In 2014 Rory McIlroy won his fourth major at age 25 and the world met its next golf star. Then in 2015 Jordan Spieth won The Masters and the US Open aged 22. Six months later Jason Day began a run of seven victories in 17 starts, including the 2015 PGA Championship.
The ‘big three’ was conceived and inhuman feats were required to summit the world ranking. The parameters for long hitting and sure putting were redefined, and intense expectation came with the territory.
This week Spieth heads to Muirfield Village Golf Club after a victory at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, where he birdied the final three holes. Prior to the win he had finished outside the top 25 twice in 11 PGA Tour starts, yet headlines referred to the spell as a slump.
Whether he’ll admit it or not, the pressure was there for the young Texan, who roared out celebrations with his victory at Colonial Country Club on Sunday. It had been four months since he last held a trophy.
Spieth is almost two world ranking points shy of number one and needs to contend on Sunday at Muirfield Village in order to stamp his authority on the scene.
His history at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course includes a tie for 19th place in 2014 and a share of third last year.
It’s obscure that nothing short of a top-five result has become the benchmark in a sport where things can (and do) go horribly wrong. At Muirfield Village in 2013 Spieth shot a Saturday 82 on his way to a tied-63rd result.
He’s a different player from three years ago and the world of golf has changed with him. This week at Jack’s Place it will take heroics to overcome Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, who both enter the week having won in their last start.
Spieth has a chance to deal his two rivals a serious blow, but it will take a superhuman effort. It’s tough at the top.