Jordan Spieth ready for Open hype but plays down Rory McIlroy rivalry

Jordan Spieth ready for Open hype but plays down Rory McIlroy rivalry

Posted on - June 24 Wednesday, 2015

US Open winner praises Rory McIlroy as ‘a guy I can look up to’
Jordan Spieth seeking rare feat of winning three consecutive majors in a year

Jordan Spieth knows precisely what level of expectation awaits at next month’s Open Championship. The 21-year-old admits his biggest challenge at St Andrews will be handling such background noise.

Spieth’s success on Sunday at the US Open at Chambers Bay means he has claimed the first two majors of 2015. He is now looking to become only the third player in history, after Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods, to win three in a row in the same year.

“That is the tough part,” said Spieth of the scale of attention. “It will be interesting, there will be some hype when we arrive at St Andrews. The hardest part is going to be managing that, sticking to our gameplan and getting the right preparation.

“But there was similar hype happening around Chambers Bay. We were able to calm it down and get to work. I don’t imagine that, by the time I tee off, that it will be a struggle. I think we will have settled it down and got to work. As long as I don’t let my mind wander and I stay focused. I just want to put myself in contention and give myself another chance.”

Spieth has also expanded on why he feels uneasy about accepting the rising narrative about being involved, alongside the world No1 Rory McIlroy, in one of golf’s great rivalries. Between them, the pair hold all of golf’s majors. McIlroy will defend the Claret Jug at the Old Course.

“I think it is being established but there are a lot of young players that can still step up,” Spieth said. “Rory has four majors, dozens of wins, he is a guy I look up to and is a friend of mine.

“I don’t believe that I am on his level. I believe I am starting to get there.

“I think that rivalries are more recognised looking back. In the present, it is hard to realise it. If we can continue to do what we are doing, looking back years from now we might be saying this was a big battle. We still haven’t battled it out together so it is hard to say it is a rivalry until we are in contention, are feeding off each other and are making it fun to watch.”

Spieth has admitted to sympathy for Dustin Johnson, who three-putted the 72nd green to hand him the US Open title. “I felt for Dustin,” Spieth said. “He came up to me at the scoring area and was full of class. He took his hat off and congratulated me. I didn’t know really what to say other than ‘I’m sorry man and I appreciate it.’

“I have played a lot of rounds with Dustin. We are friends. It was tough to watch because we would both have liked to put on a show on Monday.”

Instead, Spieth was the last man standing at one of the most dramatic major championship climaxes in history. He held a three-shot lead on the 17th tee but proceeded to double bogey, with Johnson’s stumble completing a quite epic finale.

“It was crazy,” Spieth acknowledged. “It was nothing like the Masters, nothing like any tournament I have experienced.

“I played 16 so well to get a birdie and take a three-shot leading, knowing that Dustin could still birdie the last three holes. I wasn’t trying to let up, I didn’t take my foot off the pedal, my mind didn’t wander. I just played a very poor hole on 17. Three putts later I just needed to find something, to rebound on 18.

“I hit maybe the two most clutch shots I have ever hit in my life to get on the green in two there. The hardest part then was watching and not being able to control the outcome. My mind was just saying: ‘Give me a chance. Give me a chance in an 18-hole playoff tomorrow.’

“I believed that I could do it but Chambers Bay didn’t set up well for my game. It set up as a bombers’ golf course and I don’t hit the ball as far as plenty of the guys. Augusta, I feel, sets up well for me. I am happy to have won on a links-style course since the next two majors are also on links courses.”