Overnight leader and World No. 3 Jordan Spieth rallied for a 1-under-par 37-32=69 in the final round of the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club to post 12-under 268, good for a three-shot victory over playing competitor Matt Kuchar (69), and six clear of third-place finisher Haotong Li of China (63).
The 23-year-old, who turns 24 on July 27th, bags his third major title in his 19th major appearance, joining the 2015 Masters and 2015 U.S. Open.
He is the second player to win 3 legs of the career Grand Slam prior to the age of 24 (Jack Nicklaus, 1963), and can complete the deal in three weeks at the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
1st- Jordan Spieth: 65-69-65-69 (-12)
2nd- Matt Kuchar: 65-71-66-69 (-9)
3rd- Haotong Li: 69-73-69-63 (-6)
T4- Rory McIlroy: 71-68-69-67 (-5)
T4- Rafa Cabrera Bello: 67-73-67-68 (-5)
The Texan was the only player to post all four rounds in the 60s – the first time he’s accomplished that in a major – and is just the fourth player to win The Open with four rounds in the 60s (Woods, 2000); (Price, 1994); (Norman, 1993).
Spieth wins in his fifth Open appearance, is a second top 10, having finished T4 in 2015 – one shot short of a three-man playoff – in his bid to win the first three majors of that year.
In 2015, he arrived off consecutive victories at the U.S. Open and a playoff win at the John Deere the week prior.
This year, Spieth checked in off a playoff win at the Travelers four weeks ago in his tourney debut and as an 8/1 fave outright.
At the Travelers, Spieth led after each of the first three rounds before being matched by Daniel Berger, and then defeated him on the first playoff hole with a hole-out birdie-3 from a green side bunker.
This week, he co-led after 18 holes with Kuchar and reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka; led outright thru 36 holes by two (over Kuchar); and carried a three-shot lead into the finale, also over Kuchar.
Spieth, a pre-tourney 12/1 fave, took all of four holes to squander his lead, opening with bogeys at Nos. 1, 3 and 4 (3-putt), while Kuchar matched him on 8-under total, exchanging birdie-3 at 2 with bogey-5 at 3.
Spieth bounced back with birdie-3 at 5 but squared his fourth bogey with a 3-putt at the ninth to turn 3-over. Kuchar, vying for his first major title in his 47th major appearance, squared bogey-5 at 6 but circled birdie-3 at 9 to turn even-par, still tied for the lead on 8-under.
At this point, the 21-year-old Li, making his second major appearance and Open debut, was in the clubhouse on 6-under 274 after a sparkling bogey-free 63, circling seven of his final 11 holes.
Having begun the day T29 on 1-over, a distant 12 in arrears of Spieth, Li was now within two and sticking around for the finish. His eventual solo 3rd was the highest finish by a Chinese player in a major and qualifies him for the 2018 Open and the 2018 Masters.
Spieth, having lost all the momentum, was now in a de-facto match-play final with Kuchar, somewhat similar to last year’s Open, where eventual champ Henrik Stenson (63) was in an epic final-round battle with eventual runner-up Phil Mickelson (65). At that one however, the final separation between 2nd and 3rd place (J.B. Holmes) was 11 shots, the largest margin in major championship history.
Spieth and Kuchar matched pars on holes 10-12, then came the par-4 13th, where Spieth would bogey again, but this was not just any bogey.
Kuchar, who had honors since his birdie at 9, went first and missed the fairway right. Spieth, went further right; in fact, so far right his ball hit a spectator in the head and bounded over a large dune, burrowing in the fescue.
After nearly 20 minutes of reviewing options for an unplayable lie, he finally dropped on the practice range, approximately 230 yards to the front of the green.
Spieth hit 3-iron short of the green, but was able to get up-and-down for a 5. Kuchar, who found the green in regulation, missed a mid-range birdie try but tapped in for par, and now led the tournament outright.
At the 201-yard par-3 14th, Kuchar found the GIR, and then Spieth, now the chaser, nearly holed his for an ace, knocking in the birdie from eight feet. It was his second of five consecutive one-putts. All Square.
At the par-5 15th, Spieth reached the green in two, while Kuchar, after finding the fescue off the tee, reached in three after a forced layup.
Spieth, first to go, rammed home a double-breaker for eagle-3 from 48 feet. Kuchar would make birdie. Spieth 1 UP.
Spieth canned a 20-footer for birdie-3 at 16 and an 8-footer for birdie-4 at 17, while Kuchar went par-birdie. Spieth 2 UP with one to play.
Spieth would claim the Claret Jug with a routine par at the par-4 finisher, while Kuchar would make bogey from a green side bunker for the final margin.
Spieth went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie on holes 14-17, eventually winning by three, right where he began the day.
Kuchar, 39, a formidable opponent, battled his guts out to a career-best finish in a major, previously T3 at the 2012 Masters. He overcame Spieth’s near-farcical situation at the 13th to play the final five holes in 1-under, but Spieth played them 5-under for one of the most memorable stretches in major championship history.
With a Strength of Field rating of 893 (up from 883 last year), Spieth banks 100.00 world-ranking points and bumps one place to 2nd in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). He trails Dustin Johnson by 2.516 average points.
He collects 600 FedExCup (FEC) points for the victory and nudges three spots to 1stin the FEC standings, 303 points ahead of a now second-place Johnson.
In the last 84 events on TOUR, the pre-tourney fave (outright) has only won FIVE times:
3 pre-tourney faves have won:
Spieth: 12/1 The Open
Spieth: 8/1 Travelers
DJ: 13/2 WGC-Mexico
2 pre-tourney faves won:
Spieth: 6/1 DEAN & DELUCA
Spieth: 4/1 Hyundai TOC
Spieth’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 77 players):
Eagles: 2 (T1)
Birdies: 17 (T2)
Bogeys: 9 (T7)
Doubles or Worse: 0 (T1)
Par-3 Scoring: 2.88 (T4)
Par-4 Scoring: 3.94 (3rd)
Par-5 Scoring: 4.13 (T1)
Driving Accuracy: 24/56 (T59) at 42.85 percent
Greens in Regulation: 50/72 (T3) at 69.44 percent
Total Putts: 112 (T11)
Putts by Round: 29-25-28-30
Scrambling: 16/22 (4th) at 72.73 percent
Strokes Gained: As we’ve said before, unfortunately, there is no strokes gained data collected at The Open.
Inclusive of TOUR rookie Grayson Murray, 23, who won his first TOUR title at the opposite-field event at the Barbasol Championship, Spieth is the eighth straight winner on TOUR in their 20s and fourth straight 23-year-old.
24 winners this season were in their 20s
11 were in their 30s
4 were in their 40s
Spieth’s Season Recap:
14 made cuts
3 missed cuts
12 top 25s
8 top 10s (tied TOUR lead with Justin Thomas)
7 top 5s
Spieth’s Majors Recap:
16 made cuts (11 in a row)
3 missed cuts
11 top 25s
7 top 10s
7 top 5s
Field Scoring Average:
This was the 146th playing of The Open and 10th at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
7,156 yards; par 70 (34-36)
Spieth's Position by Round:
Spieth is the first winner on TOUR to check in off a top-10 finish in their previous start since Kevin Chappell 14 events ago at the Valero Texas Open (T7, Masters).
A total of 76 pros and one amateur from a field of 151 pros and five amateurs made the 36-hole cut of 5-over 145:
34 (of 78) EARLY/late
43 (of 78) LATE/early
10 players finished in the top 10 with four of those EARLY/late, including the CHAMPION.
27 tourneys this season with a traditional draw:
EARLY/late: 19 (70.3%)
Yahoo! Low Rounds:
R2: Zach Johnson (66)
R3: Branden Grace* (62); lowest in major championship history
R4: Haotong Li* (63)
*career lows: Grace, Li
Leader/co-leaders by Round:
R1: Jordan Spieth: Improves to 3-for-7 as 18-hole leader/co-leader; (two straight)
R1: Matt Kuchar: Drops to 1-for-8
R1: Brooks Koepka: Drops to 0-for-2
R2: Jordan Spieth: Improves to 6-for-10; (three straight)
R3: Jordan Spieth: Improves to 9-for-14; (four straight; eight of last nine, 2016 Masters)
25 of the Top 25 in OWGR were in the field
6 finished in the top 10:
No. 3 Jordan Spieth (Won): pre-tourney fave outright
No. 4 Rory McIlroy (T4)
No. 9 Alex Noren (T6)
No. 11 Brooks Koepka (T6)
No. 17 Rafa Cabrera Bello (T4)
No. 18 Matt Kuchar (2nd)
No. 34 Marc Leishman (T6)
No. 35 Branden Grace (T6)
No. 107 Haotong Li (3rd)
No. 172 Matthew Southgate (T6)
Alfie Plant: Making his major championship debut, the 25-year-old was the only one (of five) to make the cut, winning the Silver Medal with a 72-hole aggregate of 6-over 286 (71-73-69-73). The Englishman, who finished T62, gained entry by winning the European Amateur Championship at Walton Heath on July 1st.
Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:
Jordan Spieth (1st-P1)
Marc Leishman (T6-T5)
Brooks Koepka (T6-1st)
Scott Stallings (T3-T5)
Consecutive Top-10 streaks ended:
Rickie Fowler (T22-T3-T5)
Daniel Berger (T27-T5-P2)
Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:
Jordan Spieth (8 in 17 events)
Justin Thomas (8 in 19 events)
Rickie Fowler (7 in 15)
Brian Harman (7 in 24)
Jon Rahm (7 in 17)
Brooks Koepka (6 in 18)
Dustin Johnson (6 in 13)
Kevin Kisner (6 in 21)
Daniel Berger (6 in 20)
Updated Top 10 in OWGR (this week’s finish):
1. Dustin Johnson (T54)
2. Jordan Spieth (Won); UP one
3. Hideki Matsuyama (T14); DOWN one
4. Rory McIlroy (T4)
5. Sergio Garcia (T37)
6. Jason Day (T27)
7. Jon Rahm (T44)
8. Henrik Stenson (T11)
9. Alex Noren (T6)
10. Brooks Koepka (T6); UP one
Note: Rickie Fowler (T22) dropped from No. 10 to No. 11
Updated Top 10 in FedExCup standings (points):
1. Jordan Spieth (2,579); UP three
2. Dustin Johnson (2,276); DOWN one
3. Hideki Matsuyama (2,204); DOWN one
4. Justin Thomas (2,060); DONW one
5. Jon Rahm (1,718)
6. Rickie Fowler (1,634)
7. Brooks Koepka (1,629); UP one
8. Daniel Berger (1,573); DOWN one
9. Brian Harman (1,492)
10. Kevin Kisner (1,474)
The TOUR heads to Glen Abbey GC in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, for the 108th RBC Canadian Open.
Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and analysis as the TOUR readies for its 39th tournament of the season.