Jordan Spieth must seize chance to arrest an alarming slide at Augusta

first_imgThere is method in the madness of dodging Masters hype. Patrick Reed, Sergio García, Danny Willett, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Ángel Cabrera and Charl Schwartzel would have been names etched on betting slips before claiming a Green Jacket but hardly on a basis that would trouble bookmakers. Recent history has told us to look beyond the pre-tournament noise, even if what Dustin Johnson could have achieved in 2017 remains anyone’s guess, after he was ruled out of Masters participation by a tumble down a flight of stairs.In theory, the Masters should be the easiest of the majors to predict. Not only does it run with the smallest field, but a number of them can be immediately discarded as potential winners on the basis of age; see José María Olazábal, Fred Couples, Larry Mize, Ian Woosnam. The basic nuances of Augusta National also rule out many younger players. Albane Valenzuela: the amateur golfer who turned down Augusta Share on Twitter Since you’re here… Golf Jordan Spieth Brooks Koepka Read more The Masters Share on WhatsApp “In any career you’re going to have ups and downs. I’ve also had it at the time around when I was missing Q-School. I had a year or two where I couldn’t get the ball in the hole from outside of three feet and I turned that, in a couple of years, to making everything. So it’s how it works. It’s just a matter of when you get off, learning from it, finding out why, so that you don’t get as off next time.”Brooks Koepka’s three major wins mean he has equalled Spieth on that front. Koepka has an average Masters return, by his own lofty standards, but his gradual improvement – from 33rd to 22nd and 11th since 2015 – suggests he has come to terms with the course. Johnson’s two wins this year, but primarily his emphatic success in Mexico, highlight his own hopes here. Rickie Fowler remains burdened by being seen as one of the best players of his era not to win a major; second at the Masters a year ago was his latest close shave.Augusta’s propensity to change when nobody is looking has continued with the extension of the 5th, already a treacherous par four, by 40 yards to a potential 495. This, plus possible adjustment to the bunkers themselves, should bring sand traps on the left side of the fairway into play where they were recently rendered redundant by booming drives.Arguably such technicalities are not where the Masters is won and lost. So much of it is in the mind; including, perhaps, the escaping of attention. Share via Email Read more Topicscenter_img Support The Guardian Reuse this content Share on Messenger features Share on Facebook Share on Pinterest The Observer Rory McIlroy: ‘I don’t need to fill a void in my life by winning majors’ US sports Share on LinkedIn … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. If the present Masters contingent of 86 players holds until Thursday, it will be the smallest since 1997. The identity of the first-round leader of that tournament – John Huston – is a decent pub quiz question but nobody needs reminding of the victor. Tiger Woods blew away the Augusta field by 12 shots. Should Woods prevail again, for a 15th major win, the story will transcend golf.Notable talent, arguably more worthy of attention even than a reinvigorated Woods, lies elsewhere. Much of it is European. Francesco Molinari has demonstrated an ability to win in the United States and to claim a major. The Italian’s game is so versatile as to suit any venue. Tommy Fleetwood’s rise will, surely, include US and major success before too long; it would be unwise to discount them occurring in tandem. Justin Rose has a terrific Masters record, worthy of immense respect. Rory McIlroy’s fifth attempt at completing a career grand slam comes at a time when he is in excellent form. McIlroy’s deliberate attempt to dim the lights that shine upon him should not mask his chances.Jordan Spieth breaks the mould of those tipped to impress. His second‑place finish on his Masters debut in 2014 triggered excitement and hinted at greatness and those sentiments were rubber-stamped by his triumph in 2015.This has the feeling of a highly significant week for Spieth. Before finding form at this weekend’s Valero Texas Open, the 25-year-old had become accustomed either to making up the numbers or missing cuts. When asked what he would have thought if someone had said to him after his 2017 Open victory that he would head to the Masters 21 months later without another win, Spieth smiled. “That it had been one hell of a celebration.”However, if Spieth cannot summon something magical at Augusta, where his full record is a rather incredible – 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 11th, 3rd – then serious questions will be raised about what precisely has gone wrong.“I’ve unfortunately had these waves of one thing being off that prevents me from consistently solid golf,” Spieth said. “But the other thing is really good. The good news is I feel like my putting is here to stay and the swing is working in the right direction.last_img

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