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Spieth Looks To Win Year's Third Major, Where Golf Legends Have Fallen


This week's British Open golf tournament, pretty easy to preview. It comes down to one question - can he do it? He would be American golfing phenom Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old who plays this difficult game with a maturity way beyond his years. Spieth won the first two major championships of the year, and he's going for a third straight beginning tomorrow at hallowed St. Andrews in Scotland. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is on the line to talk golf and maybe a little baseball. Hey, Tom.


GREENE: So, Spieth, we can now say, is on a pretty special list of golfers who've won the first two majors of the year, the Masters and the U.S. Open. I mean, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer - huge names - but then those three legends go and don't win the third, the British Open. Why is this one so hard?

GOLDMAN: A number of reasons. Expectations are huge, obviously, and the pressure of chasing history can cause a muscle to tighten or twitch, and suddenly golf balls are going everywhere.

GREENE: Right.

GOLDMAN: The links courses used in the British Open - very difficult. They're next to the sea. They're exposed to all kinds of weather, tons of sand bunkers. And speaking of weather, the forecast at St. Andrews is calling for some wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, could cause some golf carnage. And the golfers who embrace the difficulties, the guys who enjoy the wind and the horizontal rain, if it comes, certainly they have a better chance of surviving and even thriving.

GREENE: Doesn't Spieth sort of seem like that kind of guy even though he's young? I mean, he just has shown this real calm through almost anything.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. You know, I think what you're seeing on golf courses is simply a reflection of his personality or at least the personality we see. He's a smart and thoughtful young man. He's great in interviews because he seems to answer questions honestly. He doesn't have the perfect swing or huge distance on his shots, but he thinks so well around a golf course. And the rare times he doesn't, he's got a caddy, Michael Greller, who's there to help. They've got a terrific relationship. After winning the U.S. Open last month, Spieth talked about how he didn't play his best, how he started to overanalyze his swing, and Greller said to him over and over, paint a picture. Don't worry about the swings. Zero in on the target. See the ball flight. See it land. He just helped him simplify when he needed to.

GREENE: Wow. I mean, it's great when you hear a caddy giving great advice to the golfer. That's a really cool relationship.

Let's turn to baseball. The Major League Baseball's All-Star Game last night - cool event and maybe an athlete who we might call the Jordan Spieth of that game, Mike Trout of the LA Angels, he gets a leadoff home run. He helps the American League win. He's Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row, and that's a first. And he's young like Spieth - 23.

GOLDMAN: He's an old man compared to Spieth.

GREENE: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: But he's still very young. He really does seem to have a Spieth-like personality - an accessible young man. He's supremely confident without seeming arrogant. And Trout is leading a youth movement in major league baseball that's drawing comparisons to some of the greatest collections of young talent in baseball history. Last night, there were six starters 25 or younger on the American and National League rosters combined.

GREENE: Well, let's go from newcomers to old-timers because before last night's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, they brought out four Cincinnati Reds old-timers, including Pete Rose, who is banned from the game for gambling. How did people react?

GOLDMAN: You know, Cincinnati fans love him, and they did last night. They've always loved the man nicknamed Charlie Hustle. It was a rare on-field appearance for Rose. Major League Baseball has allowed a few others. The question is now whether new commissioner Rob Manfred will lift the ban so Rose can stop being persona non grata, get into the Hall of Fame, where many believe he belongs.

GREENE: Leading the youth movement on our air, NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

GREENE: Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.