By Ann Liguori
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WFAN) — The way Jordan Spieth goes about his business on and off the golf course is beyond impressive.
He is a lesson in resiliency, leadership, intensity, and respect. He’s only 24 years old but often acts more wise and mature than a man three times his age. A three-time major champion in a position to win a career grand slam already, Spieth says faith, family and golf are his top three priorities — in that order.
On the course, he wears his emotions on his sleeve and lets the whole world in to watch and hear his thoughts as he and caddy Michael Greller strategize every move and discuss each shot.
We’ve seen Spieth look as cool as a cucumber or as flustered and frustrated as can be, only to reveal his resilient side in the face of every challenge.
Spieth shook off an epic meltdown on the 12th at Augusta National at the 2016 Masters, regained his composure and birdied 13 and 15 and just missed a birdie on 16. The damage had been done and Danny Willet would go on to win by three shots, but Spieth’s ability to bounce back after such a disastrous turn spoke volumes.
At the British Open a few weeks ago, Spieth turned a wayward tee shot on the 13th at Birkdale into an amazing bogey, after taking a drop from the equipment trailers. He then proceeded to birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie his way to the greatest finish ever.
Yes, this man’s brilliance, talent and focus are on display each and every week he plays.
Which is why it’s difficult to believe he says he won’t put “added expectations or pressure” on himself this week at Quail Hollow as he attempts to become the youngest player to win a career grand slam. I understand Spieth needs to downplay the significance of a PGA Championship, but you know as well as I do that he wants to win this week in the worst way and complete his historic run now.
Only five other players have won a career grand slam: Gene Sarazen (completed in 1935), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1965), Jack Nicklaus (1966) and Tiger Woods (2000).
Spieth’s dramatic victory at the British Open, coupled with his Masters and U.S. Open triumphs in 2015, have put him in this enviable position. What a story it would be if he could continue his stellar play and complete his mission this week at Quail Hollow.
But when I asked him how he can avoid putting pressure on himself and minimize the expectations over the next few days, particularly due to his intensity, Spieth answered, “There will be pressure. This is a major championship. I mean, this is one of the four pivotal weeks of the year that we focus on. So there will be pressure. I’m simply stating there won’t be added expectations or pressure.
“How? I don’t know. I just don’t feel it,” he added. “It’s not a burning desire to have to be the youngest to do something, and that would be the only reason there would be added expectations. The more years you go on playing PGAs, and if I don’t win one in the next 10 years then maybe there’s added pressure then, and hopefully we don’t have to have this conversation in 10 years. But if we do, then it might be different.”
Spieth said he’s still pumped up about what he accomplished across the pond.
“But it was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg, and that’s so fresh in my mind. I’m so happy about that, that I can’t add pressure to this week,” he said. “I’m free-rolling. And it feels good. I’m about as free and relaxed at a major than I think I’ve ever felt. Now you get into the heat of things, certainly that changes things, because I recognize where we are and what it would mean to win a major.”
Spieth has looked more free and relaxed than I’ve seen him in the past. He started his quest on Thursday at 8:25 a.m., in a group with 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia and U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka.
And keeping cool, having fun, and staying free and relaxed is the best approach mentally to take this week as he plays for more history.
But what will continue to impress me the most about Spieth, no matter how he finishes this week, is the respect he shows others and how he shares the process with all who watch as he continues his quest to be the best.
Hats off to him.
Please follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori