What have Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth got in common? Hint, it's to do with the Majors. Think, career Grand Slam.
Yes. All three have one missing link in the chain.
In Mickelson's case, it is the US Open (and, thanks to a special invitation from the USGA, he'll get another chance to close the deal at next month's championship in Torrey Pines).
In McIlroy’s case, it is of course the Masters and, for this year, his time has come and gone.
In Spieth's case, his time is here. The American's quest to complete the career Grand Slam comes annually at the USPGA Championship and, if, up until a few weeks ago, that seemed a somewhat forlorn ambition, things have changed since his win in the Valero Texas Open ended a four-year drought going back to his win in the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth’s form of late has, indeed, put him into contention more often than not. He has had top-10 finishes at each of his last four appearances on tour, most recently in the AT&T Byron Nelson last weekend where he was reappearing for the first time since contracting Covid-19.
For Spieth – who has had close calls in the past, runner-up to Jason Day in 2015 and tied-third behind Brooks Koepka in 2019 – this week's championship at Kiawah Island provides yet another opportunity to turn the elite club of five players to achieve the feat into six. Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only men to have accomplished winning all four Majors.
Of his game and preparation for the PGA, Spieth said of his return to competition at the Byron Nelson and refocusing for Kiawah Island: “I think my ball striking [is] potentially a little improved. [There was] a little bit of rust with the short game. I think that’s something that just takes repetitions and rounds , and so I’ll go get probably 27 holes, maybe 36 [at Kiawah Island] between the next three days and try and learn the golf course.
“Really just try and knock off whatever else I need to tighten up a little bit around and on the greens. Sometimes it just takes a couple putts early in a round and the lid comes off for the whole week. Hopefully, that’s how it is . . . we get a lot of information in our practice rounds about what line to take off the tee, and from there I feel like iron shots in the wind and controlling distances is a strength of mine, and hopefully that’s what it comes down to,” said Spieth.
Meanwhile, Vijay Singh's withdrawal from the championship due to a back injury opened the door for Wyndham Clark to get in as the first reserve. Singh's absence doesn't affect the championship's rank as the most loaded field in the Majors, with 99 of the world's leading 100 players in the field –Matthew Wolff the only one missing.