Cautious confidence as Spieth prepares for Claret Jug defence
Jordan Spieth returned the Claret Jug but he’s not ready to give up on his Champion Golfer status just yet.
Since his dramatic win at Royal Birkdale 12 months ago, Spieth admits there have been struggles with his game.
The world number six has not finished in the top 20 since The Masters, where a final-round 63 pushed him up the leaderboard to third.
He missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament and the US Open but a first-round 63 at the Travelers Championship, his last PGA Tour appearance, gives reason for optimism.
"The Claret Jug is the coolest trophy"
Plus just being back at The Open - and renewing his love affair with links golf - means there is a cautious confidence.
“Obviously it’s been an off-year if you look at my results and things have not lived up to expectations,” he admitted.
“When I gave the trophy back it really hit me, hopefully it’s only out of my possession for a week because The Claret Jug is the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer.
“I know that things have to fire on all cylinders to win golf tournaments. But I’ve attacked the places that needed some strong work and I’m in a really good spot - at an Open - to kick back into shape.
“Is my game as consistent as it’s ever been? Probably not. But can it be by the time we tee off? Absolutely.
“Does it have to be to win the tournament? No, because links golf requires so much feel. As long as I play to the right spots and give myself enough chances, it can be good enough and that’s why this week provides an opportunity for me.
“I just love links golf and if we get wind with these firm conditions it could be a real treat.”
After completing the final formalities of his year as Champion Golfer, Spieth hit the range and the course for his first look at Carnoustie’s fabled links.
Course management will be key in the days ahead, with scorched fairways making caddies, like Spieth’s bagman Michael Greller, really work for their money.
“Friends tell me it’s pretty baked and Michael thinks I might be wearing out my five iron where I’d normally take a three or two iron,” added Spieth.
“I’m not sure what my strategy will be yet but I think you’ll see a lot of guys play this course differently.”
Memories of last year can’t be escaped for Spieth, his picture is everywhere - and large galleries are guaranteed.
The edge of your seat nature of his triumph on the Lancashire coast - a script Hollywood would have dismissed as fanciful - will forever be a defining Open memory, though Spieth would prefer something a little less memorable this weekend.
“I’ve had plenty of tournaments where I’ve made it very boring down the stretch and some where it’s been exciting - both good and bad,” he added.
“If I could go back and do it again, I would 100 percent make three birdies and walk my way up the 18th. How it happened was special but I would have been more proud if I’d made no bogeys, that’s the goal for next time.”
Which all sounds like some rather low-key fighting talk for a player who hasn’t given up on the trappings of Champion Golfer just yet.
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