Life comes at your fast, just ask Jordan Spieth.
Three years ago, Spieth was entering the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club fresh off a win at the 2017 British Open, looking to become the sixth golfer in history to achieve the rarest feat in the game by completing the career grand slam. Fast forward to this week, and Spieth has yet to win since hoisting the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale. He arrives at TPC Harding Park having plummeted to 62nd in the world ranking.
However, he also arrives hopeful. Hopeful he soon won't occupy a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead. A group of players both past and present who won three of the four major championships but couldn't take home the grand slam.
Of the 12 current and former players to win three of four majors, four of them couldn't seal the deal the Masters, three faltered at the U.S. Open, two slipped up at the British Open and three, Spieth included, have been unable to win the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship.
"About as much as it's been since I won the Open Championship, I guess," Spieth said Tuesday when asked how the career Grand Slam is on his mind. "It's something that I really want. It's probably the No. 1 goal in the game of golf for me right now is to try and capture that. I'd love to be able to hold all four trophies, and this is the one that comes in the way right now."
Spieth has been fighting his game for the past two years, trying to find the magic that vaulted him to the world No. 1 ranking and saw him win three majors in three years. Despite his recent struggles, Spieth still has brought his best to the major championships. Since winning the 2017 British Open, Spieth has recorded five top-20 finishes, including three top-10s, in his last nine major starts.
That includes a third-place finish at last year's PGA Championship held at Bethpage Black, six shots behind Brooks Koepka. TPC Harding Park has some similarities to Bethpage Black. It's a longer Par 70 with very penal rough that will favor those who can find the fairway off the tee. While Harding Park would be categorized as a shorter course based on yardage, the heavy air in San Francisco makes the course play longer, which could see the 2020 PGA Championship have a similar leaderboard to last year's tournament.
Spieth has been average since the PGA Tour restarted from its coronavirus quarantine in mid-June. He has been scoring a ton, but has been frustrated by the bad luck that has been popping up, stymying his best chances to win.
"I almost feel at times like the game is testing me a little bit right now because I feel really good about the progress I've been making, and then it seems like I'll really have one brewing, and then I'll get where I used to hit a tree and it would go in the fairway, and now it'll hit a tree and go off the cart path out-of-bounds like it did during my most recent round," Spieth said. "It just feels like I kind of here or there am taking some punches right now as I'm really progressing in the right direction. I feel like you can look at it a couple of ways. You can get really upset and complain about it, which I've done and that's not helpful, or you can look at it like hey, this is part of the game testing you, and the better you handle these situations, the faster you progress."
With a win this week at Harding Park, Spieth not only would capture the career grand slam, but also would become the first player ranked outside the top 50 to win a major since Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA.
The recent struggles haven't zapped Spieth of his confidence and swagger. He enters the 2020 PGA believing he has as good a shot as anyone to take home the Wanamaker Trophy and the career grand slam along with it. "
"I'm working, I think, in a positive direction," Spieth said. "I'm working the right way, and even in a few years of feeling like I didn't have my "A" game any time I teed it up, I still had a chance to win three or four majors on a Sunday. Majors aren't necessarily totally about form. They're about experience and being able to grind it out, picking apart golf courses, so I feel like I probably have more confidence going into a major no matter where my game is at than any other golf tournament."
Spieth's driver has been erratic since the restart, but if he can put the ball in the fairway there should be little doubt he'll be there on Sunday with a chance to recapture his major championship swagger and reassert himself as one of the best players in the game.