Spieth ready for more after Masters success
AP Sports Writer
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Get ready, Augusta National. Jordan Spieth can’t wait for another chance at that green jacket.
The 20-year-old Spieth is in the field at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links that starts Thursday. He gave no thought to withdrawing after the grind of the Masters, instead feeling energized by his runner-up finish to Bubba Watson.
“It definitely left me hungry and ready to play golf again,” he said. “And ready to eventually get back there again, which is, I think, the only way to kind of redeem myself.”
In the fans’ view during his pro-am round Wednesday, no redemption was necessary. Spieth was continually stopped by spectators, players, caddies and others on the grounds, who patted him on the back or shook his hand.
Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, told him, “Man, I’ve never seen somebody get so many congratulations for losing.”
“And he’s right,” Spieth said.
Spieth rose to No. 9 in the world this week, the youngest American to make the top 10, and he plans for another big week at Harbour Town. He tied for ninth here a year ago, his first time playing the treacherously tight Pete Dye layout. This time, he’s got a bit of job audition, too, paired the next two days with past and present U.S. Ryder Cup captains in Davis Love III and Tom Watson.
“A huge goal of mine has always been, my whole life, to make a Ryder Cup team,” Spieth said. “So playing with the captain, I’m sure there will be some extra nerves there trying to impress him.”
Watson’s already impressed. He says Spieth showed poise and passion in the final pairing Sunday, qualities the captain covets as he prepares an American team for the Ryder Cup matches at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland this September.
“He’s very mature and he has a good sense of who he is,” Watson said. “I like that about him.”
Bubba Watson is off this week, something every Masters champion has done since Zach Johnson followed a victory at Augusta National in 2007 by playing here a few days later.
Seven of the world’s top 25 players are in the field. Matt Kuchar, who tied for fifth at the Masters, is the top-ranked player at No. 6. Fifth-ranked Jason Day was scheduled to play but withdrew earlier this week with a thumb injury.
Others here include Johnson (12th) and defending champion Graeme McDowell (14th).
Tom Watson is playing Harbour Town for the first time since 2001. This is mostly a fact-finding mission to meet and talk with players who might end up as captain’s picks when his selections are revealed after the PGA Championship.
CBS Sports analyst and six-time major champion Nick Faldo is also making a rare PGA Tour appearance, teeing it up at Harbour Town for the first time since 2006. Does he have a TV substitute lined up should he get in contention on the course where he won his first U.S. tournament 30 years ago?
“Well, Jim (Nantz) likes talking,” Faldo said with a grin.
The likelihood is whoever’s in the booth will be talking about Spieth.
He said as he did at Augusta that he expected to contend for the title and wasn’t surprised when he held that two-shot lead on Sunday’s front nine. He wished he had the water ball back on his tee shot on the par-3 12th, but pledged to use those errors the next time he’s in position to strike.
“There’s nothing that’s haunting me from last week,” he said. “I feel like I played really well to not shoot an over-par round on that course and not make more than a bogey for four days the way that course was playing.”
Spieth had an eventful pro-am round, getting hit on the back of the knee by a wayward wedge shot from a member of his group on the 18th hole. He went to the ground, but quickly got up and doesn’t expect to feel any effects this week as he counts down to his next time at Augusta.
“I truly believe that I’ll be back,” he said.