Top duo ready for another solid duel

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth (top), who won two Majors last year, practising his putting ahead of the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Lahaina, Hawaii, while Jason Day looks relaxed after a three-month break since the Presidents Cup in So
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, who won two Majors last year, practising his putting ahead of the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Lahaina, Hawaii.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth (top), who won two Majors last year, practising his putting ahead of the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Lahaina, Hawaii, while Jason Day looks relaxed after a three-month break since the Presidents Cup in So
Jason Day looks relaxed after a three-month break since the Presidents Cup in South Korea in October.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spieth, Day want buoyant start to year after a great 2015, while Fowler seeks first Major win

KAPALUA (Hawaii) • World No. 1 Jordan Spieth and Australian star Jason Day will resume their thrilling rivalry this morning (Singapore time) as the first PGA Tour event of 2016 tees off in Hawaii at the US$5.9 million (S$8.5 million) Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Spieth, 22, launches a new season determined to extend his scintillating run of form from last term, when he won the Masters and the US Open, finished fourth in the British Open and second in the US PGA Championship.

The Texan arrived in Hawaii relaxed after a three-week break - and revealed he is not attaching any significance to the advent of the new year.

"I'm not even thinking of it as a new year," he told reporters. "I'm just thinking that we had a three-week break and we're just continuing to hopefully stay at the same level."

Spieth said he has spent time seeking to improve his wedge play for the year ahead but declined to reveal specific targets he had set - other than to be in the reckoning on the final Sunday of the four Majors.

ALL THE WAY

Closing it out is something that's a different mental edge than I really knew the last couple years prior to the 2015 season.

JORDAN SPIETH, on finishing strongly in each event

Asked what he was planning for an encore to 2015, he replied: "Doesn't an encore mean that the show is then over?

"I hope I've got like 40 years out here... To be honest, I'm not thinking of this year as anything different. When you write the date, that's about it in my mind. I think we've just had a little bit of a break.

"I'm going to keep a lot of that within our team on the actual goals, but certainly got to be there in a couple of the Major championships come Sunday and have a chance to do what we did this past year; we had a chance each of the four Sundays.

"If I can get there at least a couple times this year again, that means that our plan building up to the Majors is working, continuing to work, and then it comes down to each individual event, being able to close them out.

"Closing it out is something that's a different mental edge than I really knew the last couple years prior to the 2015 season."

Spieth's world ranking could come under threat at Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui this week if rival Day manages to claim another high-profile win.

Like Spieth, Day also enjoyed a breakthrough 2015, claiming the top ranking as well as his first Major with victory at the PGA Championship - one of five victories.

Day, 28, heads into the tournament having barely played for three months, with no competitive golf since the Presidents Cup in South Korea in October.

While Day and Spieth scored their maiden Major victories in 2015, American Rickie Fowler is hoping to launch his year with a strong showing in Hawaii to set up an assault on the Majors this year.

"The main goal going into this year is focusing on the Majors, first one obviously being Augusta, getting myself into contention there, and would really like to knock off my first Major," said Fowler, 27, who believes he cannot be bracketed with the likes of Spieth, Day and Rory McIlroy until he lands a Major.

"I feel like to be in the same conversation I need to get a Major and get that on the resume to at least have some sort of credentials to be there," the world No. 6 said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'TOP DUO READY FOR ANOTHER SOLID DUEL'. Print Edition | Subscribe