July 23, 2017 / 8:22 PM / 2 years ago

Golf: Steely Spieth banishes Masters demons

SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) - British Open champion Jordan Spieth was haunted by bad memories on Sunday as he faced up to the possibility of throwing away another big lead in the final round of a major.

Jul 23, 2017; Southport, ENG; Jordan Spieth reacts after winning the 146th Open Championship golf tournament at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The 23-year-old American frittered away a three-shot advantage and after he drove his ball into an unplayable lie at the 13th hole his playing partner Matt Kuchar edged ahead.

Spieth led last year’s U.S. Masters by five shots going into the back nine of the fourth round but found water twice in a quadruple-bogey at the 12th hole and lost the title to Danny Willett.

“Today took as much out of me as any day that I’ve ever played golf,” Spieth told reporters. “I knew that another major win would be the one thing that would prove I’m capable of closing these majors out.

“I didn’t really do much wrong, just hit a couple of bad swings. And all of a sudden it was in my own head ‘How could I not close out a five-stroke lead with nine to play?’”

After lengthy discussions with rules officials, Spieth struck his next shot at the 13th from a practice area but, unlike in his Masters meltdown, the incident seemed to inspire him.

He went birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to move two shots ahead and a solid par at the last sealed a three-stroke victory and his third major title.

“You just don’t know really what your mind is going to do to you,” Spieth said.

“You can control it to an extent but certain situations are going to bring more tension and you have to kind of channel that the right way.”

Spieth became the second player after 18-times major champion Jack Nicklaus to win three legs of the career grand slam before the age of 24 and he is the youngest British Open champion since Spain’s Seve Ballesteros in 1979.

“It’s incredible,” Spieth said. “This is as much of a high as I’ve ever experienced in my golfing life. And I’m going to enjoy it more than I’ve enjoyed anything that I’ve accomplished in the past.”

He won the U.S. Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 and if he lifts the U.S. PGA Championship trophy will become the sixth man to claim all four majors, joining an illustrious group of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

“It’s amazing. I feel blessed to be able to play the game I love. To be in that company is absolutely incredible and I certainly appreciate it,” Spieth said.

“But I’m very careful as to what that means going forward because what those guys have done has transcended the sport. And in no way, shape or form do I think I’m anywhere near that whatsoever. So it’s a good start, but there is a long way to go.”

Editing by Clare Fallon

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