When things couldn't have looked worse, Jordan Spieth never looked better.
The young Texan was in the midst of a monumental collapse Sunday in the 146th British Open that was reminiscent of the calamity he produced in the 2016 Masters, when he blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to play. This time, at Royal Birkdale, his three-stroke lead with 18 to play had vanished by the fourth hole, and Spieth looked lost, frustrated and defeated on the ancient land by the Irish Sea.
His struggles continued for eight holes and then his tee shot on the par-4 13th wound up 40 yards to the right of the fairway and disappeared into high, thick grass, forcing him to take a penalty drop. Make that an adventurous, bizarre penalty drop that took 20 minutes and found Spieth on the driving range by the equipment trucks despite a massive sand dune blocking his view of the green.
Somehow, some way, that's when Spieth turned his fortune around.
From the moment he finally hit his approach to the 13th from 235 yards, Spieth authored the latest chapter in his ever-growing legend. With remarkable brilliance, Spieth started doing Spieth things as he managed to make a miracle bogey on the 13th. He canned a "massive" putt from 7 feet and then summoned a red-number tear by going birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to win the oldest championship in golf.
With a 1-under-par 69, Spieth, who turns 24 on Thursday, finished at 12 under and three shots clear of playing partner Matt Kuchar (69) to become the Champion Golfer of the Year. And he is now the second-youngest player to win the first three legs of the career grand slam, bested only by Jack Nicklaus.
"Today took as much out of me as any day that I've ever played golf," said Spieth, whose shaky start included four bogeys in his first nine holes. " … Showed some resiliency and give a lot of credit to my guy (Michael Greller) on the bag for that. As you can imagine, thoughts come in from my last scenario when I was leading a major on Sunday. All of a sudden it creeps into your head. I was so confident and all of a sudden, the wheels have kind of come off everything. And how do we get back on track to salvage this round and just give yourself a chance at the end? It took a bogey to do so."
Spieth denied Kuchar his first major championship triumph. Paired for the second consecutive round, Kuchar took the lead when Spieth made his bogey on 13 but couldn't match his foe on the last five holes. Then again, who could have?
"It's crushing. It hurts. And it's an excitement and a thrill to have played well, put up a battle, put up a fight," Kuchar said. "You work so hard to get to this position, to have a chance to make history and win a championship. You don't get that many opportunities. And to be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it's a hard one to sit back and take.