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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Humbled Spieth admits loyalty has been key to resurgence

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Jordan Spieth says he always believed in his team through a barren spell of golf that ended with his first win since 2017 at last week’s Valero Texas Open.

Where some players might look at their backroom team and think ‘change’, the 2015 Masters Champion admits he took the responsibility on the chin when it came to his own form and returns to Augusta National as one of the pre-tournament favourites having been rewarded with a remarkable turnaround in fortunes this year.

“I think I needed to look back and take responsibility,” said Spieth after arriving to Augusta. “It’s part of the game. Some people on certain levels and some people on others. I mean, it’s not like I lost my Tour card. I just wasn’t winning three times a year.

“So I think if I won once a year since then you guys still might have called it slightly a slump off of some years. It’s all about whatever the expectations of the individual are and what they can manage from the outside.

“For me it was taking ownership and this is what happened. I believe in my team. They have proven themselves to be the best in the world, and how can we all get a little bit better through this and what steps are we going to take forward to be able to feel this momentum together as we start to make progress in the right direction and then believing that that’s happening.”

Spieth ended the 2020 season with six missed cuts on his record as his ranking slipped to 82nd in the world. No longer amongst the top-50 readily qualifying for the game’s biggest events, Spieth admits that missing out on this year’s WGC-Workday was a particularly humbling experience that lit the fire inside the three-time major winner.

“I think I was, I guess, humbled to an extent,” Spieth said. “I never felt like I ever got a head of myself. I never felt like I was out there overly confident. But I think you get humbled a little bit.

“For me it really stung when I missed the World Golf Championship. I didn’t qualify for the World Golf Championship this year and I think that was the first one that I didn’t qualify for. When there was a tournament being played that week that I was healthy and could play in and just didn’t have a spot in the tournament, that kind of hit me and it was a driving factor, I think, in continuing.

“I’ve learned a lot of patience. I probably spent a year of struggling where I was forcing a lot of things, and it just made it worse. But it was just kind of hard not to force it because I just wanted to be back to playing good golf so quickly without really — sometimes less is more.

“I think it’s a new — I’m not a very patient person in general, and I think having to kind of learn patience through struggles is massively important, where taking a step back and maybe taking a full month away from the game and kind of coming back with a new game plan and new set plan and sticking to it versus when you don’t take that time off, a lot of times you go almost day-to-day or week-to-week and you’re changing swing thoughts or you’re swinging your attitude. I think the less is more and the patient mentality.”

Not just patience, but Spieth has retained plenty of perspective through this time of struggle. As he already mentioned, it wasn’t like he was ever on the brink of losing his Tour card. Rather it’s that one of the game’s best players wasn’t competing at the very top table where many felt he belonged. After returning to the winner’s enclosure at Texas, who’s to say Spieth isn’t about to feast, particularly at a course he loves in Augusta National.

“I’m 27, and a lot of people’s careers get started at 27 in this sport,” Spieth added. “Phil [Mickelson] was, what, 31, when he won his first major and had a major championship career after he won his first major, and four or five years, still my senior.

“So there’s a lot of ways to look at it. I think for me it’s not forcing into kind of the here and now and more just taking the patient route and taking the momentum route and just try and get — do something just a little bit better this week than you did the week before; trust something you didn’t trust the week before and pull it off and gain that confidence. Just head down, almost like one shot at a time, but that even goes into practice sessions.

“I like the progress that I’m making. I don’t feel that I have the control of all facets of my game that I want to have yet, but I feel like I’m working the right direction. Will that be — make a difference this week? Don’t know. But I’m going to work at trying to just be a little bit better than I was last week.”

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