Jordan Spieth knows he couldn’t have won The Open at Royal St. George’s on Saturday, but he might have very well lost it on the final two holes of the third round.
Spieth, who was attempting to join Tom Watson and Bobby Jones as the only American-born golfers to win The Open twice before turning 28 years old, started Sunday’s final round 3 shots behind leader Louis Oosthuizen and 2 behind eventual champion Collin Morikawa after bogeying the final two holes of the third round the day before.
Spieth, a three-time major champion, ended up finishing 2 strokes behind Morikawa after posting a 4-under 66 over the final 18 holes on Sunday.
“I needed a break, and I didn’t get it from [Morikawa],” Spieth said. “I did all I could. So I’m upset because I really felt like I played well enough to win and made a couple of really dumb mistakes that possibly if I had played the week before, wouldn’t have made. Like just stepping in and missing a couple-footer on 18 [on Saturday], not really thinking about it. But at the same time, I did everything I could in the past few hours to win this championship.”
It will undoubtedly take Spieth a while to get over what went down on the final two holes on Saturday. On the par-4 17th hole, his approach shot didn’t clear the false front and rolled back into the fairway. On the par-4 18th, he 3-putted from about 15 feet, after inexplicably missing a 2-footer for par.
“I was 60 yards out in the fairway and made bogey on 17,” Spieth said. “Then I had a good look straight up the hill on 18. I finished 2-over on those holes. What was frustrating was the separation it would have been. It would have been three of us separated by at least 3 shots from the field, and I would have been in the final group. So it was kind of a double whammy there, where you feel like you’re not worried about someone going low behind you as much and you feel in control when you’re in the final group.”
Spieth ended up playing with Canada’s Corey Conners in the next-to-last group Sunday. He had bogeys on the par-4 fourth hole and par-3 sixth hole to put himself even further back of the leaders.
“It’s hard to be upset when I was a couple over through six [holes],” Spieth said. “I couldn’t have really done much more after that point. But the finish [on Saturday] was about as upset as I’ve taken a finish of a round to the house. I walked in and wanted to … I said, ‘Is there something that I can break?’ I knew that was important because I would have been in the final group.”
On Sunday, Spieth recovered with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and a birdie on the par-4 ninth to shoot 1-under 35 on the front. He had three more birdies without a bogey on the back, but Morikawa played flawlessly down the stretch to win his second major championship.
“It’s just I’ve been in that position a lot of times, and it’s a lot nicer when stuff’s happening in front of you and you can control,” Spieth said. “You can still birdie that hole, versus I get off the 16th today it was like, ‘Well, they could birdie behind, and there’s nothing I can do about it now.’ When you’re the last to come in, you’ve got the last chance on 18, and I think that’s the easiest place to come from, especially when it’s easier conditions.”
It was Spieth’s fourth runner-up finish at a major championship. His 72-hole scoring total of 267 tied for the best by a second-place finisher at The Open; Phil Mickelson also shot 267 over four rounds while losing to Henrik Stenson by 3 shots at Royal Troon in 2016. Spieth was attempting to win a major for the first time since his victory at The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
Despite the disappointing near-miss, it was another positive step for Spieth, who went nearly four years without a victory until winning the Valero Texas Open in April. He also tied for third at the Masters, was runner-up at the Charles Schwab Challenge and tied for 19th at the U.S. Open.
“I did everything I could,” Spieth told NBC Sports. “I holed the putts I needed to hole. I hit shots that are still uncomfortable for me, kind of getting over some scar tissue and getting things back in gear. I think that was a huge confidence boost. It was a good week.
“I really felt like I 100 percent played well enough to win this week. I felt that way, and I haven’t felt that way at a major in quite a while. Under major championship pressure on the weekend, I felt that my swing held up really nicely, and I’m going to take that as a lot of confidence going forward, for sure.”