Maybe Collin Morikawa was always going to win this Open Championship, but Jordan Spieth will wonder about what might have been if he could put himself back in the 17th fairway at Royal St. George's on Saturday afternoon.
It was there, facing a 60-yard approach shot into the par-4, that Spieth was poised to finish with a flourish, sending him into Sunday point-blank range from capturing a second Claret Jug.
Instead, Spieth closed his third round with two bogeys, missing a 2-foot par putt on the finishing hole, leaving him three behind Louis Oosthuizen to start the final round.
In a game that demands looking forward, Spieth allowed himself to look back Sunday evening after finishing second by the two shots he lost late Saturday.
“The finish (Saturday) was about as upset as I've taken a finish of a round to the house,” said Spieth, who sprinted off the 18th green at the end of the third round. “I walked in and wanted to – I said, ‘Is there something that I can break?’ I knew that was so important because I would have been in the final group.”
Instead, Oosthuizen and Morikawa played in the final group and Spieth was a group ahead, misfiring with two early bogeys before his closing rush that gave Morikawa no wiggle room.
“I did all I could,” said Spieth, who played his last 12 holes in 6-under par. “So I’m upset because I really felt like I played well enough to win and made a couple of really dumb mistakes that possibly, if I had maybe played the week before, wouldn’t have made.”
Spieth said he never felt fully comfortable on the greens during the Open Championship though he put himself among the leaders from the start, largely by holing a number of medium-range putts. He immediately went to the practice green after his Saturday round and did extra putting work before the final round while forcing himself to look at the opportunity ahead rather than those that had been wasted.
“What good does it do to be upset?” said Spieth, who had the sixth-fewest putts (113) in the championship. “You come out (Sunday), and I kind of came out with, ‘Yes, I should be leading the tournament.’ That’s how I felt. But now I get to play with a chaser’s mentality, which sometimes can be with a bit more freedom.”
Spieth’s runner-up finish was another significant moment in his quest to recapture the form that allowed him to win three major championships in short order. Spieth won or finished second four times in five majors in 2015 and early 2016 but didn’t have another top-10 finish until he tied for third at the Masters in April. His finish at Royal St. Georges improved on that and was his ninth top-10 finish this year.
Ron Green Jr.