Saturday, February 24, 2018
Golf

Jordan Spieth has moved on from Masters meltdown

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — After four weeks away from golf, Jordan Spieth feels like he is starting a brand new season.

It's everyone else who is looking behind.

The Players Championship, which begins today at TPC Sawgrass, is Spieth's first tournament since he lost a five-shot lead on the back nine at the Masters, most of that on the par-3 12th, where he put two shots into the water and made quadruple-bogey 7.

He received text messages from people who didn't even have his phone number, people who reached out to remind him that sports can be cruel and bad things happens to the best. He analyzed what went wrong with coach Cameron McCormick, not just on the 12th hole at Augusta National but all week of the Masters with his swing. He spent a week in the Bahamas with three players who are close friends: Rickie Fowler, Smiley Thompson and Justin Thomas. He did commercial shoots with corporate sponsors, spent time in the gym, played a practice round at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, site of next month's U.S. Open, and worked on the range.

When he sat down Wednesday for his news conference, 10 of the 15 questions were about the Masters.

"I think people have moved on already — at least I thought so until I came in here," Spieth said, smiling.

The Players Championship is the strongest and deepest field of the year, with the richest purse ($10.5 million) in golf on a course that historically favors no one.

"One of the tougher tracks of the year," Spieth said. "I enjoy that."

Then again, anything is more enjoyable than his last three hours at Augusta National, right up until the time that Spieth, as defending champion, had to slip the green jacket on winner Danny Willett.

He attributes his collapse to one bad swing at the wrong time, that he had been missing his shots short and right for most of the final round and paid dearly for that on the 12th hole. That part he can fix, along with a swing that he says has not been the same since late last summer.

Spieth starts a busy summer stretch in which he plays the next four weeks, followed by a one-week break before the U.S. Open. He has two more majors, the Olympics, a World Golf Championship event and the FedEx Cup playoffs on his very full plate.

Maybe the best way for Spieth to put the Masters entirely behind him is to hoist another trophy. He shared the 54-hole lead at Sawgrass two years ago with Martin Kaymer before fading, so at least he knows he can score on the Stadium Course.

"I don't think I have anything to prove," Spieth said. "I think I've already proven what we're capable of doing when the pressure is on. … I don't think there's anything that will come up where I feel like I need to get revenge.

"As of right now, I'm ready to be out on the golf course, trying to work my way up the leaderboard, and trying to win the Players Championship."

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