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Jordan Spieth remerges as a Masters favorite after big win

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The sun was setting late Sunday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas, and music blared from clubhouse speakers after Jordan Spieth had just won the Valero Texas Open to end an 82-tournament winless drought that dated to his 2017 British Open victory.

The band was Journey. The song was “Don’t Stop Believin’.’’

Both perfectly fit the moment, because the 27-year-old Spieth has been on a rather frustrating journey since that last win … and yet he never stopped believing.

Midday Monday and fresh off his win, Spieth drove down Magnolia Lane for the first time this week for the Masters at Augusta National, a golf course on which he’s always believed — in good form and in bad.

After three-plus years in the wilderness in search of his game that quickly brought him three major championships, including the 2015 Masters, Spieth will tee it up in Thursday’s first round as one of the favorites this week.

This is how far he’s come — not only by virtue of his victory Sunday, but with his improving form in general this season.

Master
Jordan Spieth
Reuters

Through his first seven starts, Spieth has five top-15 finishes and was in contention to win at Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Bay Hill. Valero marked the fifth tournament in his last six stroke-play starts that Spieth has been in the top 10 through 36 holes.

“I feel it’s actually been a lot easier for me, over the last 12 hours, to just look forward versus kind of looking back,’’ Spieth said Monday. “That’s exciting.’’

In the immediate aftermath of the Valero victory, in his greenside interview after just having his wife, Annie, jump into his arms with tears in her eyes, Spieth called the win “monumental.’’

On Monday, he dialed that back a notch.

“I think I used a word that was within 30 seconds of tapping in the last putt and kind of just not really knowing where my head was at, and I think that was probably a little aggressive of a term,’’ Spieth said. “I did say it, but I didn’t really think that. It kind of felt normal. I think it was more just I wanted that monkey off my back of it just being a while out of the winner’s circle. It felt like me … where I’m supposed to be … and this is who I am.’’

This also is who Spieth is: accountable.

Every week, it seems players in slumps are firing their caddie and/or coach as they search everywhere but in the mirror for reasons they’re struggling.

As Spieth’s slump progressed and he constantly had to answer questions about why he wasn’t as good as he was when he took the game by storm and became the No. 1 ranked player in the game, questions persisted.

Why wasn’t he making a change from his swing coach Cameron McCormick, who’s worked with him since he was a kid, to get a new set of eyes on his swing?

And, why not move on from his caddie, Michael Greller, even though they’ve been together for essentially his entire pro career?

It’s a credit to Spieth’s patience, character and loyalty that he resisted any temptations to make knee-jerk decisions because the outside world wanted him to make moves.

“I think I needed to look back and take responsibility,’’ Spieth said. “For me, it was taking ownership. I believe in my team. [Slumps are] part of the game. I mean, it’s not like I lost my Tour card.’’

Spieth insisted he’s blocked out the noise spewing from social media littered with armchair experts who believe they have all the answers.

“I’ve shut everything off for a number of years — even when I was [ranked] first or second in the world,’’ Spieth said. “I just don’t think it’s useful. If you get to where you’re No. 1 in the world, I don’t really see why anyone who has not been in that position should be giving advice that you would then take to mean something.

“With [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick, it’s one of his very key things is eliminate the noise. I remember seeing that at Gillette Stadium before the Ryder Cup in 2016, and it’s always stuck with me.’’

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