By Doug Ferguson
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. _ Jordan Spieth was home last week in Dallas when he slipped into his green jacket from Augusta National.
It was not a special occasion for the Masters champion.
“Just kind of felt like it,” he said Monday with a grin. “Why wouldn’t I put it on, to be honest with you?”
Just don’t get the idea that the 21-year-old is content with what already has been a banner year. That runaway Masters victory was his second win of the year. He has lost in a playoff and had two other runner-up finishes. He is No. 2 in the world.
And he still has plenty he wants to achieve, starting with another major this week at the U.S. Open.
No one has talked about much about a calendar Grand Slam because only three players _ Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods _ have captured the first two legs since Palmer cooked up the notion of a modern slam in 1960.
Spieth is thinking about it, though.
“You can’t win a Grand Slam unless you win the first,” he said. “So I’m the only one with that opportunity this year. I’m going to go ahead and focus on this week and see if I can put myself in contention.”
Las Vegas bookies list Rory McIlroy and Spieth as the top betting favourites at Chambers Bay. Spieth is coming off a tie for third at the Memorial, and he said he has been hitting the ball so well that he wishes the U.S. Open had started this weekend.
His look ahead starts with a look behind.
A year ago, Spieth shared the 54-hole lead at the Masters that Bubba Watson won. A month later, he shared the 54-hole lead at The Players Championship that Martin Kaymer won. And then in his final 13 events of the PGA Tour season, he never contended and had only two top 10s. Spieth recovered at the end of the year, with a flawless final round to win the Australian Open and a 10-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.
“If I didn’t do anything the rest of the year, I’d be pretty frustrated at the second half,” Spieth said. “I felt like last year I had a down half of the year. I finished in 2014, but from around the Byron Nelson until then, I was in a little bit of a lull. I want to try and prevent that this year.”
Not since 2010 has a Masters champion contended at the U.S. Open. Phil Mickelson tied for fourth at Pebble Beach the following year. He was runner-up at the U.S. Open the other two times he won the Masters in 2004 and 2006. Woods also was runner-up at the U.S. Open the last time he won the Masters in 2005.
Spieth has a little bit more course knowledge of Chambers Bay than most players, though even that is mixed.
He failed to qualify for match play in the 2010 U.S. Amateur because he shot an 83 in his one competitive round at Chambers Bay. He wasn’t alone, of course. Chambers was new, rugged, windswept, fast and generally brutal that week.
“I tried to throw out the round that I shot on this course from my memory,” Spieth said. “I was kind of going in with a blank slate, learning from Michael and what he walked in the last week. I really enjoy the layout. I think it’s going to be a fun challenge.”
Michael would be his caddie, Michael Greller, who was a caddie at Chambers Bay when the course opened in 2007. Greller last worked the course in 2011, the year he first was on the bag for Spieth when he won the U.S. Junior Amateur at nearby Gold Mountain.
It was another round at Chambers Bay that Spieth is more likely to remember. Two years ago, he played with his caddie during week of Greller’s wedding.
“I was able to get out there and take some money off of Michael the day before his wedding,” Spieth said. “So that was nice.”