PINEHURST, N.C. -- He's still almost seven weeks short of his 21st birthday and yet Jordan Spieth has spent the 2014 season as a familiar name on the list of contenders before any PGA Tour event he enters.
When a field of 156 players tees it up Thursday for the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Spieth will be on that list yet again -- and maybe even a little higher up after having a chance to win the Masters and the Players Championship in the last two months.
To hear Spieth tell it, he has reached one objective for this year by contending in majors. He'd like to take the next step this week.
"I believe that I can win this golf tournament," he said Monday. "I feel comfortable on this golf course. I think it fits my game. When I step on the first tee, that's when I'm trying to do. If I get into contention, I'm definitely going to draw off any experience I've had; now I do have a little experience. That's only going to help me.
"And I feel like I will be able to close this one out, if I get an opportunity."
Closing out has been an issue for Spieth. He was tied with Bubba Watson for the lead going into the final 18 at the Masters and held a 2-stroke lead after seven holes. But bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes -- against a pair of birdies by Watson -- put him in a 2-shot hole from which he did not recover.
Then at the Players, Spieth played bogey-free golf for three rounds and entered the final round tied with Martin Kaymer. But he closed with a 74 and tied for fourth.
"I've contended now," Spieth said. "I think now if I can get into that position, the goal isn't just to feel the feelings and try to get the comfort level, but it's to really try and put into place what Augusta as well as the Players have taught me. But out here, it's going to be more difficult to be patient."
Spieth competed in his first major -- the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco -- two years ago when he got in as a last-minute alternate. He finished as low amateur, tying for 21st place while playing "the best golf I'd ever played in my life." He shot 77 and 76 last year at Merion and missed the cut.
He is excited to be playing this week. His family will be present. He loves the setup at Pinehurst No. 2, which is different than it was during the Opens in 1999 and 2005 in that it has no rough but sports acres of waste area and wire grass.
"I've never played anything like it," he said. "I think it's going to be a fair test."
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