Spieth looking to find form, repeat at The Open
To repeat as Champion Golfer of the Year is a tall order, and if Jordan Spieth is to accomplish the task in 2018, he must regain a form that has been missing most of this season.
Spieth comes to Carnoustie fresh after taking some time off to regroup. It was time well needed. Following a third-place finish at the Masters, which included serious fireworks en route to a 64 on Sunday, his game went flat, with lowlights including missed cuts at the Memorial and U.S. Open.
After finishing 42nd on June 24th at the Travelers Championship, Spieth put the clubs away to hit the reset button.
"I needed a break," said Spieth, on hand Monday at Carnoustie to return the Claret Jug. "I was kind of dragging along, playing cut-line golf for awhile, and playing a pretty heavy schedule."
Spieth used the break to visit Seattle and attend his sister's cheerleading competition in the Special Olympics. The time in the Pacific Northwest also allowed him to visit the site of his 2015 U.S. Open victory, Chambers Bay, and feel the vibes of his triumph by walking up the 18th fairway with caddie Michael Greller. Time spent in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, included some social golf, but he didn't get back to seriously looking at his game until he was back at home last week.
Spieth used the practice time to find his swing, in particular getting back to a natural setup. He feels the unique style of links golf is just what he needs to get back to playing with feel.
"I'd gotten very technical and very into making everything perfect instead of the way that I normally play,” he said.
"This week kind of provides that opportunity where you don't know how far the ball is necessarily going off the tee. You need to play to the spots and then you have to use your imagination from there. Hold the ball, ride the wind. A lot of different scenarios."
Repeating at The Open has been more common than the U.S. Open, though Brooks Koepka accomplished the feat last month for the first time since Curtis Strange in '88-'89. Padraig Harrington was the last Champion Golfer of the Year to do so in 2007-08, and that followed a repeat by Tiger Woods in '05-06. Tom Watson ('82-'83), Lee Trevino ('71-'72) and Arnold Palmer ('61-'62). The late Peter Thomson, who passed away this past June, is the only player since the beginning of the 20th century to three-peat ('56-'58).
Spieth will need to get up to speed quickly on the unique challenges that Carnoustie presents. As of lunchtime Monday, he hadn't been out onto the course for a practice round. So far, his familiarity with the course is only what his discussions have been with his caddie and other players, along with his memories of the 2007 Open playoff between Harrington and Sergio Garcia.
Word is already getting around about how the infamous links is setting up to be particularly severe given the dry summer in the British Isles.
"I think the 8th hole," he said. "Someone told me if we hit a draw on a par 3 it could land on the green and go out of bounds."
Nevertheless, the three-time major champion, who tees off Thursday morning at 9:58 am local time, will arrive to the tee with the sole confidence that comes with being the most recent name engraved on the Claret Jug.
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