Less than a week after women’s tennis star Serena Williams won her fourth consecutive Grand Slam event to make it three out of three in 2015, the golfing world looks to the Open Championship at St Andrew’s to see if young gun Jordan Spieth can continue his own quest for immortality.
Williams will become just the second woman to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year after Steffi Graf in 1988 should she win the US Open in September and while Spieth remains a long way from achieving golf’s equivalent, the feat looks well within his reach.
The 21-year-old is already just the fifth player in the Open era to have won the first two majors of the year – the others being Ben Hogan (in 1951 and again in 1953), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Tiger Woods (2002) – but to this point no one has managed to win all four.
Even with Woods winning four majors in a row across two years in 2000 and 2001, golf’s Grand Slam has generally been considered close to impossible. Yet Spieth already has a number of his fellow players starting to believe following his incredible wins at the US Masters and US Open earlier this year – and the fact he is a full five years younger than Woods was when he won the first two hasn’t been lost on his peers either.
The biggest unknown is the St Andrew’s course itself. Unlike most of the top courses back home in the United States, Spieth has only ever played one round at St Andrew’s – as an amateur in 2011 – and will have to learn quickly if he is to master its unpredictable winds.
But it’s hard to imagine he won’t at least be in the mix come Sunday given his incredible consistency and ability to destroy the field when at his best.
His US Open victory in May has since been followed by a second place at Colonial and a third at the Memorial before he warmed up for the Open Championship with victory at the John Deere Classic last Sunday. In his past 20 rounds on the PGA Tour he is a combined 56-under and is coming off a career-best round of 61 in the third round of the John Deere Classic.
More importantly, the man who might have provided the greatest road block – defending champion Rory McIlroy – will miss the tournament after injuring his ankle playing a friendly game off football a few weeks ago.
So who can spoil the Spieth party? Rickie Fowler, who finished second to McIlroy last year, looks set to make another run at the title following victory at the Scottish Open last week while 2013 US Masters champion Adam Scott looks a new man since recalling Steve Williams as his caddie earlier in the year. Neither can be discounted.
But the two we’ll be keeping an eye on are Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Johnson wasted yet another golden opportunity to win his first major when he inexplicably three-putted the last hole at the US Open and it remains to be seen what mental affect that moment has had on him, but if he can put it behind him he certainly has the power off the tee to conquer this monster course.
And after he bravely battled vertigo to finish ninth behind Spieth at the US Open, Jason Day will also be looking to break his majors drought. His incredible knack of putting himself in contention in big tournaments has seen him secure eight top-10 finishes from 19 starts including five top-four results and if that record continues a breakthrough win will come sooner or later.
But getting the best of Spieth is another challenge altogether – especially when a unique place in the history books adds to the American’s motivation. We could well be on the verge of one of sport’s greatest ever achievements.