Can Spieth slay the ghost of Augusta ’16?

Jordan Spieth enters the final round at Royal Birkdale on Sunday with the chance to take two huge steps on his way to becoming a golfing legend.

Spieth leads Matt Kuchar by three shots and the rest of the field by six after his second 65 on Saturday left him on 11-under par – a substantial lead that in most circumstances would have commentators talking about him as the champion-in-waiting.

The difference is this is Jordan Spieth, the man who famously threw away a five-shot lead at last year’s Masters and hasn’t been allowed to forget about it since.

Forget the fact that he has won four times since that Amen corner collapse, and that he is only the second player after Tiger Woods to have won 10 PGA Tour title before the age of 24.

It seems Spieth will not be allowed to forget his Masters disaster until he wins another major.

Well, now that chance is here and it would be a foolish person to bet against this steely-nerved, mature-for-his-years Texan pulling it off.

Bear in mind that in 69 rounds of major golf, Spieth has led after 14 of them.

Should he win, becoming the Open champion will not only help him slay the ghost of Augusta, it will also give him the third leg of a career Grand Slam after participating in just 19 majors. Only Jack Nicklaus (three legs in 16 majors) can better that, while it took Tiger Woods 20 majors to achieve the same.

Quizzed about whether he would take what he learned from Augusta into the final round at Birkdale on Sunday, Spieth was brutally honest.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think I’m in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I’ve gone through, the good, the bad and everything in the middle.

“I understand that leads can be squandered quickly, and I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one. So it was a humbling experience that I thought at the time could serve me well going forward.

“And if I don’t win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with it was someone else’s day, and I didn’t play as well as I should have. And if I win tomorrow it has nothing to do with that, either.

“You’re learning and it all goes into the mental process. And as I go in for the next whatever, 18, 20 hours, it’s about being very positive and really staying very focused on a game plan for tomorrow.

“So tomorrow will be a day that will be emotionally draining and difficult to stay very neutral in the head, but that’s probably the most important thing for me to do.”

Whichever way he looks at it, Sunday’s final round will be a huge test of Spieth’s resolve.

Should he, as most expect, pass that test with flying colours, then it will be a welcome step back onto the path to Spieth becoming one of the game’s greatest modern-era players.

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