The vantage point is rapidly becoming historic for Jordan Spieth, who at age 21 is racking up achievements that already put him in the pantheon of all-time greats. | Larry Stone
UNIVERSITY PLACE — In the end, it was all just a swirl of raw emotion for Jordan Spieth, who once was deemed the future of golf but now is its shining present.
There was jubilation, of course, for winning the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on Sunday in the most dramatic, and improbable, of fashions.
There was empathy, as Dustin Johnson three-putted on the 18th hole to squander first a chance for outright victory and then a share of the lead with Spieth.
There was relief, certainly, as Spieth’s own glaring misstep, a double-bogey on 17 that opened the door for Johnson, failed to haunt him.
And there was something deeper, more elemental, which became apparent when Spieth and his dad, Shawn, embraced on Father’s Day, the son bestowing the glittering gift of a second straight major championship.
Photos from the U.S. Open
“I feel for Dustin,’’ Spieth said, “but I haven’t been able to put anything in perspective yet.”
Certainly, the vantage point is rapidly becoming historic for Spieth, who at age 21 is racking up achievements that already put him in the pantheon of all-time greats. He became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones, also 21, in 1923, and the youngest ever of the six golfers to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
Now Spieth is halfway to becoming the first golfer to win the game’s grand slam — all four majors in one year. The next step will be the British Open at St. Andrew, Scotland, next month. Tiger Woods — whose place at the forefront of pro golf Spieth is usurping — held all four titles simultaneously in 2001 and 2002, but not in the same calendar year.
“You can’t win them all unless you win the first two, I guess,” Spieth said.
After all the griping about Chambers Bay and the sniping about the ragged greens, which only accelerated Sunday as the also-rans whined their way out of town, the final memory of this golf tournament was pure, unadulterated, unscripted drama.
“I’ve never experienced a feeling like this: total shock,’’ Spieth said, his trophy glinting next to him on the podium.
The final stretch of three holes was absolutely riveting, as the tournament’s story line was transformed from course conditions to golf performance, as it should be. On a gorgeous first day of summer, there was a maelstrom of charges and retreats that gave any number of golfers a fighter’s chance to take the victory.
There was Adam Scott, who roared into contention with a course-record 64. There was Louis Oosthuizen, who finished with birdies on six of the final seven holes, the last of which, on 18, pulled him into a tie with Spieth.
There was Spieth’s playing partner, relative unknown Branden Grace, who kept pace with Spieth the whole day until clanking his drive on 16 out of bounds and practically onto the train tracks.
The resulting double-bogey effectively ended Grace’s hopes — particularly with a birdie putt by Spieth on the same hole that gave him a three-stroke lead. The building drama seemed suddenly drained. Surely, the preternaturally composed Spieth would now easily wrap this baby up.
“When that putt fell on16, I was as animated as I’ve been maybe since I threw a tantrum on the course at age 13,’’ Spieth said. “I thought that was the one. Then I soon talked myself out of that being the one.”
The reference was to his errant drive into the rough on the 17th hole that set into motion a double-bogey. When his putt for a bogey missed, Spieth put his head down in disgust and leaned on the shoulder of caddie Michael Greller, the former math teacher whose home course is Chambers Bay. He knew it was about to get real.
Certain victory became agonizing tension after Johnson, playing in the final group right behind Spieth and Grace, racked up a birdie on 17 to pull into a tie.
The story of this tournament will be nearly as much the downfall of Johnson as the coronation of Spieth. Three times before Johnson had started in the final group of a major, and each time he came up short — twice in particularly agonizing fashion. He shot a final-round 82 in the 2010 U.S. Open to blow a three-shot lead, and had to give up a spot in a playoff in the 2010 PGA championship when assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club before striking the ball in a bunker on the final hole.
But this might be the one that haunts Johnson the longest — and deepest. After Spieth barely missed an eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole and settled for a birdie, Johnson lined up his own eagle putt on 18 to win outright. It was so quiet you could hear the massive bleachers creaking, the sort of intense silence you don’t often get with a gathering of thousands.
Johnson missed that putt — and then missed the resulting 3-footer that would have set up an 18-hole playoff on Monday.
Johnson visibly sagged, agony written on his face. Johnson’s taking three putts from 12 feet, 4 inches will go down in golf history.
But Johnson’s demeanor brightened when his fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of the hockey great, met him at the top of the hill and handed him their infant son. It was Johnson’s first Father’s Day — Monday is his 31st birthday — and he seemed to be grappling with the realization that life might not be as bad as it had seemed minutes earlier. A slight smile crept over his face.
That was to be contrasted with the utter ecstasy that engulfed Spieth.
“It was incredible to win another major,’’ he said. “You only get a few moments in life like this, and I recognize that.”
That moment deserves to be the epitaph for this U.S. Open as much as the debate about the worthiness of the course, which will no doubt rage on.
“Obviously, it was controversial,’’ said Greller, the Washingtonian who carries Spieth’s clubs, “but I think Jordan put a real positive exclamation point on this week.”
|Youngest U.S. Open champions|
|Jordan Spieth became the youngest player in 92 years to win the U.S. Open. Here are the 10 youngest to win the tournament:|
|1. John J. McDermott||1911||19 years 10 months|
|2. Francis Ouimet||1913||20 years, 4 months|
|3. Gene Sarazen||1922||20 years, 6 months|
|4. Bobby Jones||1923||21 years, 3 months|
|5. Walter Hagen||1914||21 years, 8 months|
|6. Willie Anderson||1901||21 years, 8 months|
|7. Jordan Spieth||2015||21 years, 10 months|
|8. Horace Rawlins||1895||22 years, 1 month|
|9. Rory McIlroy||2011||22 years, 2 months|
|10. Jack Nicklaus||1962||22 years, 4 months|