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story.lead_photo.caption Jordan Spieth had four bogeys through the first nine holes of the final round of the British Open on Sunday, but the 23-year-old rebounded to close with a 1-under 69 to hold off Matt Kuchar and win the third major championship of his career.

SOUTHPORT, England -- During one of Jordan Spieth's many low points Sunday in the British Open, his caddie reminded him of a photo from a Mexico beach holiday two weeks ago that showed him in All-Star company that included Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan.

The message: "You belong in that group."

Spieth left little doubt with a closing performance that ranks among championship golf's greatest finishes.

Trailing for the first time all weekend at Royal Birkdale -- and lucky it was only one stroke after hitting his third shot from the driving range -- the 23-year-old Texan followed with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that allowed him to close with a 1-under 69 and win the British Open by three shots over Matt Kuchar.

Spieth captured the third leg of the career Grand Slam and heads to the PGA Championship next month with a chance to be the youngest to win them all.

"This is as much of a high as I've ever experienced in my golfing life," Spieth said.

It all started after Spieth landed in a spot so dire it looked as though he would endure another major meltdown.

The break of the tournament -- and a moment that will rate alongside Seve Ballesteros making birdie from the car park when he won at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1979 -- was when Spieth discovered the range was part of the course.

His tee shot was so far to the right on the par-4 13th hole that it sailed some 75 yards from the fairway and settled in thick grass on a dune so steep he could hardly stand up, let alone take a swing. The only smart option was to take a one-shot penalty for an unplayable lie.

And that's when Spieth showed his golfing brain is as valuable as any club in his bag.

He had the presence to ask if the driving range was out of bounds. It wasn't, which allowed him to go back in a straight line from the flag until he was on the range among the equipment trucks, from which he received relief. He still faced a blind shot over the dunes to a hole littered by pot bunkers. He hit 3-iron just short of a bunker near the green, pitched over it to about 7 feet, and made what he considers the most important putt of the day to escape with bogey.

Then, he made like Phelps and Jordan.

Spieth hit 6-iron to the par-3 14th that landed in front of the flag and came within inches of an ace, leading to a short birdie putt to regain a share of the lead.

On the par-5 15th, he rolled in a 50-foot eagle putt and playfully barked at caddie Michael Greller to pick it out of the cup. "Go get that," he said, pointing to the hole.

Kuchar birdied to stay within one shot, but Spieth wasn't done.

Spieth rolled in a 30-foot putt across the 16th green for a two-shot lead, and he kept that margin by pouring in a 7-foot putt to match birdies with Kuchar at the par-5 17th.

The final putt for par was a tap-in, as easy a shot as he had all day.

"To follow that bogey on 13 with great golf shots and great putts, and play the final five holes in 5-under par, I was just very happy for him and very impressed to watch all that guts, determination and skill," Jack Nicklaus posted on Facebook.

Spieth and Jack Nicklaus are the only players to win three different majors at age 23.

"This is a dream come true for me," Spieth said, gazing at his name on the silver claret jug. "Absolutely a dream come true."

Kuchar, playing in the final group of a major for the first time, couldn't keep up, but he hardly crumbled.

Kuchar had a one-shot lead after 13 holes, played the next four holes with two birdies and two pars and found himself two shots behind and out of luck.

Kuchar walked off the green to find his wife and two sons waiting, a surprise because they had been in Colorado the day before, and it added to the emotions.

"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," said Kuchar, who closed with a 69. "I can only control what I do, how I play. Jordan is a great champion and certainly played that way in the finishing stretch today. It was impressive stuff. All you can really do is sit back, tip your cap and say, 'Well done.' And it was certainly a show that he put on."

Zach Johnson, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler were among those who waited by the 18th to watch Spieth capture yet another major. Johnson won at St. Andrews two years ago, when Spieth missed the playoff by one shot in his bid for the calendar Grand Slam. Spieth drank wine from the jug that year, which he was told was bad luck for anyone wanting to possess the trophy one day.

"I started to believe them a bit through nine holes today," he said. "It feels good to have this in my hands."

Sports on 07/24/2017

Print Headline: Simply Jordanesque

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