Spieth back at 'launching pad'

Jordan Spieth in action during a practice round at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney. He is seeking to be the first non-Australian- born player to win the Stonehaven Cup for a second straight year.
Jordan Spieth in action during a practice round at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney. He is seeking to be the first non-Australian- born player to win the Stonehaven Cup for a second straight year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SYDNEY • Golf's world No. 1 Jordan Spieth returns to the course where he rediscovered the art of winning last year to defend the Australian Open title he clinched with a brilliant final round.

The American arrived in Sydney last November ranked 14th in the world with one USPGA title to his name. But he shot a course-record 63 to beat Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, then the top two in the world, and clinched the Stonehaven Cup.

It triggered a year in which everything the 22-year-old Texan touched seemed to turn to gold.

He captured his first two Majors at the Masters and US Open and won the Tour Championship to sew up the FedExCup series.

"I didn't think it would launch that type of year," Spieth said at The Australian Golf Club yesterday.

"But in that Sunday round, I really learnt how to close in my head.

"I really had that mental edge over the weekend to really close the deal.

"I had it for my whole life but I had lost it for a while.

"Winning here really launched it."

Despite his remarkable year, Spieth still believes he can get better.

"If I could somehow duplicate that year for the rest of my career, I'd be pretty pleased," he conceded.

"But there's a chance it could all come together and we could improve on the last year. I have to believe that but I do believe it."

Scott, who leads a strong local contingent at his home Open, is still seeking his first title of the year after a horror third round saw him fall out of contention at the Australian Masters last week.

"I think he's the guy to beat this week," Spieth said of the 2013 Masters champion

"He's fresh and he's probably got a bit of a chip on his shoulder too after last week, especially being back home and everyone saying you haven't won since 2014. Guaranteed he doesn't like hearing that.

"If I can get into contention, I feel my game is on point. I'm looking forward to trying to do exactly what I did last year."

Spieth will tee up from tomorrow looking to become the first non-Australian-born player to win the coveted Stonehaven Cup for a second straight year since the great Jack Nicklaus in 1975 and 1976.

Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood and 2011 US Open champion Darren Clarke are among a handful of European Ryder Cup veterans who will be teeing off for the first round tomorrow.

Another local hopeful is Peter Senior, who won the Australian Masters last week at age 56. He also bagged the Australian Open in 2012.

"It's inspiring that you can play this great game for so long and still be winning," Spieth said.

"When I am 56, I will, maybe, be on a beach somewhere where nobody knows me."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Spieth back at 'launching pad''. Print Edition | Subscribe