Final major not an easy task

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Three down, one to go for Jordan Spieth.
Posted on
May 8, 2018
Ben Brett in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Three down, one to go for Jordan Spieth.

Only it's not always that simple.

Spieth only has to wait three weeks until he gets his first crack at the career Grand Slam at the PGA Championship. He won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015, and he added the British Open with his furious finish at Royal Birkdale.

Of the five players who have won the career Grand Slam, no one has ever completed it at the PGA Championship.

Gene Sarazen got the final leg at the 1935 Masters before anyone knew what the professional Grand Slam was. Ben Hogan might be the most impressive of the quintet - he won the only British Open he played. Gary Player completed the slam in the 1965 U.S. Open, while Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods got it at the British Open.

"It's a life goal of mine," Spieth said.

His hope is that it doesn't take a lifetime, and he only has to consider Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson.

Palmer captured the third leg when he won the British Open in 1961. He played the PGA Championship 34 more times without winning. He was a runner-up three times, trailing by one shot going into the final round in 1964 (won by Bobby Nichols) and two shots going into the final round in 1968 (won by Julius Boros).

Watson got the third leg in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He played 24 more times in the PGA Championship, two in a more ceremonial position as the Ryder Cup captain and had his best chance in 1993 at Inverness. He started the final round one shot behind Greg Norman but closed with a 72 and finished four shots behind.

His only runner-up finish was a lost opportunity that came back to haunt him. Watson led wire-to-wire at Oakmont in 1978 until closing with a 73 and losing in a playoff to John Mahaffey, who started the last day seven shots behind.

Spieth turns 24 on Thursday.

"He's going to play in 30 more PGAs the rest of his life," caddie Michael Greller said. "He's just won a major. That's what we talked about in '15 when we won the Masters. There's absolutely no pressure on him."

Spieth already has one runner-up in the PGA Championship, two years ago at Whistling Straits, when he started two shots behind Jason Day and couldn't catch up.

He is among three active players who are one major away from the career Grand Slam.

Phil Mickelson won his third at the British Open in 2013 at Muirfield, leaving him only the U.S. Open. Since then, Mickelson finished 15 shots out of the lead at Pinehurst No. 2, 18 shots out of the lead at Chambers Bay and he missed the cut at Oakmont. He didn't play the U.S. Open this year.

Rory McIlroy won the third leg at the British Open in 2014, his second straight major. He has had three top 10s in the Masters, the major he lacks for the Grand Slam, though he has never seriously contended. McIlroy has finished six shots behind each of the last three years at Augusta National.

How will Spieth respond at Quail Hollow in North Carolina when the PGA Championship starts on Aug. 10? One consideration is how he viewed his four-shot lead at the Masters that he converted into a green jacket.

"A huge monkey off the back," Spieth said a few weeks ago about getting his first major. "The longer you go without is making each one harder. Look at DJ (Dustin Johnson) before he won, or Sergio (Garcia). Recognizing I was so young, you don't get opportunities like that."

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