The Open 2018: Wounded animal Spieth is a danger to Carnoustie rivals

Jordan Spieth has not been in the best form of late, but discount his Open Championship prospects at your peril, writes Peter Hanson.

Jordan Spieth with the Claret Jug   -  Getty Images

They say you should always be aware of the wounded animal.

It is advice that should be particularly heeded by Jordan Spieth's rivals when the amiable American defends The Open at Carnoustie.

A year has passed since Spieth became Champion Golfer for the first time amid a gloriously chaotic final round that put those watching at home through the mill, let alone the man himself.

The defining moment, one which will forever be etched among the greatest in the tournament's long and illustrious history, came on the 13th hole of the final day at Royal Birkdale.

Fears of a meltdown akin to his Masters blow-up a year previously came immediately to mind as Spieth crashed his drive into a dune, opted to take an unplayable lie, moved onto the adjacent practice area and, defying all golfing logic, managed to rescue bogey.

It was 30 minutes of pure unadulterated sporting drama and set the tone for a sensational birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie finish that secured a maiden Claret Jug at the expense of the luckless Matt Kuchar.

Those moments from the sublime to the ridiculous back to the even more sublime are increasingly synonymous with Spieth at major tournaments.

So, please forgive the cliche... But tear up the form book. Forget that Spieth's highest finish over the past six tournaments is a tie for 21st, forget that two of those events ended in missed cuts, and forget the fact others are seemingly better placed to be standing tall as the victor on Sunday.

Because this isn't just any ordinary player we're talking about, this is Jordan Spieth, a man you write off at your peril.

And there is something in the air about Spieth. Addressing the media at his pre-tournament news conference there was a steely determination, and a genuine sadness about having to relinquish the Claret Jug, amid the usual calm, composed and measured answers that make the three-time major winner such a likeable character.

"I thought maybe somebody would meet me in the parking lot and I'd just give them the case back and we'd move on," Spieth said about handing back the trophy.

"But it was a ceremony and because of that, it actually hit me harder. I was like, man, this was in my possession.

"I took it to all the places that allowed me to get to where I am today. My family was able to take it around. Members of the team were able to take it. It's the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer.

"So, having to return that was certainly difficult, it kind of hit me a little bit there on the tee box."

That sense of loss over a possession he considered his is sure to ignite the fire that makes Spieth such a dangerous competitor for his opponents.

Couple that with a desire this weekend to be expressive, to be creative, to be – as he put it himself – an "artist", then the tools are in place for another Spieth masterclass, or, if we're following history, rollercoaster.

"I feel like I'm in a position now with every part of my game, I kind of attacked the places that really needed strong work," he added.

"That combination with an Open Championship, and the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me kick-back into shape."

Spieth will be more aware than anyone that this kind of assured mindset must manifest itself in a confident performance on the course.

But, while he may be wounded by his form over the past few months, be in absolutely no doubt that Spieth remains a dangerous golfing animal.

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