Spieth completes Open turnaround for the ages

Jordan Spieth looked dead, buried and heading towards an epic major meltdown until one of the greatest turnarounds in Open history.

The American declared he was "over" his capitulation at the 2016 Masters after bouncing back from a similar mid-round setback to win the third major of his career at Royal Birkdale.

The 23-year-old went into Sunday's final round with a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, but three bogeys in his first four holes and a near meltdown at 13 rekindled memories of Spieth throwing away a chance to win a second green jacket.

There were times when Spieth's round was hard to watch, and others when it was harder still to believe.

The three-stroke lead on which he slept was gone by the fourth hole and it's not like Matt Kuchar had hunted him down.

Spieth bogeyed the first, third and fourth. He was melting.

Walking off the ninth - which Kuchar birdied as Spieth dropped another shot - they were level again and that parity remained until the 13th.

What transpired there was decisive, but not in the way anyone could have predicted.

Spieth looked gone for all money at the 13th. Pic: Getty

Spieth sprayed his tee shot wildly to the right and put his hands to his head, open-mouthed as his ball disappeared behind a grassy mound.

The 20-minute spell of confusion and bemusement that followed offered time enough for most onlookers to surmise that the psychological fragility so evident in Spieth's 2016 Masters collapse had returned to haunt him in Southport.

He took a drop on the practice ground, which seemed apposite.

But it was then - when the heat was at its most searing - that Spieth stood tall, held firm and forged his own legend at golf's most storied major.

It may have started with a scrambled bogey five, which saw the 23-year-old lose his lead, but from there he ascended to another level.

Spieth very nearly aced the 14th, settling for a short birdie putt to level it up, then snaffled up a long eagle opportunity, following that with another two birdies.

In just four holes, the Texan had turned farce into fantasy, failure into formidable triumph.

So when he closed with a par at the last, he signed not for a stunning 63 like Henrik Stenson had at Royal Troon to win last year's Open, but a relatively modest 69.

And yet there was something just as remarkable about Spieth's round as there was the Swede's, if not more so.

"It's incredible. This is one of the most sought-after trophies in the world and the most sought-after in our sport and to have my name on it is a dream come true," Spieth told Sky Sports.

Spieth with his first claret jug. Pic: Getty

"My last goal now is to try and complete a career Grand Slam. This is a very special tournament.

"Especially with two majors in '15 and then we got to '16 and I had one [the Masters] wrapped up and didn't quite close and those kind of thoughts come into your head on a day like today when I'm through four holes and I think 'are we going to go through this again?'

"It took a while to get over it and I'm over it."

At Augusta last year, Spieth held a five-shot advantage before chipping two balls in the water on the par-three 12th to make quadruple bogey, allowing Danny Willett to claim his first major title.

Spieth admitted he thought a drink of wine from the Claret Jug following Zach Johnson's triumph in 2015 was going to prove unlucky.

"I was able to drink a bit of wine out of it when Zach Johnson won it two years ago and a lot of people told me that was bad luck," he said during the trophy presentation.

"I started to believe them a bit after nine today but boy it feels good to have this in my hands. What an incredible day.

"[I want to thank] my caddie Michael [Greller] for keeping me in it today after not quite an ideal start. I was getting down on myself as I think anyone would and this is as much mine as it is his. Right now at this very moment I really appreciate that Mikey, you deserve all the credit in the world for this."

Hailing his playing partner, Spieth said: "Matt, I really enjoyed the battle with you, buddy. It could have gone to either one of us. What a great champion Matt Kuchar is and what a class act.

"I took about 20 minutes to play one of my shots today and Matt took it in his stride, smiled and there's not many people I think that would have done that and it speaks to the kind of man that you are – an example for all of us."

In an era when golf's four biggest titles are shared around so freely - Spieth's success halted a run of seven consecutive first-time major winners - a player with one or two is not all that rare.

A man with three, who can complete a career Grand Slam at next month's US PGA Championship, is an altogether different beast.

Spieth will be 24 by the time of that tournament at Quail Hollow and victory would ensure he completes the clean sweep six months earlier than Tiger Woods managed.

His route to the Claret Jug this week may have involved a few exasperating diversions, but the path to golfing immortality is now clear for this exceptional talent.

Jordan Spieth, once a legend in the making, is now a legend made.

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