From now until whenever he wins a PGA Championship, be that in 2017 or 2037 or never, Jordan Spieth will hear the question: Will this be the year? Will this be the tournament that gives him the career Grand Slam, the achievement that only five other players have achieved in all of golf’s history?
Every shot now has more meaning, every putt has more importance. Until he’s able to grab his first Wanamaker Trophy, Spieth will face the burden of expectation. He can claim it’s not on his mind, but if that’s true, it’d be the first golf-related matter that Spieth hasn’t dissected from every angle.
Spieth kicked off his first attempt at the Grand Slam on Thursday alongside fellow 2017 major winners Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia, and, well … it could have gone better. Spieth carded four bogeys against three birdies to finish the round at one-over, not catastrophic but certainly not the position he prefers in major competition: the front.
Spieth’s putter, so often his ally in winning the British Open last month, abandoned him on Thursday. “Ny speed control was really off today and I burned a lot of edges,” he said after the round. “I should have been two under and I’m one over, so I’m a little frustrated by that.”
Still, it could have been far worse. With three holes to play, Spieth stood at three over and so far behind the leaders that he wasn’t in the same area code. But he birdied the seventh and eighth (he started on the 10th hole) to carve his scorecard back into a far more respectable one-over. “If I finished par-par-par,” he said, “I may have thrown myself out of this.”
He entered the clubhouse five shots off the lead. But as we’ve seen, Spieth can turn around deficits in a hurry. All in all, not an ideal start for his first shot at a career Grand Slam, but not a shipwreck, either.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.