St. Andrews’ Road Hole bites Jordan Spieth

 

FitzbeatsquareIt’s been a long time — not since 1953 has a player won the first three Majors of a PGA Golf season. Ben Hogan is the only player in history to achieve that remarkable accomplishment.

Jordan Spieth, 21 years old and winner of four PGA tournaments in 2015 and the first two Majors, the Masters and the U.S. Open, came to St. Andrews, the historic birthplace of the game of golf some 400 years ago, with that chance..

Spieth, the talented new superstar in professional golf, gave it the old college try. He has talent and the mental strength rarely seen in a player his age. He’s the youngest player since Bobby Jones in 1927 to win the United States Open.

His vision of achieving the Grand Slam in Golf came to an end Monday at St. Andrews in the Open Championship. It’s the 29th time the Open Championship has been played at historic St. Andrews.

American Zach Johnson is the champion golfer of the year. He won his first Open title with a final round 66 and his second Major Championship by winning a four-hole playoff over South African Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman.

Johnson rallied from three shots back on the final round to gain the playoff victory. Three players — Oosthuizen, Jason Day, and amateur Paul Dunne — started the final round tied for the Open lead.

Spieth was just one shot back going into the final round, and that’s where he finished. A rare Monday finish was required because of cold rain and high winds off the North Atlantic gusting to 50 miles per hour on Saturday.

The Road Hole, which is the 17th, is a 501-yard uphill dogleg par 4 where you actually have to hit your tee shot over the corner of the Old Course Hotel. It’s a beast of a hole that has denied many great players over the years a chance at victory. This week was no different.

The green is next to a road, which is where you go if you hit your shot long over the green protected in front by a nasty, deep pot bunker that is difficult to get out of.

Years ago, in 1983, the great Tom Watson was denied back-to-back Open titles because he hit his second shot from the fairway on to the road. He made a bogie to fall out of a tie for the lead, and Seve Ballesteros won.

The average score for the championship on the 17th par 4 was 4.80 by the best players in the world. The final round saw just one birdie and 26 pars, 48 bogeys, six doubles and two triples on the 17th. In the playoff, all three players made bogies on the 17th.

History’s been kind to Spieth until the Road Hole bit him. Spieth was plus three on the world’s toughest hole. He was tied for the Open lead with a chance at history in the final round going to the 17th with two players until he made bogie.

He missed the playoff by one shot. Johnson birdied the 18th hole to reach 15 under par to get in the playoff. Leishman bogied the 17th also after having come to the hole with the lead at 16 under par.

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Spieth and Hogan are the only players in history to have won the Masters and U.S. Open with a chance to achieve the Grand Slam in golfby winning the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship. Woods remains the only player in history not in a calendar year to win all four championships in succession. It’s called the Tiger Slam.

Johnson won the playoff with a one under par score and becomes only the sixth player in history to win the Masters at Augusta National and the Open Championship at historic St. Andrews, joining Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Sam Snead.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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