CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth pronounced himself “back in business” on Sunday despite falling short in his quest to join an elite list of players to win consecutive British Opens.
The 24-year-old American put a title-less year behind him over the first three days at Carnoustie and after a magnificent six-under-par 65 on Saturday, looked primed to repeat his victory at Royal Birkdale 12 months ago.
He begun the day in a three-way tie with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, two strokes clear of the field, but slumped to tied ninth place with a five-over 76 as a strong westerly breeze blew him off course.
Spieth was bidding to join the likes of Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Peter Thompson in winning back-to-back British Opens.
The fact that but for a couple of visits to Carnoustie’s infamous bunkers and a rogue gorse bush on Sunday he might have done, left him feeling disappointed but optimistic.
“I feel fine. I’ve already gone through the frustration. I’m kind of on acceptance now,” Spieth said after watching Italian Francesco Molinari get his hands on the Claret Jug.
“Man, I just didn’t make a putt today. I hit really good putts too. My stroke is there. It’s back, which feels awesome.”
Spieth had admitted he was uncertain of his game when arriving in Scotland. But something has clicked.
“My game altogether is back. I’ve had every single part of my game being at kind of a low point in my career, not all at the same time, but enough to where I haven’t really been able to compete. It’s all there, and it’s moving in the right direction,” he said.
Spieth actually began well on Sunday, making pars on the first four holes despite winds gusting at 25mph.
A visit to the sand on the fifth cost him a bogey though and then he was snared by Hogan’s Alley - the 580-yard par-five named after his fellow Texan, Ben Hogan, who threaded his ball between its unforgiving bunkers four times to win in 1953.
Spieth flew his drive right into the crowd and his second shot from the rough with a three-wood ended with his ball in a gorse bush. “Did anybody see exactly where it went?” he asked, before exploring the bush himself and getting a bloody finger for good measure before taking a penalty drop.
He then three-putted from 30 feet for double bogey seven.
To make matters worse, he was put on the clock for slow play.
Coincidentally, his problems coincided with Wood’s charge to the top of the leaderboard — not quite what he had in mind when he said it was a dream to be battling Tiger for a major.
With pandemonium breaking out across the course as 14-times major winner Woods rolled back the years, even Spieth found himself getting sucked in.
“I saw (the leaderboard) on maybe seven or eight, it was an accident,” he said. “I looked up, and I saw Tiger at number one and he was leading solo, and I went to (caddie) Michael (Greller), I was like, ‘Dammit, I looked at the board, dude.’
“I was like frustrated at myself. He’s like, ‘He hasn’t been in this position in 10 years, and you’ve been here how many times in the last three years.’
“I was like, I feel fine. This is what you dream about.”
He hopes to be battling Woods again soon.
“This wasn’t a fluke,” he said of Wood’s eventual sixth place. “He’ll come back stronger for sure.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge