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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – How much does major contention take out of the world’s best players? Jordan Spieth has played only once in the past six weeks – and yet he still put away his clubs for five days following his close call at The Open.
Some of that is surely because of the international travel, since traversing six time zones can take a toll on a player’s body. But Spieth also poured himself into all four rounds at Royal St. George’s, where he made a spirited charge toward a fourth major title but came up two shots short of Collin Morikawa.
“It was probably the best golf I played this year,” Spieth said Wednesday, “and I would have signed up for 13 under when the week started. I felt like I’ve won a tournament this year, and I played better at The Open than I did, say, at the Valero.
“So it’s frustrating because second doesn’t get you a major win in the history books – instead it’s a second. And there were several things I could have done a bit better at certain times that would have given me a better chance starting Sunday instead of being a few back. So I’m excited about the progress after three weeks off to be able to go in and really have a chance to win, but I’m also a bit frustrated at the end of it that I didn’t end up holding the claret jug.”
It was easy to look at the final deficit and recall the way Spieth ended his third round, with back-to-back bogeys, including a miss from 2 feet on the last. But he also lamented a few mistakes that, he said, were caused by some competitive rust. Mistakes like using a 60-degree wedge on the 17th hole on Saturday instead of bumping a wedge in lower. Or mistakes like leaving putts short when he hadn’t fully adjusted to the speed of the greens. That’s why Spieth said it was “very likely” that he would play in next year’s Genesis Scottish Open, especially now that it’s a co-sanctioned event.
Even if Spieth said that he realistically could have won “three or four” times in 2021, including a major, he takes pride in his progression. No doubt, it’s been a resurgent year for the former world No. 1 who, at one point, was spiraling toward the top 100 in the world (now he’s all the way up to 11th.) Sitting No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, he has a chance to win his second season-long title and $15 million. He’s a virtual lock for a fourth Ryder Cup appearance, too.
“I’m doing a lot of the major things really well now, which is allowing me to have more consistent start lines through the bag, which allows me to step up with confidence and have chances to win golf tournaments,” he said. “I wouldn’t say there’s anything that I sit there and say I’m doing it the best I ever have, but I think I’m doing a lot of things really well. I’ve given myself quite a bit of grace and I’ve gained a lot of confidence, but I still think that there’s a next level through the bag with each part of my game.”