ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – After arriving on a charter flight from Illinois, Jordan Spieth was the last player on the Old Course Monday evening.
It was nearly 9 p.m. local time when he wrapped up his first 18-hole practice round for the Open Championship, the first time he had seen the course in four years.
Of course, this experience is nothing like that quick spin around St. Andrews with his U.S. Walker Cup teammates. Here this week, Spieth is the 5-1 favorite to win and join Ben Hogan (1953) as the only players to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same season.
In the past 21 hours, Spieth captured the John Deere Classic for his fourth victory of the season, flew across the pond, checked into his rental house and then, finally, began his Open prep.
Showing no sign of jet lag on a calm, sunny afternoon, Spieth played a practice round mostly by himself, in front of only about 100 fans, accompanied by caddie Michael Greller, swing coach Cameron McCormick and manager Jay Danzi.
In the group ahead was Tiger Woods, who spent Monday with Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland. Woods stayed back to putt on the 16th green as Spieth played through. They shook hands, hit shots around the green and chatted for about 10 minutes.
Approaching the 17th green, Spieth asked the fans whether the road to the right of the Road Hole is out of bounds. (It is not.) He clipped a few shots off the cart path and the road, and then Greller threw him four balls so Spieth could try and bank shots off the wall and onto the green. After each strike, he flinched and spun away, lest he catch one in the face. One attempt sailed up and over the wall and into the grandstand, sending two fans scurrying for the souvenir.
With the massive grandstands empty and long shadows stretching across the famed 18th, Spieth smashed a drive down the left side of the fairway. Greller posed for photos on the Swilcan Bridge as Spieth strode up the 18th fairway alone, trailed only by a videographer. When he arrived at his ball, he surveyed his options and hit a flip wedge to a few feet.
After a little more work, he signed autographs for the handful of fans waiting by the green, bounded up the steps and across the pedestrian walkway, and left the course. His long Monday was complete.