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Jordan Spieth surged to victory at the Open Championship on Sunday, raising his career major count to three. That’s still one fewer than world No. 4 Rory McIlroy, but according to one PGA Tour pro, Spieth has a key advantage that could help him pass his rival sooner rather than later.
The pro, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Spieth’s mental game and desire are what set him apart from the crowd. According to Golf World’s Brian Wacker:
“A few of us were talking about it and we agreed there’s more drive with Jordan and more determination to be No. 1 and to be the greatest,’ said one veteran American player. ‘Don’t get me wrong, Rory wants to win and wants that green jacket, but his life has changed a little bit. He’s married now. He has a different lifestyle now. The same is true of Dustin Johnson, too. There’s a different drive there for Jordan.”
The assessment makes sense. Johnson and McIlroy may drive the ball farther than Spieth, but they’ve also had to endure the grind of touring for twice as long, since 2007. Both are married; Johnson has a young family. Spieth, meanwhile, is under 25 and unmarried, a perfect combination for making golf the chief focus in his life.
Spieth has long been lauded for his winning mentality, which was on full display at Royal Birkdale. On Sunday, Spieth hit his worst drive of the week on the 13th hole, but he meticulously used the rules to his advantage (and got an assist from his caddie) to save bogey. The dropped shot caused him to fall out of the lead, but he went on to make birdie or eagle on each of the next four holes to reclaim a big cushion.
“I felt 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,” Spieth said after the round. “And then they were back. And it’s just kind of powering through that. You just don’t know really 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 kind of channel that the right way, play the right shots.”
Reigning PGA Champion Jimmy Walker may have done an even better job of summing up Spieth’s mental toughness: “It’s Jordan being Jordan.”
Spieth has won three events and nearly $6.8 million this season, tops on the PGA Tour. Johnson and McIlroy, meanwhile, have had mysterious years. Johnson won back-to-back World Golf Championship events in March but has been shut out of the top 50 in all three majors, while McIlroy has been hampered by a rib injury and erratic to boot.
All three will be back in action next month at the PGA Championship. Spieth and McIlroy are the current favorites.