Defending champion Jordan Spieth received an unexpected extra incentive to repeat his 2015 Masters success this week, just from the thought of returning his Green Jacket to the Augusta National locker room.
Masters tradition dictates that the fabled jacket is allowed to leave the golf course for the year of the winner’s reign before being restored to it’s rightful peg in the Champions’ Locker Room. And the realisation for the 22-year-old that that time had arrived got the Texan’s competitive juices flowing even faster.
“When I packed it to go down to Austin (for the WGC Dell Match Play), because I drove to Austin, Houston (for the Shell Houston Open last week) and flew here; I was like, wow, there’s a possibility that I don’t have this back at my house anymore when I was leaving home,” Spieth said last night before hosting the annual Champions Dinner.
“It kind of fired me up a little bit. So yeah, just the jacket itself provides a little motivation, which is cool but at the same time, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to get. I didn’t take it for granted whatsoever. I think that I could have taken advantage of having it in my possession more than I did. But you learn and next time I’ll do a little bit better,” he added with a laugh.
News of Spieth’s intention to reclaim the Green Jacket will worry his rivals given the extraordinary success he has enjoyed at the Masters in just two appearances.
His debut in 2014 delivered a tie for second. His second attempt brought glory, Spieth becoming the first player to reach 19 under par during his wire-to-wire win, tying Tiger Woods’ scoring record at 18 under, and winning his second major at the next opportunity with the US Open.
Spieth is yet to shoot over par in eight competitive rounds here and despite losing his top ranking to Jason Day a fortnight ago, the number two feels he is in a good place.
“It’s great being back here. I’ve had a fantastic couple days thus far preparing and game feels great.
“Going to try and just use last year as momentum. We know we’re capable of playing this place. We have proven it to ourselves the last two years. So the focus is on this week, and we feel as confident as probably ever leading into at least on Tuesday.
“So game actually feels better right now than I think it did last year on Tuesday, so that’s good if we can keep it consistent.”
Spieth laid the groundwork for success last year with opening rounds of 64 and 66, both the low scores of the day, 15 of his record 28 birdies coming on Thursday and Friday in a performance which prompted Rory McIlroy to say yesterday the American “had it won after 36 holes last year”.
A repeat would do very nicely.
“I hope I get off to a good start,” Spieth said. “If I don’t, then I’m going to have to reach down deep and really stay patient and let birdies come to me. I think recently I’ve been trying very, very hard, almost too passionate to make birdies wherever I’m at to get on these runs, like I did early Sunday in Houston (five birdies in a six-hole stretch).
“And on this type of golf course, that’s easy to do, as well. You play these par-fives and you think, the winners from the previous whatever years have all played these par-fives so well. I just parred my first three par-fives; I’m losing strokes.
“Well, that’s something that’s easy to think about here, but you let ‘em come to you, you let the birdies come to you. I just think that this place brings that kind of mentality into me and Michael (Greller, his caddie), and I think, I don’t know why, but it just does. I’m very pleased that it does.”
The comfort Spieth feels in these surroundings is palpable and he is less burdened than a year ago when he was still yet to win a major, a further advantage, he feels, over the likes of Day and McIlroy still chasing their first Masters wins.
“The stress was there (last year), but also the confidence was there. I think that it’s the same this year. We’ve already done it, so it’s not like I’m chasing my first major. We have two major championships now. So we feel like there’s an advantage, if we can get into contention against those who are searching for their first; we know how difficult that was to sleep on, and to sleep on leads and in contention in major championships when you haven’t capitalised.
“Sure, I’m putting pressure on myself to contend this year, just like last year and I feel like I’m in form, as well.
“But it’s also going to be a lot of fun walking these fairways, reliving those memories with the crowds and the roars, the echos.”
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