round and 11-under for the tournament, opening up a two-shot lead and all but sealing his first Claret Jug.
From there the two leaders matched each other with birdies on the par five 17th and Spieth finished with par and Kuchar bogey as the latter fell short of a maiden major title.
Spieth’s final round of 69 was enough to make it nine wins out of 10 when he’s held the 54-hole lead and claim his third major aged 23 years, 11 months and 361 days.