Jordan Spieth returned the Claret Jug to the R&A on Monday as part of a ceremony to kick off the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland.
Standing in the way of Spieth reclaiming golf’s oldest trophy on Sunday is an unfamiliar golf course playing different than most have ever seen it, and an inconsistent game that has seen him fail to win a tournament since this event last year.
Since a Sunday rally to finish third at the Masters in April, Spieth has not posted a top-20 finish in his past six events. In his past three, Spieth has a pair of missed cuts and a tie for 42nd at the Travelers Championship three weeks ago.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2018
Only four players have repeated as the Open champion in the past 50 years, the most recent being Padraig Harrington in 2008.
Spieth said he feels re-energized following a several-week break and that he enjoys links-style golf.
“I needed a break,” Spieth said at his Monday press conference. “I was kind of dragging along, cut-line golf for a whole, and playing a pretty heavy schedule.”
However, he still had not played a single hole at Carnoustie – the famed course that is considered the toughest in the Open rotation by many.
Players who have had a chance to get in some practice holes have reported that the course is “baked out,” with balls rolling great distances and wreaking havoc with distances and club selections.
“I haven’t played one hole yet,” Spieth said. “I talked to a couple of my friends and they said it’s extremely baked out. Michael (Greller, his caddy) said you might wear out your four or five irons off the tee, a couple of longer hitters might take driver more because I don’t think the rough is that bad.”
Spieth missed the cut at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and has only two top-15 finishes since the California swing ended in February. At the heart of his middling results has been an inconsistent putter. Spieth ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation, but 147th in total putting.
The three-time major champion is hopeful that the unpredictability inherent with playing in The Open will bring more creativity and feel to his game.
“Hopefully it’s only out of my possession for a week because The Claret Jug is the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer." – @JordanSpieth
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 16, 2018
“Coming to an Open Championship requires a lot of feel and imagination, and I think that’s what I needed a bit of in my game,” Spieth said. “I went through some stuff in my swing. I was striking it beautifully at the Masters, then struggled in New Orleans.
“I kind of struggled with overdoing it one way or overdoing it the other – getting away allowed me to come back with different feels.
“Is (my swing) as consistent as it’s ever been? Probably not. Can it be by the time I tee off? Absolutely. Does it need to be around here? Not really, no, because so much is feel.”
Spieth won by three shots at Royal Birkdale last year, and vows that he has “attacked” the phases of his game that needed work. Even if the swing is in strong form come Thursday, Spieth is well aware that the weather is among the factors that must play in your favor in order to win The Open.
“Hopefully we get a pretty even draw (with the weather),” he said. “That’s the one thing The Open can bring. You can eliminate half the field with one afternoon of bad weather, which is disappointing if you are on the wrong side.”
The Claret Jug was first awarded in 1873. Spieth has earned it once, and hopes to be in position to reclaim it Sunday afternoon.
“Having to return that was certainly difficult. Kind of hit me a little bit there on the tee box,” he said. “Hopefully it’s only out of my possession for a week because the Claret Jug is the coolest trophy that our sport has to offer.”
–Field Level Media