As the grounds crew at the controversial Chambers Bay golf course cleans up the celebration aftermath of Jordan Spieth's triumph at the 2015 U.S. Open, one question already lingers: Can he make it three in a row with the 2015 British Open on approach?
With steady play, another excellent batch of preparation and a little help from a missed putt, Spieth seized his second consecutive major victory over the weekend, finishing five under par to best a tricky field and difficult course.
It was an interesting trek, to say the least.
Spieth hiccuped in Round 3 Saturday, his lone trip above 70 with a 71, recovered for most of the final round, then shot a double bogey on No. 17 to allow Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson to remain close.
"What did I do?" Spieth said after the stumble, per ESPN.com's Ian O'Connor. "How did I possibly let this happen?"
It turns out "enough" was the proper answer, with Johnson missing on the winning putt, catapulting him into elite company, as ESPN.com's Jason Sobel points out:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Players who won Masters and U.S. Open in same year: --Jordan Spieth --Tiger Woods --Jack Nicklaus --Arnold Palmer --Ben Hogan --Craig Wood2015-6-22 02:24:58
It creates an incredible amount of momentum, but also even more in the expectations department.
About the British Open and those expectations.
By most accounts, Spieth touts a game tailor-made for the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, but one wouldn't know it by looking at his last two outings—finishes of tied for 44th and 36th.
In a way, it's an improvement, just as his wins at the Masters and U.S. Open were. He tied for second at the former in 2014 before winning this year and tied for 17th at the latter in 2014 before this weekend's win.
It's not out of the question to think the trend of drastic improvements will continue overseas. As USGA executive director Mike Davis told O'Connor after the U.S. Open win, Spieth's maturity puts him over the edge:
And he's an incredible thinker ... Think about what he went through standing on the 18th tee, having a 3-shot lead and doing what he did [on 17] and then hearing the roar from Dustin's group. And now all of a sudden he goes, "I've got a 3-shot lead, too, I'm tied." Think about the emotions going through it. The chances of him winning [the Grand Slam], the odds are not great. But he is absolutely capable of it.
Keep in mind that this quote centers on Spieth's ability to reel in the Grand Slam, not just take down the field at the British Open.
Maturity and mental aspect aside, few look better from a sheer playing standpoint right now. Over at PGATour.com, Spieth ranks third in tee-to-green strokes gained (1.615), second in total strokes gained (2.155), third in birdie average (4.44) and first in scoring average (68.922).
Spieth's indeed a rare talent still blossoming, but don't underestimate the impact caddy Michael Greller has on the young golfer's performance—or will at St. Andrews.
A Chambers Bay local, Greller put on an epic performance in prepping Spieth for this past weekend's event, something the eventual winner spoke on afterward, per Curtis Crabtree of the Associated Press:
Curtis Crabtree @Curtis_Crabtree
"That was probably the best work Michael (Greller) has ever done this week." - Jordan Spieth2015-6-22 03:25:05
Such chemistry and elite preparation aren't common, and it's something capable of pushing Spieth over the top at his third major of the season.
Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com hits the proverbial nail on the head:
Chip Brown @ChipBrownHD
My man @JordanSpieth just told the world he'll be ready to win the claret jug at the British Open if he gets the right "prep" in. #Warned2015-6-22 02:46:33
It's all about the approach for Spieth, on and off the course. He seems just fine on it, even when his form's not top-tier stuff, thanks to the consistent off-course prep work one of the sport's best partnerships puts on from a tournament-to-tournament basis.
For such a tandem rolling full speed downhill in the momentum department, it's hard to see anyone else seizing the title in mid-July. Rory McIlroy won last year, but he is a mess who needed a 66 just to break even Sunday.
|Spieth British Open Scorecard|
Whispers about expectations hampering Spieth can go out the window also, especially after his clutch, composed rebound Sunday and total performance at a course golfers spent most of the weekend complaining about due to its difficulty.
There are plenty of golfers sure to put on strong performances next month, but none as hot as Spieth on a round-to-round basis. So far, Spieth and Greller are putting on a clinic, something special enough to trump courses, mistakes, entire fields.
In the aftermath of the U.S. Open, there's no reason to doubt the two going into the British Open. It's been a year of drastic improvement for Spieth, who will make it a third major in a row so long as the preparation is once again pristine and the consistency remains.
Prediction: Spieth wins 2015 British Open by three strokes over McIlroy.
Stats and info courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise specified.