Jordan Spieth in position to at least dream about career slam

Seventeen questions.

That’s how many inquiries Jordan Spieth fielded from reporters Friday at the PGA Championship before he finally was asked the most pertinent one of all: about him inching closer in his pursuit of a career Grand Slam.

A PGA Championship victory is the only missing piece for Spieth, who already has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and a British Open and is trying to become only the sixth player in the history of the sport — joining Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen — to capture all four.

Spieth’s work Friday — a sterling 4-under 66 second round to get to 5-under for the tournament — positioned him in a tie for second place behind leader Brooks Koepka (12-under).

He’s a special 36 holes away from completing the career Slam.

Whether Spieth likes it or not, whether he embraces it or loathes it, the elephant is in the room with him. He’s 36 holes away with an outside chance to make history.

If he can catch Koepka, which will be no small task, Spieth would join five of the icons of the game with his name in the record books. And, more remarkably, he will have done it while bringing to an end to the worst slump of his career, a slump that has raised constant pesky questions about his wavering form.

Asked, at the very end of his interview session, whether there are moments when the pursuit of the Slam creeps into his mind, Spieth insisted: “It certainly hasn’t. I can’t imagine it will because I really haven’t been in contention on a Sunday since the [British] Open last year, and if I’m able to put some good work in [Saturday], then I will be in contention on Sunday. And at that point, it will be just more of trying to win a golf tournament. It won’t matter to me what tournament it is.’’

This is Spieth’s third try at completing the Slam. At age 25, barring injury issues, he’s going to have plenty more chances.
Spieth’s career Slam pursuit isn’t as loaded a question as the ones Phil Mickelson, who needs a U.S. Open win to do it, and Rory McIlroy, who needs a Masters win to complete it, have to answer.

Mickelson has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times, suffering some of his most heartbreaking defeats in that championship, and at age 48, he’s seeing his window of opportunity slowing closing.

McIlroy has had five tries at completing the Slam at Augusta, where he suffered one of the most historic meltdowns of all time when he lost a four-shot final-round lead in 2011, shooting 80 and letting the green jacket slip from his grip.

So for Mickelson and McIlroy, there’s baggage involved. Spieth doesn’t have that at the PGA.

Not yet, anyway.

The complication for Spieth is the fact his form has dipped since his last win, at the 2017 British Open. He was No. 1 in the world in 2015 and is currently ranked No. 39. He doesn’t have a top-10 finish in a tournament since his Open victory and doesn’t even have a top-20 in 13 events this season.

That has led to a barrage of questions about his form, questions Spieth politely and dutifully has answered, even though you know each of these sessions is like a dental appointment for him.

“You know that the outside world has gotten in his head,’’ Padraig Harrington said. “Clearly with Jordan, it’s got to get in his head. You just asking that question [about Spieth] and me commenting on it piles on more pressure.

“It’s hard to peak all of your life. [Otherwise] it wouldn’t be a peak. Do guys peak twice? Hopefully they do.’’

Spieth, of course, hopes so. Then he’ll never have to answer those questions again.

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