The owners of the career Grand Slam in the Masters era is a short and distinguished list:
- Jack Nicklaus (3x)
- Tiger Woods (3x)
- Ben Hogan
- Gary Player
- Gene Sarazen
That would certainly be an impressive list to join. Spieth obviously realizes the history that completing the Slam would be. To be the youngest ever would be an interesting bonus. However, during his pre-tournament press conference, Spieth emphasized that he didn’t feel any additional pressure to complete the Grand Slam this week in particular.
If I’m healthy and playing well, I play in 30 of them, I believe I’ll have plenty of chances to win them, but it doesn’t have to be this year
It seems like a bold attitude to take when playing for history.
A partial list of golfing greats who never (or haven’t) completed the career Grand Slam is also distinguished:
- Walter Hagen
- Arnold Palmer
- Lee Trevino
- Sam Snead
- Tom Watson
- Phil Mickelson (active)
- Rory McIlroy (active)
Naturally, if Spieth doesn’t win this week his world won’t end. Being the youngest ever to win the Slam would be an interesting bonus on top of the real prize of joining such an exclusive club. Spieth’s attitude of “it doesn’t have to be this year" is just wrong. The great Arnold Palmer played in 36 PGA Championships and never won. For Spieth to assume that if he doesn’t get it done this year, that it will happen eventually, just sounds foolish.
Many athletes try to de-emphasise the pressure of the moment to help them perform. "It’s just another tournament" isn’t an outrageous statement to make in and of itself. I just feel it’s a mental mistake to assume that there will be other chances to win such an important event. Sports are filled with stories of players who lost, but assumed there would be plenty of other chances to win next time. Dan Marino seems to be the most popular example. Marino lost a Super Bowl in just his second season, went on to a Hall of Fame career, but never even played in another Super Bowl. Yes, a team sport, but the point is sometimes you only get one chance at something due to factors beyond your control.
Spieth will likely have numerous shots at winning a PGA Championship. He may very well win several times. But, to assume that his game will continue to be among the best in the world for the next 30 years is a mistake of ego.
Which leaves us with the question, "Did he really mean it?" Only Spieth and his team know what is really going on with their sports psychology this week. But to publically dismiss this week as just one of many chances at golf immortality has rubbed many, myself included, the wrong way.
Photo credit: Zaneology (cropped)