AUGUSTA, Ga. – From the relative depths Jordan Spieth has explored over the past few years, it was reasonable to expect an outpouring of emotion from one of the game’s most expressive players.
A pumped fist.
A primal scream.
Arms raised in triumph.
And yet, when Spieth tapped in his 1-footer to win the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, snapping a four-year winless drought, all he offered was a sheepish smile and hugs for his playing partners. Only when his wife, Annie, approached did he get the slightest bit choked up.
Other than that, to Spieth, it felt like 2015. Or 2017. Or nearly any other time in his gilded career.
“I was happy that it didn’t hit me that hard,” Spieth said Monday afternoon at Augusta National. “That it felt normal. That it felt like me and that’s where I’m supposed to be. That this is who I am.”
Leaving straight away from San Antonio to Augusta certainly helped shift his focus forward, not to the slump he’s overcome. Spieth has arrived at the Masters in both good form and bad, and he’s been reliably competitive either way. The champion in 2015, he has three other top-5s and two other solid performances in seven career appearances. He’s held at least a share of the lead here after nine rounds – only four players, all time, have had more, and that includes five-time champion Tiger Woods, with 10. Around Augusta, at least, Spieth is already a legend at age 27.
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But Spieth’s unemotional reaction was also a window into how he views this comeback. That it’s not a completed project but rather a work in progress. That the Valero title is not actually “monumental,” as he blurted out 30 seconds after his victory, but rather validation that he’s working on the right things.
In fact, Spieth said Monday that he’s only “a little over halfway” where he wants to be with his game.
“It’s pretty awesome when I look back and think there’s a next level that I’ve been at that I’m still searching for right now,” he said.
If the past four years taught him anything, it’s patience. Listen to any of his on-course interactions with caddie Michael Greller and it’s clear that doesn’t come naturally nor easily. That shouldn’t be surprising, really – Spieth has rarely waited for success. He was a Tour winner at 19, a two-time major champion at 21 and one leg from the career Grand Slam at 23. In his first five years, he had 11 wins and 12 runner-ups.
But to hear Spieth now, he had little understanding of what he did well technically, or why. He never left longtime swing coach Cameron McCormick because, together, they owned the catalog of shots and swings that produced the best golf in the world. Yes, the long climb back has been maddening, but it’s also been educational. Rediscovering what he described as his competitive DNA, he’s better equipped now for long-term success.
“I like the progress that I’m making,” he said. “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 in the right direction. Will that make a difference this week? I don’t know. But I’m going to try to just be a little bit better than I was last week.”