Spieth chasing history: PGA Championship would complete career Grand Slam
The Grand Slam in golf is the rarest feat in all of sport. No one has won all four professional majors in the same season and only five men have won the PGA Championship, Masters, U.S. Open and Open in their career. Jordan Spieth could join that elite club this week at TPC Harding Park.
The perfect game has been pitched 23 times in Major League Baseball. Eight men have the career Grand Slam in tennis. The Triple Crown has been accomplished by 13 thoroughbreds. But only a handful full of men have golf’s career Grand Slam.
Since the Masters, the youngest of the majors, was first played in 1934, the five to win all four are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
If the pressure of joining that elite group is bothering Spieth, he didn’t show it when he took to the podium Tuesday at Harding Park and spoke with the media.
“About as much as it's been since I won The Open Championship, I guess,” Spieth said with characteristic honesty when asked how much the Grand Slam is on his mind this week.
“It's something that I really want,” he said. “It's probably the No. 1 goal in the game of golf for me right now is to try and capture that. I'd love to be able to hold all four trophies, and this is the one that comes in the way right now.”
The fabulous five with all four trophies define 100 years of greatness. Sarazen was the first to complete the slam at the 1935 Masters. Hogan was next at the 1953 Open; then Player at the 1965 U.S. Open with Nicklaus jumping on board the next year at the Open and Woods following at the 2000 Open.
But the list of those who put three legs on the Grand Slam table but are missing the fourth is also impressive – and three of them are in the field this week.
Sam Snead, with seven majors, never won the U.S. Open and neither has Phil Mickelson, who has five majors. Byron Nelson, with five majors, and Raymond Floyd with four both failed to win the Open, while Lee Trevino and his six majors and Rory McIlroy with his four, lack a Masters green jacket.
The only major with three names on the list of those one title shy of the career slam is the PGA and it includes golf’s greatest major winner without the slam – Tom Watson with eight. Walter Hagen, the five-time PGA champion, won 11 majors in the era before the Masters was created. Arnold Palmer, a seven-time major winner, also never won the PGA.
And then there is Spieth. At 27, he’s the youngest among those with three different majors. Mickelson, McIlroy and Spieth are all in the field this week, but Jordan is the only one who could end Sunday with the career Grand Slam.
“They don't come easily,” Spieth said about going three years without a major. Jordan, who said the cool ocean air at Harding Park makes him arding Park H10 to 13 yards shorter with his irons and up to 20 yards shorter with his driver, shows no signs of frustration with his winless run.
“I'm working, I think, in a positive direction,” he said.
“I'm working the right way, and even in a few years of feeling like I didn't have my 'A' game any time I teed it up, I still had a chance to win three or four majors on a Sunday.”
Spieth made a splashy debut by winning the 2013 John Deere Classic two weeks before his 20th birthday. A torrid run through 2015-17 in which he won 10 times, including the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 and the Open in 2017, as well as finishing second on the 2015 PGA, raised the bar of expectation extremely high.
But that Open victory at Royal Birkdale is his last win. Since then, he’s 0-for-66 on the PGA Tour, including T-30 last week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. He did, however, finish T-3 in the PGA last year at Bethpage, six strokes behind Brooks Koepka.
“I almost feel at times like the game is testing me a little bit right now because I feel really good about the progress I've been making, and then it seems like I'll really have one brewing, and then I'll get where I used to hit a tree and go in the fairway, it'll hit a tree and go off the cart path out-of-bounds like it did during my most recent round,” he said.
“It just feels like I kind of here or there am taking some punches right now as I'm really progressing in the right direction,” Spieth said.
At No. 62, Spieth would be the first ranked outside the top 50 to win the PGA since Keegan Bradley in 2011, when he was No. 108.
That quest begins at 8:22 a.m. PT Thursday when Spieth steps onto No. 10 tee with Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose. Come Sunday evening, he could be stepping into history.