Golf fans, and even curious sports fans, are gathering in anticipation this week as the Open Championship gets underway.
The world number two Jordan Spieth attempts to take his third major of 2015. If he can do this, he will preserve his dream of winning the Grand Slam, that is to win all four majors in a calendar year.
With his main rival, Rory McIlroy absent due to an ankle injury, Jordan is now heavy favourite to take the title.
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What could stop the young Texan from taking the third step towards that unbelievable achievement? There are a number of factors working against him this week. Here’s what could get in his way…
No Rory McIlroy
It might seem odd to argue that the absence of Spieth’s main rival would be anything but advantageous to the young American. However, it could actually prove to work against him.
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Before the world number one injured his ankle in a football game with friends, The Open was being billed as a showdown between McIlroy and Spieth.
As defending champion, Rory would have been considered one of the favourites for the title.
Whilst there was still buzz surrounding whether he will win all four majors this year, Jordan had a rival to take some of the pressure off and draw some of the media attention away from his performance.
Without Rory’s presence, all eyes will be on Spieth to see if he can keep his Grand Slam hopes alive.
What would have been considerable pressure anyway is now momentous and could distract Spieth from the job at hand, given the fact that this feat has only been accomplished once by Ben Hogan back in 1953.
He is primed to go down in history but that prospect, with no one else to absorb some of the global attention he has garnered, could prove too much for the young American.
Lack of Experience
Since 2000, 12 of the past 15 winners have played in at least six Opens and finished in the top six at least once in the event previously.
Whilst he is having an exceptional season and is becoming quite the pro at heading the field in the majors, Jordan Spieth has only played in two Open Championships before and has never played at St Andrew’s.
The 21 year old simply does not have the experience to conquer the most unique major in golf.
Not only is The Open the oldest of the four majors but this year it is also taking place at “the home of golf” where the tradition and atmosphere of the venue can be overwhelming in itself.
Whilst he does have experience on Scottish links courses, he has no experience at St Andrew’s and this will definitely work against him when The Open gets into swing later this week.
State-Side Warm Up Tournament
Jordan Spieth has arguably had a pretty good warm up after winning the John Deere Classic this weekend in Illinois.
He fought speculation that the pressure was finally taking its toll after a slow start and came back to win the tournament in a playoff with fellow American Tom Gillis.
But it’s interesting to note that the last five winners of The Open have all competed in the Scottish Open the week before the major gets underway.
Whether this is because it means avoiding travel issues and jet lag or because it gives players time to acclimatise to the bipolar British weather, it clearly helps players perform in The Open.
The only player to have won the Open after playing in the States the week before was Todd Hamilton who placed 59th at the John Deere Classic 11 years ago.
It is obviously not impossible, and god knows Spieth has proved he can buck trends, but it is one of many things that could stop him from doing well at St Andrew’s this week.
The Weather and The Old Course
As alluded to earlier, Spieth has no experience at St Andrew’s. Whilst this would not be enough to doubt an obviously remarkable player on any other course, the fact that it is here is far more significant.
Known as “the home of golf”, The Old Course at St Andrew’s is one of the oldest courses in the world and is a great leveller of the tour’s best players.
The course has strikingly open fairways with very few trees or bushes to act as markers for the players. It also has deep bunkers that are often hidden from view and huge undulating greens with several blind holes.
All this means that the wind plays a vital role in shot decisions, as the line off the tee will depend entirely on the direction of the wind.
Consequently, the players with the most experience here always stand in better stead than those with little or no experience as they know how to negotiate the weather and adjust their game accordingly.
The fact that Spieth has never played this course in competition before may see him come unstuck on some of The Old Course’s more notorious holes.
If we’re being honest, Dustin Johnson handed the US Open to Spieth with his horrific three put on the 18th hole.
Had he made that manageable 12’4’’ putt, he would have a major title under his belt and we would not even be talking about Spieth’s chances at winning the Grand Slam this year.
Johnson missed six putts inside 10 feet on the back nine and finished only one shot behind the 21-year-old Texan.
The 2010 Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen seems to be plagued by injury this season and hasn’t had a great run up to the tournament this week.
Nevertheless, the South African managed to finish as runner-up at this year’s US Open, despite scoring 77 in the opening round.
It goes without saying that he knows The Old Course at St Andrew’s well, given that he claimed his 2010 title here, and so will stand a great chance of stopping the young American from achieving the most difficult feat in golf.
Martin Kaymer is also a strong prospect as he has a good links course record and has cited St Andrew’s as his favourite course.
He has two majors to his name and his best performance at The Open was indeed at St Andrew’s in 2010 when he tied seventh.
The course favours his game as he will not be put off by the vast openness or huge greens that characterise The Old Course and so, despite being an outsider, it would not be surprising if the 30-year-old German did well here.
Henrik Stenson is unlucky enough to be labelled the best player without a major. He is an extremely experienced player and The Open has proven to favour the veterans of the game.
The last three winners before McIlroy were all in their 40s and Stenson is now 39, has won five titles in three years and will be heading into his 10th Open Championship.
He tied third here in 2010 so has proven he can handle the course. With no Rory McIlroy and a favourite who has never played here before, Stenson could do very well if he is able to deliver his best game here when the tournament gets underway.
It is possible that Jordan Spieth will defy the statistics and the history books and go on to take his third major of 2015.
It won’t have done tournament organisers any harm as viewers are sure to be determined to witness history in the making.
He has certainly proven that he can handle pressure and has the game to do well here if he can acclimatise to the Scottish weather and the sanctity of St Andrews.
The probability of him realising such an elusive achievement is just too low. Whilst he will almost certainly win it in the future, there are just too many factors going against him to make him a worthwhile prospect this year.