June 22, 2015
U.S. Open 2015@ Chambers Bay: At 21, Jordan Spieth Achieves the Stuff of Legends
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Chambers Bay Golf Course had already served as the backdrop for one big event in the life of the 21-year-old Jordan Spieth. A month after Spieth won his first pro event as a PGA Tour rookie, he was a witness at a wedding on the grounds between his caddie, Michael Greller, and the former Ellie Morris.
Two years later, it was Spieth’s turn to have a monumental moment all his own. With a one-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday in the 115th United States Open, Spieth became the first male player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win multiple majors before his 22nd birthday. He also became the youngest winner of the national championship since Bob Jones in 1923. Spieth, the reigning Masters champion, is the sixth man to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, and the first since Tiger Woods in 2002.
Spieth, whose birthday is in July, opened with a bogey but closed with two birdies on his last three holes for a one-under 69 and a 72-hole total of five under. Playing in the group behind Spieth, Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet for a par on 18 to finish with a 70. He was tied for second with Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion from South Africa, who played the final nine holes in a record-equaling six-under 29 for a 67.
Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, who resumed working last week with Steve Williams, the caddie who helped him to his only major title, posted the low round of the day, a 64, to vault into a share of fourth at three under.
It was surreal for Scott to be chasing Spieth, who as a child ran down Scott for his autograph at the Byron Nelson tournament. He displayed the signature on his bedroom bulletin board in his family’s home in Dallas. Spieth recently moved to his own home, but Scott’s autograph is still hanging in what is now a guest room in his parents’ home.
“He certainly is making me feel my age a little bit if someone’s got my autograph on the wall and he’s playing out here,” Scott said, adding: “I think he’s handled himself incredibly well. I hope he keeps doing the same.”
On a day when his putts were not all falling and his tee shots took some strange bounces, Spieth showed a patience and maturity that belied his youth. His mettle was tested in the stretch when he carded a double-bogey 6 at the par-3 17th to fall into a tie with Oosthuizen. Spieth rebounded with two perfect shots at No. 18, playing as a par 5, to set up the birdie that sealed the win. Cameron McCormick, who has worked with Spieth for nearly a decade, said Spieth’s ability to perform in the clutch could be traced to his “bulletproof self-image.” He added, “No matter what happened previously, he can will the outcome to his desire.”
Rising from the site of an old sand and rock quarry in 2007, the Chambers Bay course is even younger than Spieth, and unlike the champion it spawned, it did not get high marks from the players. Billy Horschel closed with a 67, then opened fire on the United States Golf Association for organizing a national championship on a course with greens that he said did not always reward well-struck putts.
“I’ve hit a lot of really good putts that have bounced all over the world,” said Horsteel, who finished at four over
He added, “I think a lot of players, and I’m one of them, have lost some respect for the U.S.G.A. and this championship this year for the greens.”
Horschel, 28, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, also expressed pity for the thousands of fans who flocked to the course, including a man overheard reverently telling a friend near the practice green that he had waited 53 years for this week. Horschel noted that it was impossible to get close to the action on several holes. The best vantage point this year to watch the tournament unfold was perhaps one’s Barcalounger.
“The viewing is awful,” Horschel said, adding, “When you’re not able to get up close and watch championship-caliber players play a golf course, it’s disappointing.”
Even from afar, it was easy to tell Sunday that the Australian Jason Day’s struggles with his equilibrium were ongoing. His gait was deliberate. And whenever he bent down, Day looked like he had a dictionary balanced on his head, so straight was his posture and so fixed were his eyes on a spot in the distance.
Day came into the week with seven top-10 showings in 18 major appearances. His closest call came at the 2013 Masters when he led by two strokes with three holes to play but bogeyed the 16th and 17th and finished third. Day said he got ahead of himself at the end, and started to imagine winning instead of rooting his thoughts in the present.
From the moment his head started spinning Friday and he collapsed in a heap on the ninth green, Day’s focus shifted from winning the tournament to staying upright. He was not fixated, as he usually is, on controlling his breathing. The swing thoughts he normally wrestled with were pushed to the recesses of his mind as he concentrated solely on making solid contact. In an odd way, the act of trying to maintain his physical balance helped Day strike a mind-body balance that enable him to swing freely on the final, frantic holes.
Could Day one-up the Australia women’s soccer team, which earlier in the day had upset Brazil in the knockout round of the World Cup? He won fans with his effort but a double-bogey 6 at No. 13 derailed his championship hopes as he posted a 74 to finish at even par.
Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1 who won the 2011 tournament, began the day eight strokes back. He started fast, with three birdies on his front nine, and tried to chase down the leaders but hit the wall on No. 15. McIlroy, 26, played the last four holes in four over for the week, including two over Sunday, to post a 66 and finish at par for the championship.
“When I look back at this tournament that’s where I’ll rue some missed opportunities,” McIlroy said.
With the tee boxes on multiple holes changing from day to day, drastically altering the players’ lines, an ability to adapt was a requisite for success this week. Spieth’s choice of attire Sunday was a testament to his flexibility.
When he became a brand ambassador for Under Armour shortly after turning pro in 2012, Spieth was finicky about his wardrobe. He sent back bright-colored pants, making clear he preferred blues and grays. And he delivered another stipulation — no white pants.
So what was Spieth wearing when he sealed his first major victory at the Masters in April and again on Sunday when he tried to keep his calendar year Grand Slam hopes alive? White pants.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 champion who closed with a 67, finished a few hours before Spieth. Assessing Chambers Bay, Ogilvy said: “You have to move the ball both ways and you have to use your brain, which is a rare thing in modern golf and something we’re not very good at, I don’t think. It’s going to be a class act of a player who wins, and really that’s all you want.”
A version of this article appears in print on June 22, 2015, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: 21-Year-Old Achieves the Stuff of Legends.