PINEHURST, N.C. – First, it was a miracle bunker shot at the 2013 John Deere Classic that helped make him the youngest PGA Tour winner since 1931.
Then it was a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup squad.
The drama didn’t subside in 2014, playing in the final groups at both the Masters and Players Championship – holding the lead at Augusta National midway through the final round.
Not bad for a kid who was 11 years old the last time the U.S. Open was held at Pinehurst No. 2.
So, have the expectations become unrealistic for 20-year-old Jordan Spieth?
Not if you ask the kid wonder.
“A big goal of mine this year was to make the Ryder Cup team. There’s a huge emphasis on every major, even though I’ve contended now,” Spieth said Monday.
“. . . I believe that I can win this golf tournament. I feel comfortable on this golf course. I think it fits my game. And when I step on the first tee, that’s what I’m trying to do. And if I get into contention, I’m definitely, by this point, am going to draw off any experience I’ve had, which now I do have a little experience. So that’s only going to help me. And I feel like I will be able to close this one out, if I get an opportunity.”
Spieth has played in the final group of the fourth round four times in 2013-14:
- Hyundai: Shot 69, finished second.
- Farmers: Shot 75, tied for 19th.
- Masters: Shot 72, tied for second.
- Players: Shot 74, tied for fourth.
But if he gets into contention at Pinehurst later this week, he’ll have a bit more experience to lean on in America’s national championship, with this being his third appearance in the U.S. Open.
After receiving a last-second invitation in 2012 at Olympic Club, Spieth remembers being a bit in awe of the practice-round crowds. He played behind a group that included Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott – leaving throngs of fans up and down the fairways, something with which the University of Texas product wasn’t accustomed.
Two years later and Spieth is a different player.
“The one two years ago feels like it was a decade ago,” said Spieth, who finished as low amateur in 2012.
“I don’t really notice the crowds or the people anymore, just in a couple of years of just playing in front of it here and there. So as far as the stage, I feel very, very comfortable.”
Comfort might not be appropriate verbiage to describe what promises to be a grueling week playing Pinehurst, with the wiregrass off the fairway promising to be penal, plus the tough greens that are tough to hold.
But Spieth isn’t giving into the course, saying that nearly everyone is in the same situation: they haven’t played the current Pinehurst in tournament play, at least not without traditional rough.
“At a course like this, where it’s not a place I’ve been before or most people – nobody, really – nobody has any experience playing this golf course in tournament play, even the people that were here in ’05, or ’05 and ’99, it’s a different track. There’s no rough,” Spieth said. “So I don’t think I can be necessarily surprised here, because everything is completely different.”
He’s just hoping this week’s outcome is a bit different than his recent history.