News & Opinion

Spieth finds reason to believe again

AUGUSTA, Ga. – On Christmas Day, Jordan Spieth was the overwhelming favorite to win the Masters.   

Spieth had been the 7-1 choice of Las Vegas oddsmakers because of his record in four appearances at Augusta National: a victory in 2015, plus runner-up finishes in 2014 and ’16 and a T-11 last year. Spieth has led in eight of his 16 career rounds at the Masters, so why wouldn’t the bettors like Spieth to win a second green jacket?

When Spieth contracted mononucleosis in late December and then posted only two top-10 finishes in his first eight starts of 2018, the punters dropped Spieth down the list of Masters favorites. Major champions such as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy garnered more attention. Suddenly, Spieth was not attracting so much attention.

Two weeks ago, Spieth conceded that he was concerned about his game. The bout with mononucleosis had affected his preparations for 2018, leading to a lack of early success.

“I was getting frustrated, but when I would sit back and look at it, it made sense,” Spieth said. “It was just, OK, all these other guys are playing so well, and I'm paired with them, and for whatever reason I'm just not able to do what they're able to do right now. It was just kind of impatience and this desire and want so bad instead of just staying the course.”

For Spieth, poor putting was the biggest culprit. Typically one of the best putters in the game, Spieth found that he would set his putter down behind the ball and look up, only to find the club not appearing to be in the same place. Spieth struggled with misalignment. As quickly as it affected him, the alignment issues seemed to be solved last week in the Houston Open.  

Although he stood 13th entering the final round, Spieth approached Sunday’s round at Golf Club of Houston as if he were tied for the lead. He started to see the ball rolling well under the final-round pressure, shot 6-under 66 and tied for third, his best finish of the season.

“I feel better coming into this week than I did in 2016 and 2014, where I came off of missed cuts in Houston,” Spieth said. “There's a lot to be said of the previous week's momentum and being able to work my way last week into contention and hit some putts under pressure.”

Now, with his game back in form, Spieth once again finds himself a darling of the bettors. Spieth and Justin Thomas were listed late Tuesday by Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as the co-favorites, at 10-1.

“If I don't play well this week, well, I didn't exactly have the lead into it that I was looking for every single year going back to my rookie season coming into here,” Spieth said.  “And that's OK with me. It's OK. I feel good about my game. I feel confident. I feel like I should have a chance to win this week. But if I don't, it's coming soon. And that's exciting for me.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli