GULLANE, Scotland -– Jordan Spieth was in the hunt at the 142nd Open Championship, but the last four holes in Friday’s second round either showed why Muirfield is such a difficult test or why 19-year-olds don’t win major championships.
Of course, even the older players struggled with Muirfield this week, but Spieth has garnered the focus because of his playoff victory last week at the John Deere Classic, making him the first teenager since Ralph Gualdh in 1931 to win a PGA Tour event.
For Spieth, who fired a 3-over 74 on Friday, the whirlwind last six days have been relatively calm and devoid of too much fanfare, mainly because Spieth’s Internet connection is not sufficient enough for him to really surf the web about his win.
But on Friday, the comparative youngster was up against one of the venerable links courses in the world and was actually getting the better of the Harry Colt redo. But, as is bound to happen, Spieth lost his patience and went 4 over over the last four holes.
“Yesterday I was, for some reason, extremely patient with just taking my 30-footers and just trying to give myself tap-ins and not worrying about making birdies,” Spieth said of a strategy that eventually got him to 3 under and two off the lead. “Today I finally got to a point where I finally had enough and wanted to really hit it closer. And that’s what happens when you try.”
The par-4 15th hole was the beginning of the carnage, a poor chip on his third shot, when Spieth tried to hit a flop that didn’t come off and saw his ball run through the green and into a bunker causing a double-bogey six.
“It was sitting in the roots,” Spieth said of the chip shot. “If it was on normal fescue, it would be fine. But it’s up against the root of one, and I can’t really set my club down. It’s got to go through weeds to get to the ball and then right at the ball — the smart play would have been to aim right and try and hit it down the front of the green.”
The par-3 16th hole was a bad swing according to Spieth causing another bogey and the par-5 17th hole was a bad decision according to Spieth that led to another bogey.
But maybe the most difficult hole to stomach was the 18th hole with a 6-footer that Spieth missed for birdie that would have made him even for the championship.
“It wasn’t like I was tired to the point where it affected my decision making,” Spieth said. “I think that’s just my personality. It’s difficult for me to stay extremely patient. When I have a wedge or 9-iron in my hand, I’m an aggressive player and it’s hard for me to hit it to 20 feet and be OK with that.”
In some ways this week for Spieth is a links classroom. With just the Walker Cup in Royal Aberdeen in 2011 and the sundry links courses during that trip, Spieth has no experience on links courses, much less the pressure cooker of the Open Championship.
Spieth knows this and actually is embracing the challenge and at the same time trying to be the youngest champion since Young Tom Morris in 1868.
“I just made the wrong decision a couple of times,” Spieth said. “So that happens. I mean, it’s great that it waited until then (15th hole) to happen in this tournament. I really hadn’t missed many shots leading up until then. And now that I missed a couple, I saw how I reacted, I didn’t do it the right way and I’ll learn from it.”