By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Tulsa
Jordan Spieth has vowed to embrace the challenge of playing in front of massive crowds alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as he bids to win the US PGA Championship and complete the career grand slam.
McIlroy admitted he was happy to make his own attempt to complete the grand slam at the Masters largely “unhindered” thanks to the attention on Woods making another improbable injury comeback at Augusta National.
Spieth will not have that luxury at Southern Hills though, the former world number one having being placed in a stellar group with Woods and McIlroy for the first two rounds in Tulsa, where Woods won his 13th major title in the 2007 US PGA.
Tiger. Rory. Jordan.
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“They’re both just great to play with,” Spieth said. “They’re quick. They’re positive.
“I think you’ve got to embrace it and have fun and recognise these are the kind of pairings I’ll get to tell my kid about some day. I got to play with Tiger in a major. Last year, you weren’t sure if that was ever going to happen again.
“I know it’s obviously great for golf, but selfishly it’s pretty exciting to be able to play these events with the guy that you idolised growing up.
“You know there’s going to be some extra noise. You’ve got to wait longer for the crosswalks. When Tiger finishes out on a hole there’s going to be people leaving.
“You just know it’s going to happen, and honestly if there’s enough of it, it doesn’t bother you. It’s when it’s super quiet and the one thing is yelled when you can flinch.”
Spieth has had five attempts to complete the grand slam since adding the 2017 Open title to the Masters and US Open he won in 2015, recording a best finish of third in 2019, albeit six shots behind Brooks Koepka.
The 28-year-old comes into the week on the back of a victory in the RBC Heritage and second place in the AT&T Byron Nelson in his last two starts and is also a fan of the layout at Southern Hills.
“When it’s Wednesday it’s hard to say it’s the best chance I’ve had to complete the slam because you’ve got to play three nice rounds to have a chance on Sunday,” Spieth said.
“I don’t talk about it much with other people. But it’s certainly at this point an elephant in the room for me. It’s a goal of mine.
“If you just told me I was going to win one tournament the rest of my life, I’d say I want to win this one, given where things are at.
“If you told me that before my career started I was going to win one tournament ever, I’d say the Masters because that was my favourite tournament growing up.
“But things change and long term it would be really cool to say that you captured the four biggest golf tournaments in the world.”
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Woods remarkably made the cut in the Masters on his return to top-level competitive action 14 months after almost losing his right leg in a car accident in Los Angeles.
Surprisingly, Spieth made an early exit from Augusta for the first time in his career and did not even watch the final round as fellow Texan Scottie Scheffler claimed his first major title.
“I didn’t feel very good about myself knowing Tiger was on one leg and he made the cut and I didn’t,” Spieth joked. “But he also beat everybody in a US Open on one leg, so when I thought about that, it made me feel a little better.
“It’s pretty incredible what he did there (Augusta), given everything that happened. Justin (Thomas) had seen him a lot but, from the little bit I knew, I was like, man, I hope he can walk rounds with his son some day.
“Sure enough, he teed it up in the Father-Son (PNC Championship) later that year and then made the cut in the Masters, and here he is on a course he’s won a major before.
“You can’t ever doubt the man anymore. He just continues to amaze people.”