BMW Championship Golf

Jordan Spieth runs to the 10th hole fairway during the pro-am of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club Wednesday in Lake Forest.

Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

LAKE FOREST — Jordan Spieth already has won 14 times around the world, which already places him in unique territory. Over the last 75 years, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other players to have at least 10 victories and three majors before turning 25.

That's only part of the Spieth profile.

Nearly as impressive are the 15 times he has finished runner-up, which Spieth sees more as opportunity than any measure of failure.

"I know you're indifferent when you're asking the question, but I think of it positively," he said Wednesday. "There's been that many tournaments that I've been in the thick of things and truly had a chance to win."

That includes the last two FedEx Cup playoff events.

Spieth lost in a playoff on Long Island when Dustin Johnson smashed a 343-yard drive and hit a wedge to 4 feet for birdie. Then, he was tied for the lead at the TPC Boston with five holes to play until Spieth missed two greens with long irons and Justin Thomas didn't miss hardly anything in a three-shot victory.

There are worse times of the year to settle for second.

Those consecutive runner-up finishes elevated Spieth to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup going into the BMW Championship, and that's not a bad place to be. He is assured of being among the top five seeds who only have to win the Tour Championship next week to capture the $10 million bonus.

"If I finish runner-up this week, unless one of two other people win, I will have accomplished the goal of being No. 1 going into East Lake," he said.

Johnson and Thomas are the players to whom he referred, and that's only part of the battle at Conway Farms.

The primary goal of the 70-man field is to finish in the top 30 and get to East Lake for the Tour Championship, where everyone has a mathematical shot at capturing the FedEx Cup and its lucrative prize. The top five seeds have the best odds, though Bill Haas at No. 25 won it in 2011.

Right behind Haas at No. 30 are a pair of rookies, Mackenzie Hughes and Xander Schauffele, both PGA Tour winners this year, both wanting a lot more.

Spieth can't recall a time in his career — pro or amateur — when he was runner-up at three straight tournaments. 

Then again, he's not the only player in good form.

Johnson is finally back to full health from his back injury on the eve of the Masters, having rallied to beat Spieth at The Northern Trust and starting the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship three shots behind until he never recovered from a slow start.

Thomas has won twice in his last three starts, the other at the PGA Championship for his first major. Thomas already has five victories this year and would be a shoo-in for PGA Tour player of the year provided Spieth doesn't win the last two tournaments to claim the FedEx Cup.

They have been close friends since they were 14. Thomas said he was motivated by Spieth more when Thomas was in college and couldn't compete against him. That's not the case as much now.

"I want to win because I like to," he said.

Spieth looks at opportunity to win. Equally amazing to his 15 runner-up finishes in just five years as a pro is that in nine of them he either lost in a playoff or finished one shot behind. It speaks to a bigger picture of identifying the staying power of the best in golf.

Rory McIlroy, for example, has 21 victories and 20 runner-up finishes in his career. Johnson has 16 victories and 10 runner-up finishes.

"I don't know what Tiger's amount was, but I imagine first versus second was significant," Spieth said with a smile.

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