Jordan Spieth is eager to turn the page on what he optimistically views as a “building year.”
The 2018 season was not kind to the three-time major champ. No trophies found their way onto the Spieth mantle, and his shot at back-to-back claret jugs ended in in disappointing fashion at Carnoustie. After struggling with his game for much of the summer, his season came to an abrupt halt when he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
That development, in turn, left Spieth one start shy of his mandatory 25 PGA Tour events and necessitated a trip to the principal’s office in Ponte Vedra Beach. So, partly in an effort to atone for his scheduling sins and partly out of readiness to start a new chapter, Spieth finds himself as one of the headliners this week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
“I feel great being here. I feel rested. I feel healthy,” Spieth told reporters. “The game feel’s like it’s in good shape.”
Spieth’s game is rarely if ever stuck in neutral. When things are clicking, he’s reaching astonishing heights and threatening to re-write whatever page of the record books he can get his hands on.
But when it’s off, as it was for much of last season, the search for answers is both painstaking and public. Spieth isn’t one to hide his on-course emotions, and as a result his struggles relative to his lofty standards have been out in the open for all to see.
After starting the year ranked second in the world, he tees off this week at No. 13, his lowest standing in nearly four years.
“It’s a blessing and a curse, kind of, the perfectionism that I kind of have,” Spieth said. “I just overdid it. I was spending longer, I spent more time at the course when my game was off than when it was on. Didn’t really find the right balance.”
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Spieth will play both this week in Las Vegas and next week in Mexico at Mayakoba. While it’s a unique two-step for one of the game’s biggest stars, likely motivated in part by his shortfall in starts last season, Spieth insisted that it’s not that much different than his typical fall slate.
Spieth has often played the Australian Open, winning in both 2014 and 2016, and he’s also a former champ and regular participant at the Hero World Challenge. But he won’t go down to Australia next month, and his upcoming wedding conflicts with Tiger Woods’ event in the Bahamas.
“I’m playing the same number, from the end of the team events (Ryder Cup) to the new year,” Spieth said.
So rather than Sydney or Albany, it’ll be the outskirts of Sin City where Spieth begins his new campaign. If searching for inspiration, he told reporters he need look no further than 2014 – when he finished the first winless PGA Tour season of his career.
He broke through in Australia that fall, won the next week at Tiger’s event at Isleworth and jump-started a 2015 season that came within a few shots of the single-season Grand Slam.
The search for form can be frustrating. But with Spieth, it sometimes doesn’t last very long.
“I can look at ’14 into ’15 and sit there and say, ‘You know, the second I get disappointed in dropping whatever, seven or eight spots in the world ranking, by August of the next year I was back to No. 1 in the world off one season,'” Spieth said. “That can happen again. You know, it’s quick how things can kind of turn and change when you get a little momentum.”