On a course renowned for its vicious character, at a tournament expected to finish around even par, all Jordan Spieth did on Thursday morning at the Open Championship was throw down an opening-round 65. The Vengeance Tour is underway.
Two years ago almost to the day, Spieth holed a long, curling birdie putt on the 70th hole at St. Andrews to pull into a tie for first place. At that moment, Spieth—who had won both the Masters and the U.S. Open earlier in the year—was on a roll unlike golf had seen since the days of Tiger Woods. And at that moment, it appeared Spieth was about to snare the Claret Jug with a last-second charge.
It wasn’t to be. Spieth drifted his tee shot on the Road Hole, bogeyed and finished a shot out of a playoff. He hasn’t won at a major since. Coincidence? Probably. But Spieth’s enough of a golf historian to understand just how infrequently such chances come along.
“Five years [playing in the Open] doesn’t make me a veteran, but it helps me realize kind of how things go,” Spieth said earlier in the week. “I was pretty [hot] in 2015, and this year I’m not … But if we keep on trying to improve each part of the game, stick to the process, then we’ll have the results that we want.”
Spieth did indeed trust the process on Thursday, and the result, at a windy but not unplayable Royal Birkdale, was a clubhouse-leading 65. That total tied for his second-best round in a major, one behind his 64 in the first round of the 2016 Masters. He did exactly what he had to do: weather the brutal first and sixth holes, and pick up strokes where he could. His bogey-free round featured three birdies on the front nine and two on the back, and a couple short putts that should have dropped on 15 and 18 could have built him an impregnable lead.
Even though U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka would go on to match Spieth’s five-under card, Spieth is in an excellent position right now, one-quarter of the way home. And with 25-mph winds and rain expected to roll in off the Atlantic for Friday’s round, there’s every possibility Spieth has already carved out what he needs to be in a late group on Sunday.
“We don’t know what we’re going to get right now,” he said after the round. “There’s a good chance that where I am right now is plenty good enough to win.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.