PGA Championship the perfect place for Jordan Spieth to rise again

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — The way Jordan Spieth sees it in his mind, which is the only place that matters, he’s doing just fine, thank you.

Yes, even when he was going nearly four years without a victory (the drought beginning after he won the 2017 British Open and ending when he won the Valero Texas Open early last month).

Make no mistake: Spieth’s been searching and grinding to find his form, yes. But he’s fine, thank you.

When you win 11 times in your first four years on the PGA Tour and three of those wins are major championships, outside expectations can become suffocating when your results don’t meet them.

Spieth, even mired in his most exasperating struggles, has been determined to deftly avoid the pitfalls of outside expectations and the psychological effect they can have on a player.

“It’s very exaggerated on both ends, so there’s no use in getting caught up in it,’’ Spieth said Tuesday in advance of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, which begins Thursday on the Ocean Course. “I’ve seen it on both sides when it’s just so temporary. It’s like, ‘What have you done the last couple weeks?’ I have one good Saturday in Phoenix and they’re like, ‘Oh, so you’re back.’

“It’s like, ‘I shot one good round.’ This is a thing I want to do for 20 years … play consistent golf. Yeah, I’ve had some pretty high ups and some pretty low lows for my age, but it’s just part of the learning curve, I think.’’

Spieth said he occasionally gets well-meaning “unsolicited advice’’ when he’s struggling, but politely tunes it out.

“The weirdest part is just when you’re out and about at a golf course or even at like a restaurant and someone is like, ‘Hey … hope you figure it out’ or something like that,’’ he said. “I’m like, ‘OK, it’s golf.’ You’ve just got to kind of brush and laugh it off and stick to your game plan and believe in yourself, bet on yourself. I’ve always done that, and I feel like that’s paid off pretty well to this point. If any next eight years are like my last eight years, I’d certainly sign up for that.’’

And why not?

Spieth (close your ears, Jordan) is trending toward a possible run at another successful streak at the moment. In his last nine tournaments entering this week, he has a win at the Valero Texas Open, seven top-10 finishes, including five top 5s.

By the look and feel of his game the past four months, it looks like he’s on the other side of his slide.

“Obviously, we get to see what goes on here [at tournaments], but I’m fortunate enough to see what goes on back home, and there’s nobody that works harder than him,’’ Will Zalatoris, a fellow Texan and friend of Spieth, said. “It was just a matter of time. Even at points where we thought, ‘Oh, he’s really in a slump, he’s lost,’ he just put his nose down and went back to work.

“I think really probably six or seven months ago is when he started doing some Jordan things again … the disgusting chip-ins, the 40-footers that when you’re playing against him they’re awful, when you’re playing with him they’re the best thing on earth. It’s been fun to see. The guy has been a role model since I was 9.’’

Spieth stands a PGA Championship victory away from becoming only the sixth player in the history of the sport to complete the career Grand Slam with a win in each of the four major championships. He would join Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

When asked on Tuesday if the potential for accomplishing that historic feat is on his mind this week, Spieth insisted “it’s not.’’

“As we get into the weekend, if I’m able to work my way into contention, I think it’s something that’ll obviously be asked and [will] come up, and it’s something that I certainly want,’’ he said. “Majors are what we’re trying to peak for. I feel like I’ll have a lot of chances at this tournament, and if I just focus on trying to take advantage of this golf course, play it the best I can and kind of stay in the same form tee to green I’ve been in, all I can ask for is a chance.’’

Based on his recent form and the fact that, as a native Texan, he’s comfortable playing in the wind (and it almost always blows on the Ocean Course), Spieth has as good a chance as anyone this week.

If he wins, those “pretty high ups’’ he spoke of will be in overdrive. And he’ll know exactly how to handle them.

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