It’s the Old Course but a new challenger as Jordan Spieth attempts a feat not even Tiger Woods could manage when he had the chance while in his pomp.
Spieth arrived at St Andrews on Monday, not quite to the sort of Tigermania reception that greeted Woods at Muirfield in 2002, but with no less at stake as the 21-year-old dubbed Heir Jordan continues his pursuit of golf’s grand slam.
No player has been able to win golf’s four modern-day majors in a single season, but world No.2 Spieth will tee up in the British Open on Thursday chasing the third leg after becoming just the sixth player to claim the first two at the Masters and US Open.
“What he’s doing is phenomenal,” said three-time Open champion Nick Faldo as Spieth’s peers refused to dismiss the prospect of the fearless young Texan pulling off the slam.
“The way he is playing, I don’t think there is any pressure on him,” said Australia’s No.1 Jason Day, returning to the home of golf for the first time since making the cut on his major debut in 2010.
Five years on and Day is among the favourites to sip out of the Claret Jug on Sunday, but the three-time major championship runner-up had no doubt Spieth is the player to beat, particularly in the absence of injured world No.1 Rory McIlroy.
“He is really young, he has a boatload of confidence and the way he is finishing off tournaments is pretty special right now,” said Day after Spieth caught a chartered flight from Illinois where he claimed his fourth win of 2015 on Sunday at the John Deere Classic.
“Of course he will be under some scrutiny but I don’t think he cares about it.
“He cares how he plays obviously, but his attitude is good and he knows how to win by staying in the moment.
“Normally it seems he is able to just keep pressing forward; he’s not thinking about what might happen. He’s just moving forward.
“So if he’s there on Sunday, he’ll be tough to beat.”
Woods, who held the four major trophies in 2001 but could never win them all in a calendar year, was the last of only three other players ever in with a shout of reaching golf’s holy grail entering a British Open.
But he came unstuck in the wind and rain with a third-round 81 at Muirfield in 2002, while Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Arnold Palmer (1960) each fell one shot short previously.
Spieth can also snare McIlroy’s top ranking with victory at St Andrews as the Northern Irishman sits out his home major while nursing ruptured ankle ligaments from an untimely football mishap.
“It’s unbelievable what he (Spieth) has been doing and for sure he can keep doing it. He proved that again yesterday,” said Marc Leishman, one of 15 Australians hoping to deny Spieth the spoils.
“He’s obviously had an awesome year, winning four times, two majors and then you still have this week, Bridgestone, the PGA, the (FedEx) playoffs coming up.
“So he could have a silly massive year.”