Jordan Spieth defends his title at the Valspar Championship this week and it will be an acid test for how the world number one can be expected to perform at Augusta National.
The Texan began his stellar 2015 season with a playoff victory at the Valspar Championship, where he drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to beat Ryder Cup teammates Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair. Spieth donned a green jacket three weeks later and quickly rose to the top of the world rankings.
The youngster’s hot and cold 2016 season thus far includes a 30-under-par win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a missed cut at the Northern Trust Open.
‘I feel like I am in a better place than I was this time last year. The last few PGA Tour events weren’t up to par with how we were doing before, but we’ve already won this year and now is the time to build momentum and right into the majors,’ he said on Wednesday.
The par-71 Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort will host this week’s $6.1-million tournament, where the 2015 leading score was 10-under-par.
‘Tee to green it’s important to place the ball in the fairway for specific angles into the small greens here. You have to allow the course to come to you and take chances in specific spots rather than just fire away,’ said Spieth.
‘It’s a difficult golf course…in the top five toughest non-major courses we play in the year. So it’s great preparation for Augusta, because you really have to manage your shots,’ he added.
The young gun’s game is under the microscope, but his fond memories of playoff success at Innisbrook will go a long way towards his usual indomitability.
‘I made some putts to win last year and ultimately jump-started closing out tournaments in 2015, so it’s a very special place. It fits my game well, so I’m excited for this week, even though the last few events weren’t quite what I was looking for,’ he said.
South Africa will field a strong contingent in Florida this week, led by the trio of Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel.
Veteran contenders Ernie Els and Retief Goosen will tee up this week, along with PGA Tour rookie Thomas Aiken. Also in the field are Rory Sabbatini, Trevor Immelman, and Tyrone van Aswegen.