The Best Moments Of Jordan Spieth's Young Career

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We have a bad habit in sports, and it's probably a reflection of the modern attention span, of never pausing long enough to soak up the extraordinary moments we are lucky enough to witness.

We never let them marinate for very long. We always want to think about what's next and game-theory all the possibilities that lie ahead instead of slowing down and appreciating what happened all of five minutes ago.

So today, put your feet up and -- just for a second -- relive how much fun it was to watch Jordan Spieth flail, flabbergast and then flourish at the 146th Open Championship.

You good?

OK ... now let's talk about all the amazing stuff the 23-year-old Texan might do next.

It's impossible to resist the urge to hypothesize about what lies ahead for Spieth, even if reality almost certainly won't live up to our wildest dreams. We made that mistake with Tiger Woods, assuming the quest to catch Jack Nicklaus was inevitable, never imagining there was a fire hydrant and several back surgeries just beyond the horizon that would leave him stalled, maybe forever, at 14 majors. And in a sense, we've already made this mistake once with Spieth, prior to the Masters in 2016, when we were ready to fit him for a second green jacket before the 12th hole, and Danny Willett snatched it away. We got way ahead of ourselves.

So let's be clear right now: Spieth isn't going to catch Nicklaus. That's madness. Chisel that prediction in stone. He's going to have an amazing career, he's going to thrill us and baffle us along the way; but in this era, the field is just too deep to chase 18 majors. Woods had a real chance, but Spieth isn't Tiger Woods. And, on top of that, the equipment is so good, even golfers outside the top 200 can be a contender on the right week. (Pour one out for Y.E. Yang and Michael Campbell.) The obstacles are too many. Nicklaus is going to hold that record for at least another quarter century. Maybe forever. Any time Spieth is mentioned in the same breath with Nicklaus or Woods, he wisely points out that he's not in their league and likely never will be.

"What those guys have done has transcended the sport," Spieth said Sunday, an hour after winning The Open. "In no way, shape or form do I think I'm anywhere near that, whatsoever. So it's a good start, but there is a long way to go."

All right. So what is possible for Spieth?

For starters, winning the career Grand Slam seems an inevitability. Sure, it's possible Spieth could end up like Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, two Hall of Famers who won every leg of the Grand Slam except the PGA Championship. Statistically, the PGA has the strongest field of the year, so, in a sense, it ought to be the hardest to win. And it's clear Spieth is the kind of golfer who can't resist getting wrapped up in how much emphasis we put on the majors. After he wrapped up his win at Birkdale, he said he couldn't resist letting his mind drift back to the meltdown at the 2016 Masters, even while the round was going on. He was mumbling to himself during the front nine as he let shots slip away.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself, unfortunately, and not on purpose, just thinking about [how] this is the best opportunity that I've had since the '16 Masters," Spieth said. "And if it weren't to go my way today, then all I'm going to be questioned about and thought about is in comparison to that, and that adds a lot of pressure."

Now that he's won another major, and in all likelihood put to rest what happened in Augusta, it's hard to imagine the pressure of the PGA haunting him in any serious way. Apologies to the PGA, but it's just not the same as the other three. Anyone who argues otherwise is a PGA executive. No kid lies in bed at night dreaming, first and foremost, of winning a PGA Championship. Spieth is going to lift the Wanamaker eventually. Maybe not next month at Quail Hollow, but he'll get one. At least one. He'll slap it all over Bethpage (2019) or Harding Park (2020), get up and down for birdie from behind a tree, make some 30-footers and drive fellow competitors bonkers with his fortuitous breaks.

"Words fail me," Zach Johnson said when asked to describe what makes Spieth special. "Those intangibles are the things I just don't understand."

How in the world did Jordan Spieth go from a 1-shot deficit with five holes left to a 3-shot victory and claim the Claret Jug? The 23-year-old produced one of the most memorable finishes The Open has seen in its illustrious history.

Spieth's intangibles are beyond comparison

He's not Seve or Phil or Tom or Tiger or Jack. He's Jordan Spieth -- and he has something that even his peers marvel at. Call it the "it" factor.

The Open tournament schedule, scores and coverage

Get dates, TV schedule, news coverage, live scores and results on ESPN for The Open at Royal Birkdale.

Even if Spieth takes a decade or more to snag a PGA Championship, the thought of he and Rory McIlroy trading blows down the stretch next month -- on one of McIlroy's favorite tracks -- ought to be enough to make you feel faint if you're a golf fan. The last time the two men were paired together at a major, the 2016 Masters, Spieth hit it all over the place and still bested McIlroy by several shots, leading Rory to utter one of the best golf quotes of the last few years: "How the hell is he 2 under today?"

"He's a fighter," McIlroy said at Birkdale. "He's shown that the whole way through his career. He can dig himself out of holes."

Spieth chasing the Wanamaker feels way different than McIlroy trying to win a Masters, however. And it feels massively different than Phil Mickelson trying to win a U.S. Open. Yes, Spieth would become the youngest player in history to win the career Grand Slam if he won next month, so there will be some pressure on him. And McIlroy will certainly be determined to keep Spieth from tying his major total. And it always feels like Jason Day is a threat to win every PGA Championship. But Spieth has no PGA Championship demons to wrestle with, nor scars on his psyche the way the Masters has tortured Rory or the U.S. Open has tortured Phil. I'm not even convinced the PGA is capable of leaving scars. Paper cuts, maybe.

He's going to have at least 20 shots at that tournament before his age begins to factor in, and it's hard to imagine Spieth's body betraying him the way Tiger's did. Spieth made it clear this week that he's taking his gym workouts more seriously now, but he's not lifting for bulk. He's focusing on stamina, diet and flexibility.

"I just wanted to make sure I'm doing the right things that give me the possibility to play as long a career as I can, and to think about that at 23 I think is unusual," Spieth said. "I'm not weird or a freak about it. I'm just kind of watching what I'm eating and I'm a little more focused on rest, on repetitions, practicing right. And then spending the time that's necessary to make sure that you're avoiding any potential injury. I don't know really why it kicked in, but it just kind of hit me that way."

Beyond this year? It seems foolish to put a number on how many majors Spieth might be able to win. Eventually, he'll probably get married and potentially have a family, and with that, a whole new set of priorities and challenges will arise. How he juggles them could be the difference between a career like that of Seve Ballesteros (five majors) and a career like of Watson Watson (eight majors). It feels like there is a little bit of each man in Spieth.

Before his decline, Woods made greatness look easy. He spoiled us, made us believe the best golfer in the world should make every cut, contend in virtually every major. It's not that easy, and Spieth isn't going to live up to that standard, just like McIlroy couldn't when we thought he was Woods' heir apparent.

This is still greatness, though, what we're watching with Spieth. It's messy at times, and occasionally it borders on the surreal.

But it's so much fun to live through. And there is so much more still to come.

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Beverly Malko

Staff Writer

Beverly has been making her living as a writer since college. She studied business at Skidmore College and lives in Boston.