When last we met, I was conveying the gritty determination of the leaders at the Emirates Australian Open when faced with Sunday’s forecast. The winds were going to be blowing 15 to 25, the greens were going to be dying of thirst and running 12.5 and the green runoffs were going to be unchanged; cunning and seemingly inescapable. The Australian Golf Club in Sydney was going to be an intractable brute.
And that’s exactly what happened for everybody in the field except for one guy, Jordan Spieth.
The low round of the day — excluding Spieth — was 4-under, 67 by Aussie, Nathan Holman. But he was playing from in the middle of the pack with nothing to lose. He finished T10. If he shoots even par, he finishes T31.
Of the contenders — excluding Spieth — only Rod Pampling had what would be considered a great round given the conditions. And he only shot 3-under to finish 2nd. He had to birdie five of the last six to clean up his front-side messes, but credit where credit is due. He is a helluva ball striker and the putter was hot on Sunday. He played with Adam Scott who shot even par and finished 5th. They both started at just 4-under; that’s how hard these four days were.
The final group was Jordan Spieth, two-time Open winner, Greg Chalmers, and Aussie, Brett Rumford, a stylish, very competent player. They all started T1 at 5-under.
In those tough conditions, Rumford managed 1-under and finished 3rd. Chalmers managed even par and finished 4th. And Jordan Spieth, well, that’s an entirely different story.
Jordan Spieth played what he later called the best round of his life, a flawless 8-under 63. He won by six shots. Given the conditions, the Aussie commentators on the broadcast said that they would be talking about this round for the rest of time as perhaps the best in the tournament’s history…which dates back to 1904.
That is a very big deal. All week long, the talk was about multiple winners of the Open. Could Rory McIlroy win back-to-back? He couldn’t. After two opening 69s, he really fell off the boil, 76, 72, and finished T15. Could Greg Chalmers win his third Open? Not this year and at 41, with not too many chances to come.
Spieth got off to a great start with a birdie on 3 and then three in a row on 5, 6, and 7. He was 4-under on the day when Pampling and Scott had started 4-under for the tournament. Then he managed six straight pars on the meaty middle of the course. And then he polished it off by birdieing four of the last five. As he walked off 18 having authoritatively made his last birdie putt, he kissed his putter.
Spieth is a very good ball striker in his own right. But very good ball strikers are the norm on the PGA Tour. So it is not just ball striking that makes for a great round, a great player.
It is the ability to get into that elusive, alternate mental universe where time and emotion stops, you just stop thinking and play the game. Hit the fairway, hit the green, see the line, stroke the putt on the line, make the putt. And even when you don’t make the putt, you know that you’re putting so good, it is unconcerning. You can’t wait for the next chance.
This happens when you are more fascinated with the moment than you are afraid of it. That is the portal to look for.