Jordan Spieth Can Relate to Scottie Scheffler's Run, and Wants to Get Back to That
By Bob Harig,2023-03-14
The 2015 Valspar Championship was the start of an amazing run for the world No. 14, similar to the heater that the No. 1 player is on right now.
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – As he intricately described the run that Scottie Scheffler has been on for the better part of the last 15 months, Jordan Spieth sounded almost wistful, yearning for his own game to reach those heights again.
Spieth, now ranked 14th in the world, is back at the Valspar Championship, where he can draw on some important memories that shaped his career early on.
It was 10 years ago that a T7 finish propelled him to temporary member status on the PGA Tour, the first step in his own journey to greatness. A year later, he won the tournament in playoff over Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair, then captured the Masters a month later.
Now he often finds himself praising Scheffler—much in the same way praise was heaped on him back in those days when he was ranked No. 1 in the world.
“It’s such a hard sport; when you feel like you're mastering it, there's nothing cooler," Spieth said Tuesday of Scheffler after a practice round on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. “He's got be to feeling that right now. He's had to have felt that way for quite awhile now.
“But that's what's fun about this sport as well is you can get knocked down, you can feel the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs, and if you're willing to kind of want to play that game, that risky game in it, then the reward is massive. That's the goal is to try to get to that level. There's a lot of steps to get there."
Spieth, 29, has spent considerable time of late heaping praise on his friend Scheffler, who won the Players Championship on Sunday to return to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the second time this year.
The reigning Masters champion has now won six times on the PGA Tour in his last 27 starts, including twice this year. Next week, he will defend his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title with an eye on a Masters defense in three weeks.
Spieth, meanwhile, is still striving to feel that way again, having won in each of the past two seasons after a four-year span without a victory.
When he won the Valspar in 2015, it was the first of five victories that year, including two major championships. In a 15-month span, Spieth won seven times—not unlike the run Scheffler is on now.
“It’s challenging when you’re like 'man, I know I can do that, but I’m not doing it, but why not?'" Spieth said. "I’ve tried to play that in my head and take care of it in a day and it doesn’t work that way. It’s a process and you have to love the process. You have to love the practice.
“I’ve seen the hours Scottie putts in. This isn’t just that he shows up and does it. He’s a grinder. He puts a lot of time into to. You have to. And he prioritizes it.
“If someone's going to knock him off, they're going to have to be doing the same thing and have the talent that he has, and there's not a whole lot of people that have that."
Spieth won 11 times through the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale, then not again until the Valero Texas Open the week prior to the Masters in 2021. He won last year’s RBC Heritage a week after the Masters and since has not added to his 13 PGA Tour victories.
He’s had some success this year, with four top-20 finishes, including a tie for fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for sixth at the WM Phoenix Open. But he’s also missed the cut at the Sony Open and the Genesis Invitational. Last week, he tied for 19th at the Players Championship.
“It’s always a fine line," Spieth said. “It's a fine line between PGA Tour professionals and Korn Ferry Tour or top college and then fine line between top amateur play. It's little things. It's always just in the margins.
“But Scottie's got an 'it' factor. He's got an ability to get out of trouble when he's in it. He's got incredible athleticism. He's always had that. But now he's kind of got that kind of confidence like, 'hey, I'm just going to play the patient game today. Someone else is going to make a mistake. I'm going to play the course the way it's supposed to be played.'
“And when you start winning and you kind of get that feeling of house money, it's a little bit easier to just be O.K. with that, that kind of freedom that comes with that. You would imagine like maybe someone like myself should just feel that way, but if you're not doing it consistently, you lose a little bit of that, and you got to kind of just force your way up there in order to feel it again."