Australian Open Champion Jordan Spieth will return to defend his title in 2017 with three Major Championships to his name following a dramatic final round win in the 2017 (British) Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Playing alongside fellow American Matt Kucher, Spieth relinquished his 3 shot lead within the first 4 holes on Sunday - and worse was to come.
When he carved his tee shot way right on the 13th hole and behind a huge sandy dune all appeared lost - and everyone, Spieth included, recalled his disastrous quadruple bogey that cost him the 2016 US Masters, when he hit two balls into the water on the par 3 12th at Amen Corner and then his quadruple bogey again at this year's Masters when he took a nine on the 15th. But this time, at just 23 years young, Spieth displayed remarkable thought and calm. He took an unplayable which allowed him to drop some 30 metres back near the practice green. Then he took relief from sponsor trucks which permitted him to gain a near-perfect lie on the practice fairway. The process took nearly half an hour, but enabled Spieth to escape with just one dropped shot - now one behind Kucher.
What followed will be recorded as one of the greatest closing stretches in the history of the game - let alone at a Major.
BIRDIE - EAGLE - BIRDIE - BIRDIE to regain a two-shot lead over a stunned Matt Kucher, who never stopped smiling even as Jordan apologised for the lengthy delay on 13. The tee shot at the par 3 14th almost holed out - perhaps he should have apologised again, and surely when he drained that monstrous putt for eagle on 15.
"Once I lost my lead completely, and we were tied, I actually felt the nerves go away for a few holes until I got the lead again," he said at interview. "And it's just kind of powering through that. You don't really know what your mind is going to do to you sometimes. You can control it to an extent, but certain situations are going to bring more tension, and you have to channel that the right way, play the right shots. That was a difficult thing to do because it was just so up and down."
Spieth becomes just the second man after the great Jack Nicklaus to win three Majors before he turns 24. When he won the Masters in 2015 he equalled Tiger's record 18 under, including 28 birdies! He is well ahead of Tiger Woods in the number of rounds lead at this early stage of his career.
Spieth has already announced that he will return Down Under to defend his title in 2017. Hopefully we'll see more too from the best Aussie finisher - Marc Leishman, whose final round of 65 and a total of four under propelled him into sixth place.
Leishman recorded rounds of 69, 76, 66, 65 over the four days to pick up around US$300,000 having only just made the cut on Friday night at five over.
“I am happy with the day. I hit a lot of good shots, holed some good putts. And considering I made the cut on the number it was — it turned into a good week,” he said.
Aaron Baddeley had one of the lowest scores of the day with a 64 to finish The Open at one over. He tied for 27th, the same result as Jason Day who struggled in the final round, including an opening hole double bogey.
But Adam Scott fired in a solid three under par 67 to finish at evens and tied for 22nd. Scott said Spieth had told him how excited he was to be coming back to Australia for the Australian Open.
Scott said: “It’s awesome. It’s really great for the tournament. Great for Australian golf. I love the fact that Jordan enjoys coming down, and he’s already said how excited he is to me to be coming back and playing, it’s a big boost for us.”
But one player still undecided if he can make the Australian Open is Newcastle’s Andrew Dodt who finished at evens for the day and three over for the Championship to finish 44th.
Dodt said the Australian Open clashed with the first event of the 2018 European Tour in Hong Kong.
“That’s a tough one, I have to see what happens,” he said. Scott Hend was punished for two double bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes and finished four over, tied for 54th.