Jordan Spieth needs to win the PGA Championship for the career Grand Slam. Masters champion Tiger Woods needs to win the next three majors to capture an unprecedented calendar Grand Slam.
Based on how their seasons have gone, the question now is who has the better chance.
Spieth smiled at the supposition, and then tried to play along. He first considered how physics major Bryson DeChambeau would approach it and figured that winning one major would be easier than winning three. And then he considered the Wisconsin man who placed a $100,000 wager on 100-1 odds of Woods winning all four majors this year, a bet that would return $10 million.
“I would have better odds than that, right?” Spieth said.
For someone mired in a slump — a word Spieth himself said Wednesday on the eve of the PGA Championship — the 25-year-old Texan didn’t appear overly concerned about the opportunity in front of him at Bethpage Black.
Only five other players have won the career Grand Slam. No one has completed it at the PGA Championship.
Spieth wouldn’t appear to be a candidate at the moment. He is winless since getting the third leg of the slam in the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale. And while he had chances on the back nine of two majors last year, he hasn’t come close to winning since then.
In the eight stroke-play events this year when he played the weekend, Spieth on average has finished 14.5 strokes behind the winner. He has yet to finish in the top 20, with his best result a tie for 21st at the Masters.
He talks mostly about progress and consistency, both defined more by what he feels than what anyone else sees.
“I’ve shot some low rounds, but piecing together four has been difficult this season so far,” Spieth said. “I think it’s gotten more progressively consistent throughout the year, and out here you’re going to need that kind of consistency. You need your bad rounds to be held at about par to win this tournament, and you need your good rounds to go deep enough. If I can continue to make the amount of birdies I’ve been making and then just limit the mistakes a little bit, then I should be right in it.”
Woods, who won the second leg of the calendar slam at Bethpage Black in 2002 when it hosted the U.S. Open, is the betting favorite at 8-1. He is followed by Dustin Johnson and defending champion Brooks Koepka, two of golf’s most powerful players.
Spieth is listed at 50-1 on a big golf course that might feel even bigger considering the 2 inches of rain since Sunday that has left it long and soft.
“This is a completely different animal out here, Bethpage Black, and it’ll wear you out,” Xander Schauffele said.
Justin Rose says while 156 players are in the field, he felt there were only 30 or 40 who could win because of how long the Black course plays. He includes Woods in that group, mainly from what he saw on the 17th hole at Augusta National, where Woods had a two-shot lead and piped one down the middle.
“That was the most telling shot that I saw him play at Augusta this year, and because of that, I think it gives him an opportunity this week with his driver,” Rose said.
Koepka also believes the field — with 99 of the top 100 in the world — is shorter than it seems. He used his own brand of math to eliminate most of the field from taking home the Wanamaker Trophy.
“You figured at least 80 of them I’m just going to beat,” he said. “From there, you figure about half of them won’t play well from there, so you’re down to about 35. And then from 35, some of them just ... pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys.
“I think one of the big things I’ve learned over the last few years is you don’t need to win it,” he said. “If you hang around, good things are going to happen.”
Woods won’t be guilty of over preparing.
He hasn’t competed since winning his fifth green jacket — and 15th major — at the Masters, and he has played only 27 holes at Bethpage since he was last here in 2012 for a PGA Tour event. Woods played 18 holes a week ago and nine holes Monday. That was followed by a day of light work, but then he chose not to come to the course Wednesday on the final day of practice.
Spieth, who played the back nine Wednesday with Steve Stricker, has been frustrated by not finding a solution sooner, though he seemed upbeat.
During a long question when a reporter referenced him as among the best in the world, Spieth interrupted with a quick, “Thank you.” Another reporter referenced his phrase of a “bit of a slump” he is in, and Spieth quickly interjected with a smile, “Was.”
“I don’t want to use the word negativity, but the questioning and the wording that’s used to describe me by media or whatever over the past year has only come up because of the amount of success that I’ve had,” he said. “So it actually could be looked at positively, as well, because if I didn’t have the success that I’ve had, then I wouldn’t be in here right now.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to block out the noise and stay the course and believe in yourself.”