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Jordan Spieth - major champion in waiting?

By Chris Murphy, CNN
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
Jordan Spieth goes into the U.S. Open as one of the favorites, underlining what a stellar rise the 20-year-old has had in the game of golf. This time last year his was a name that barely registered in talk about potential major winners. Jordan Spieth goes into the U.S. Open as one of the favorites, underlining what a stellar rise the 20-year-old has had in the game of golf. This time last year his was a name that barely registered in talk about potential major winners.
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Pinehurst prospect
Tour triumph
The President's men
Masters debut
The final hurdle
Players near miss
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jordan Spieth tells CNN he is ready to win his first major golf championship
  • The 20-year-old tees off at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst as one of the favorites
  • Spieth tied for second place in his first appearance at the Masters in April
  • He became youngest PGA Tour winner for 82 years in 2013

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(CNN) -- This time last year Jordan Spieth barely registered on golf's radar, now it seems merely a matter of time before he assumes the mantle of major champion.

The 20-year-old will tee off at Pinehurst on Thursday as one of the favorites to lift the U.S. Open, a measure of his stellar rise over the past 12 months.

Spieth became the youngest winner on the PGA Tour for 82 years when he bagged the 2013 John Deere Classic, underlining the potential encompassed in his swing.

He briefly held the lead during the final round of the Masters before tying for second and was in contention at the Players Championship, eventually finishing fourth.

Read: Spieth - U.S. golf's new kid on the block

So what price a maiden major championship in North Carolina aged 20 years and 10 months, roughly five months before Tiger Woods captured his first?

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A history of golf at Pinehurst

"I truly believe I can win a major -- right now I think I'm ready to," the Texan told CNN. "Each and every week is about preparing for the next major championship.

"The U.S. Open is a major which is what legacies are defined by. That's what Rory (McIlroy) says all the time, golf is all about winning majors.

"To be able to go into this event with a lot of confidence, I feel like I'm going to embrace the challenge."

Much has been made of the test Pinehurst will present, a markedly different one to 2005 when unfancied New Zealander Michael Campbell triumphed.

It has since been reshaped by two-time major champion Ben Crenshaw and his business partner -- famed golf architect Bill Coore -- who have restored many of its original features.

The pair have ripped out reams of rough and widened many fairways, but that won't necessarily makes things any easier.

Sandy scrub, pine straw and wiregrass now flank the fairways, meaning any errant tee shots could lead to a lottery in terms of lie.

The winning scores in three of the last four U.S. Open tournaments have been even par or less, underlining what a biting examination of a player's game it represents.

But that doesn't phase Spieth -- it excites him.

"I love the hardest challenge you can get," he explained. "The U.S. Open is the most difficult challenge in all of golf. That is exciting for us, it's awesome.

"It's going to be really interesting at Pinehurst with no rough. Everyone who has been there has raved about the place.

I truly believe I can win a major -- right now I think I'm ready to
Jordan Spieth
Martin Kaymer's sand shot master class

"Any time you can play golf's toughest test and try to test your game, if you can beat the golf course you really feel special after that round."

Spieth has been feeling pretty special for most of the last year.

His breakthrough victory at the John Deere proved he possessed the talent and temperament required to prosper on the biggest stage.

After memorably holing a bunker shot to force his way into a playoff, Spieth secured victory on the fifth extra hole, defeating David Hearn and Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion.

He recorded a pair of top four finishes in the FedEx Cup, including second place in the season-ending Tour Championship, before taking part in the USA's winning Presidents Cup encounter with their International counterparts.

At 2014's first major, Spieth muscled his way into the final group at Augusta on Sunday, and at one point assumed the lead from playing partner and eventual winner, Bubba Watson. Spieth finished in a tie for second.

Beautiful hand-painted golf posters
Rory McIlroy & Caroline Wozniacki split

Then at golf's unofficial fifth major, the Players Championship, Spieth was again in the final grouping before a late wobble saw him fall to fourth, playing partner Martin Kaymer, from Germany, taking top honors.

But for someone whose goal at the start of the season was to thrust himself into contention at a major championship, it was very much mission accomplished.

"I knew I was going to be in all four majors and it was about getting out there and contending because I knew it would be a different feeling than contending in any event I'd been in before," he said.

"I wanted to see how I would perform and sure enough at that first one in Augusta I got off to the start I needed.

"I had the right game plan that week. I knew how difficult the golf course was playing -- the weather made it firm and fast -- and I didn't let bogeys bother me.

"I played my way into contention on Sunday, I had the lead.

"I feel like I played some really strong golf with the amount of pressure I felt that week -- a bounce here, a bounce there then I might have been wearing the green jacket on my first try.

"That's really cool looking back at that and knowing I accomplished one of my goals for the year."

Spieth's preparations for Pinehurst have included calls to Crenshaw, to pick his brains as to the redesign, and strength and conditioning work in the gym.

As well as repeating his "stay patient" mantra, Spieth has also been grooving his swing to make sure it stands up to the fierce examination of the closing holes in a major championship.

"I feel like it's all falling into place," Spieth said.

"I know from Augusta when you are in the thick of things and you're feeling that intense pressure the most important thing is making sure the most basic part of your golf swing stays the same.

"It is tough staying patient, I'm not a patient person off the course at all so it's very hard, especially when emotions are so heightened.

"I did a very, very good job of it at Augusta, and a very good job for a little while at the Players.

"I've got a lot of confidence going in that I can put it together a little longer, just having been in the heat twice now in two of the strongest fields in the world that I've ever played against."

Read: Kaymer holds on for Players win

Read: Tiger Woods out of U.S. Open

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