PINEHURST, N.C. — Jordan Spieth already has the distinction of being the only player to be in the final group on the final day at the two biggest tournaments of the season — the Masters and The Players Championship.
Now that he has accomplished his goal of contending in major tournaments — and he considers The Players a fifth major — his objective has changed. Now he wants to win one.
And, at age 20, he feels he is ready.
“I think now if I can get into that position, the goal isn’t just to feel the feelings and try to get the comfort level,” Spieth said. “Now it’s to really try and put into place what Augusta as well as The Players have taught me.”
Spieth lost to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a tournament he led after 62 holes; and ended up finishing fourth to Martin Kaymer at The Players after briefly taking the final-round lead.
But those experiences have shown Spieth that he is not only capable of contending when the U.S. Open begins today at restored Pinehurst No. 2, but he also is capable of winning and becoming the youngest champion in 103 years.
“I believe that I can win this golf tournament,” Spieth said. “I feel comfortable on this golf course. I think it fits my game. And when I step on the first tee that’s what I’m trying to do. And if I get into contention, I’m definitely, by this point, am going to draw off any experience I’ve had, which now I do have a little experience. And I feel like I will be able to close this one out, if I get an opportunity.”
If Spieth gets the opportunity and closes it out, he would be the youngest U.S. Open champion since John J. McDermott was 19 when he won in 1911.
Phil Mickelson, who played a practice round Tuesday with Spieth, thinks it’s a very good possibility.
“Seeing the talent and the shot making that Jordan has is exciting,” said Mickelson, who will be paired with defending U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and British Amateur champion Andrew Fitzpatrick the first two rounds. “That’s his strength is his ability to create shots. He has every shot you could want to hit, every shot with an iron. And he’s not afraid to use it in competition to get back at some of those pins.”
Spieth was looking as if he might become the youngest Masters champ in history when he made four birdies in the first seven holes in a final-round pairing with Watson to take a two-shot lead.
But he bogeyed Nos. 8 and 9 and Watson birdied on both, and Spieth never recovered from the four-shot swing.
It was much the same at The Players, too. Playing in the final twosome with Kaymer, Spieth birdied the second and fourth holes to take the lead. But, after not making a bogey in 58 holes, Spieth ended the streak with bogeys on three of the next five holes and ended up tied for fourth.
“I learned a lot from both experiences,” Spieth said. “I felt like I struck the ball better, played smarter shots at The Players, I just got bounces that didn’t go my way. So coming in here, that’s all behind me. I’ve gotten what I think I needed to learn from those experiences and I will put that into account, if I can work my way into contention here. But I’m very excited. I mean, we all get revved up for these events.
“Out here, it’s going to be even more difficult to stay patient, which has been the biggest thing that’s led me to be successful in those two events. This is the hardest tournament in the world to be patient in.”
Spieth will have his family with him this week, staying in the house he rented and making him feel “more at home.” That includes his sister, Ellie, who is 13 and is a special-needs child. Spieth said she was born eight weeks early and is on the “autism spectrum,” but hasn’t been officially diagnosed.
“She’s the best thing that’s happened to our family,” Spieth said. “She’s hilarious. She is going to be here. My family is coming in; it’s going to be really exciting to have her here. She’s come to a few golf tournaments and she really enjoys it. It’s going to be really, really cool having her here.”
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.