"That's a nine out of ten", says joint leader Jordan Spieth
Asked to rate his five-under-par round of 67 at Royal Birkdale today, Jordan Spieth gave himself nine out of ten. Both the score and the world No.3’s grading of it will be ominous news for his rivals at The 146th Open.
“Everything was strong,” the two-time major champion declared. “I give it a nine across the board for everything - tee balls, ball-striking, short game and putting. So things are in check. It's just about keeping it consistent.”
Asked what improvements he would have needed to gain full marks, Spieth – who found himself in a share of the clubhouse lead with Brooks Koepka - pointed to a couple of missed putts from around 12 feet, a couple of tee shots that missed the fairway, and the two greens he missed in regulation. Put simply, his scoring was exceptional in tricky, blustery conditions.
The American’s bogey-free round was made up of five birdies and 13 pars and was good enough for the former Masters and US Open champion to consider it his “fifth or sixth” best round in a major. “More of the same”, he seemed to be thinking in his quiet and considered way, “and the Claret Jug will be mine.”
Spieth’s confidence is hardly surprising. He won the last tournament he played, when he holed out from a bunker in a playoff to win the Travelers Championship in the US, and played well at the Masters and the US Open, where he felt let down by his putting.
Now his putting is returning to the stellar levels it reached in 2015, the year he became a double major champion and moved to No.1 in the world. Add that to an improved long game and he could take some stopping.
Like all great champions, Spieth is constantly looking for something extra. He has found it, he said, in a new friendship with Michael Phelps, the record-breaking Olympic swimmer whom he met at the Phoenix Open earlier this year.
“We talked for quite a while, late into the evening before one of the rounds … and I enjoyed listening to him,” Spieth recalled. “He wanted to hear from my side of the things - about the good, the bad and everything that comes with what we do.
“He has become a good friend and somebody I could call at any time. He's offered that and I'd be doing myself a disservice if I don't keep taking him up on it.”