Golf: World No. 1 Jordan Spieth still striving to improve

Golfers (left to right) Jamie Donaldson, Yang Yong Eun, Shingo Katayama, Jordan Spieth, Darren Clarke and An Byeong Hun pose with the SMBC Singapore Open trophy. The Open contenders will tee off at the Serapong Course tomorrow.
Golfers (left to right) Jamie Donaldson, Yang Yong Eun, Shingo Katayama, Jordan Spieth, Darren Clarke and An Byeong Hun pose with the SMBC Singapore Open trophy. The Open contenders will tee off at the Serapong Course tomorrow. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Spieth is world No. 1 but insists he's not always the best, which is what drives him

Jordan Spieth owns the No. 1 ranking in men's golf and is the hottest name in the sport but rejects the tag of best player in the world.

Instead, that honour belongs to Rickie Fowler, who beat his fellow American and a world-class field to win last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

For Spieth, whose expectations of himself have grown in the past 12 months as he picked up five titles including two Majors at the Masters and US Open, finishing joint fifth now ranks as a poor outing.

"I was beaten by four guys last week. I need to get better, that's my drive," he said at yesterday's press conference ahead of his much-anticipated debut at the SMBC Singapore Open.

"I'm not satisfied if I don't have my best stuff week to week, even though that is not going to happen.

"It still leaves me wanting more, so I come into this week trying to really improve my short game from last week as well as maintain my ball striking."

NEVER SATISFIED

I was beaten by four guys last week. I need to get better, that's my drive... I'm not satisfied if I don't have my best stuff week to week, even though that is not going to happen.

JORDAN SPIETH, current world No. 1 golfer, on what motivates him through tournaments.

At a lengthy 6,765m, Sentosa Golf Club's narrow Serapong Course is a demanding test. But four of Spieth's seven PGA Tour wins have been claimed on longer layouts and the 22-year-old Texan, accustomed to sizzling summers back home, also dismissed the challenges presented by the tropical heat and humidity.

He arrived on Monday morning and spent the day recuperating and included a trip to Resorts World Sentosa as part of his down time.

Although regarded as one of the game's finest putters, Spieth's Scotty Cameron 009 prototype was unusually disobedient last week and it is an area that he identified as key to succeeding at the US$1 million (S$1.44 million) event co-sanctioned by the Asian and Japanese Tours, which begins tomorrow.

Last season, he led the PGA Tour in one-putt percentage and is keen to rediscover that sort of form on the Serapong Course.

"The greens are massive. I will need to work on my speed control... so I'm not three-putting. You can get 60 or 70-feet putts regularly out here," he said.

While Spieth may not be on top of his game, he will still start as the overwhelming favourite in a 156-man field that has only South Korean An Byeong Hun (world No. 26) and Welshman Jamie Donaldson (No. 50) ranked inside the top 50. But having that said, solving the enigma that is Serapong on his first attempt will not be easy.

Since the Open was moved to SGC in 2005, only Australian Adam Scott - in the same year - has prevailed without previous experience of the par-71 course.

Ryder Cup star Donaldson, who finished joint sixth in his first appearance at the Open in 2010, backed Spieth to excel this week despite any unfamiliarities with the course. He said: "Sometimes you can turn up at a golf course you've never played and play really, really good. It's just a matter of whether the golf course suits your eye."

Ranked 58th on Golf Digest's list of the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, the Serapong has already caught the attention of Spieth, who is an admirer of golf-course design and architecture.

"When I see a new golf course, especially one that's ranked so highly and raved about by many people, it's exciting for me to play it," he noted.

A victory on Sunday for his maiden triumph in Asia would be equally memorable.

And perhaps remind himself just how good a golfer he really is.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Still striving to improve'. Print Edition | Subscribe