SILVIS, Ill. – The golf world may have spent the last two weeks debating whether Jordan Spieth would be better served in Silvis or Scotland, but for all the second guessing and all the unsolicited advice, here’s what Spieth had to say Sunday with the John Deere Classic trophy sitting on a table in front of him:
“I really didn’t care anyways. I came here for a reason, and we accomplished that reason, and certainly I’ve got some momentum going into next week.
“[After] starting off so slow, to be able to shoot 20 under in three rounds is obviously nice momentum.”
As if he needed any more momentum coming off two major victories – or any more motivation. Spieth enters next week at the Open Championship with the opportunity to win his third consecutive major, the third leg of the Grand Slam and the No. 1 ranking in the world.
Of course, before he could get on the tournament charter to St. Andrews, Spieth had the small matter of closing out his 54-hole lead at TPC Deere Run. And through the first 12 holes of his final round, it looked as if that wasn’t going to happen.
From the first tee, when a hooked a 3-wood led to an opening bogey, Spieth looked off. Off with his driver, off his irons, off with his wedges, off with his putter. He exited the par-3 12th green 1 over on his round and four shots back of the lead held by Tom Gillis.
“To be four back with six to go, all we were saying was, ‘We birdied five of the last six two years ago to get into a playoff [and win],” Spieth said, referencing his conversation with caddie Michael Greller. “’Why can’t we do it again?’”
And so suddenly, Spieth snapped out of his funk, birdied both 13 and 14, holed out from off the green at 16, and made his final birdie at 17 to play his last six holes in 4 under, post a final-round 68, and force a playoff with Gillis.
It took him two extra holes, but after Gillis found the water left of the green on 18, Spieth tapped in for the fifth win of his PGA Tour career and his sixth worldwide victory in the last eight months. After entering the interview room, Spieth was mistakenly introduced as a still-four-time champion.
“You better get those facts right,” he joked. “I don’t get credit for Australia or Tiger’s event but at least give me credit for my PGA Tour wins.”
Spieth picked up the first of those five wins at the Deere two years ago, and while everyone else wants to talk about the Grand Slam, Spieth believes that opportunity wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t hole out from the bunker on the 72nd hole here two years ago.
“This tournament means a lot to me,” he said. “I mean this jump started my career. … I’d probably be six months to a year further back in my career had that shot not gone in and had I not survived the playoff. I wouldn’t have been in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs, the Presidents Cup, my world ranking would have been down given that I played the playoffs extremely well.
“So I would have been set back a little bit starting the next year. I could have played a different schedule. Who knows what could have happened.”
Here’s what happens now. Spieth will hop on a plane with the rest of the Deere participants heading to St. Andrews and he’ll start preparing to take to over the golf world.
Included in those preparations will be some diligent work with his driver, which got him in plenty of trouble this week at TPC Deere Run and could get him in even more next week in St. Andrews' ever-present pot bunkers. Spieth said he’ll spend the bulk of his time the next three days trying to “fine-tune” the longest clubs in his bag.
Otherwise, he’ll be taking in the sights and sounds and generally being as in awe of St. Andrews as the rest of us.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said. “I love the town. I love the R&A clubhouse. I love the – what do you call it – Himalayas putting green. The entire experience of being there was really cool. The golf course, specifically, I think it’s just mind boggling that it can stand the test of time and hold a major championship centuries after it was built.”
Spieth would be the first to ever do it in the Masters era.
He would stand alone in history.
Surely, by now, that prospect has at least crossed his mind.
“If I win next week,” he said, “then I’ll think about it.”