A decade after earning his card, Spieth returns to Valspar with resurgence in mind
Jordan Spieth has a special relationship with the Valspar Championship, so what better place to mount a resurgence than at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course?
Spieth loves the course, has finished T-20 or better in all but one of his five previous starts (he MC in 2018), and it's the place where he earned his PGA Tour card via special temporary membership in 2013 – a decade ago this week.
A lot has changed in the past 10 years, since that all-important T-7 finish. Spieth is now a three-time major winner, 13-time winner on the PGA Tour (including the 2015 Valspar) and married to his high school sweetheart with a toddler in tow.
Full-field tee times for the Valspar Championship
"It was everything at the time," Spieth said of earning his card during his first start at Innisbrook. "I didn't have any status anywhere, and I had made a decision not to go secure Korn Ferry Tour status the week prior, and go to Puerto Rico instead and played well, and then got into here. I wasn't expecting to play this tournament at all, and I got up-and-down out of the front bunker on 18, made probably like a 6- or 7-footer that I didn't know if it was going to get me to the dollar amount or not, but I knew it was important."
Just two years later, Spieth would earn his first and only win at Innisbrook to date, when he bested Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair in a playoff. The 30-foot walk-off birdie putt came on the third playoff hole, at the par-3 17th.
It was Spieth's second win on Tour and first of the 2014-15 season. He would go on to win the Masters less than a month later and follow with the U.S. Open, John Deere Classic and Tour Championship to finish with five wins that season – still his best to date on Tour.
This trip to Innisbrook might feel similar to that 2015 win. He's coming off a top-20 finish from the week prior – T-19 at The Players last week and T-17 at the WGC Cadillac Championship in 2015 – and is once again looking for a jumpstart.
"You got a couple guys that have all traded off that No. 1 position, and there's a little bit of a gap below that, and that's where I'm trying to work hard to get into, where I feel like, week-in and week-out, I can be in the same position those guys are in," Spieth said of his goals. "Scottie [Scheffler's] got a chance to win most every week, and you get more and more comfortable the more often you're there. That level of comfort is something that's intangible, and it's what propels you to continue to win multiple events a year, and he's at that right now."
The last time Spieth won multiple titles on Tour was the 2016-17 season. Since then, he has two wins: the Valero Texas Open (2021) and the RBC Heritage (2022) 11 months ago.
One could argue Spieth has been focused on more important things, like becoming a dad to his son, Sammy, who was born on November 11, 2021. But the 29-year-old seems keen to find a balance between his personal and professional lives, reviving the Spieth of 2015, or a version of him, and challenging the likes of Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy – the top 3 players in the world – every time he tees it up.
"You kind of almost [have] to build it back up to remember how to kind of close it out again sometimes," Spieth said.
If he can start building it back at the Valspar, maybe we could see the Spieth streak re-emerge in 2023.