JACK NICKLAUS gave his seal of approval to Open champ Jordan Spieth, declaring: He’s better than I was at that age.
Spieth’s remarkable Birkdale triumph following a 13th-hole visit to the driving range saw him become the second man after Nicklaus to win three different Majors before the age of 24.
The legendary Golden Bear landed a record 18 in all — notching his final Masters in 1986 at the age of 46.
But Nicklaus, 77, was quick to praise young gun Spieth, who is not 24 until Thursday.
He wrote: “Wow, what a back nine. Is Jordan Spieth something else? Terrific stuff.
“Much was said about the fact Jordan and I were able to win three legs of the Grand Slam before the age of 24. But if you look, he has won 11 tournaments and I had won eight before 24.
“If you look at his victory total, his Open win — and the way he won — Jordan has shown an amazing display of maturity for someone so young. And he has been doing that for quite a while.
“His victory was a great display of guts, determination and skill. This was very enjoyable to watch. Matt Kuchar was terrific. He played very steady, solid golf.
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“But I guess you could say Jordan provided all the excitement.
“Jordan semi had the wheels coming off on 13 with that tee shot. While it did take him a long time between the tee shot and the next shot, he figured out what to do.
“I don’t know if I would have figured out to go over to the driving range for that shot. That was an unbelievable decision and an unbelievable five.
“That putt was so huge. Much like Sergio Garcia’s par save at the 13th hole at Augusta National in the final round of The Masters, I believe Jordan’s bogey at the 13th hole was the key to his round.
“He made that putt for bogey and all of a sudden he turned it on. It was as if he said: ‘Hey, I’ve let this thing get away from me. I’ve got to get back to work’.
“Then he went boom, boom, boom. To follow up that bogey on 13 with great golf shots and great putts, and play the final five holes in five under par, I was just very happy for him and very impressed to watch it.”
Spieth is now chasing Tiger Woods’ record for the fastest-ever full set of Majors — Masters, US Open, The Open and USPGA.
Woods was 24 years and seven months by the time he had bagged all four.
Spieth will beat that by six months if he adds the USPGA title to his collection at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 13.
He has already shown he likes to double up — he won the 2015 US Open just a couple of months after opening his account at The Masters.
Woods, who has won 14 Majors, went on Twitter to write: “What an incredible way to come back and win. Many congrats.”
Woods’ former coach Butch Harmon admitted he was ‘astonished’ at the way Spieth managed to escape with that incredible bogey on the 13th on Sunday afternoon.
The Texan, at that time joint-leader with Kuchar, carved his drive into an unplayable lie and opted to take a penalty drop in line with the hole.
After spending 20 minutes getting a ruling on exactly where he could play from, Spieth hit from 70 yards back on the practice range alongside a group of golf equipment trucks. A scorching iron, a chip and a putt saw him escape with a bogey five.
Spieth promptly then went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to see off fellow American Kuchar by three shots.
Harmon said: “He proved at Royal Birkdale he really is something special. I believe that when he gets home, he will take off his shirt and he will be wearing a Superman outfit underneath! He’s that good.
“If you scripted what we saw in that final round and handed it to a movie producer, he would throw it back at you and tell you it couldn’t possibly happen.”