Jordan Spieth hopeful Masters memories can help him end slump

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods is a winner again, making him even more appealing at the Masters.

Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite — perhaps even the sentimental favorite. Facing a fifth chance at completing the career Grand Slam at Augusta National, he hasn’t started a year as well as this one.

Such words sound as soothing to Jordan Spieth as birds nestled in the Georgia pines. Any other year, Spieth would be a big part of the conversation when the 83rd Masters begins Thursday.

“I don’t feel like there’s any added pressure this week,” Spieth said. “I feel kind of under the radar, which is really nice.”

Not since Woods has any young golfer established himself as a master at Augusta National. In five appearances, starting with the then-20-year-old’s runner-up finish in his Masters debut, Spieth has a green jacket, a share of the tournament scoring record, two silver medals for second place and a near historic closing round last year until he clipped a tree with his tee shot on the 18th hole, made bogey and settled for a 64.

His worst finish was a tie for 11th in 2017, and even then, he began the final round two shots behind. No wonder he calls the Masters “my favorite tournament in the whole world.”

That’s what makes this year so intriguing for Spieth.

The next big thing in golf when he won the British Open two years ago for the third leg of the Grand Slam, the 25-year-old Texan is now in one big slump.

He hasn’t won since then. He hasn’t finished in the top 10 in his past 15 tournaments, and even more jarring is that he has finished an average of just more than 14 shots behind the winner, except for the three times he missed the cut.

It would figure that if any golf course could cure whatever is ailing him, it would be Augusta National. Spieth is exuding patience, if not confidence.

“My expectations are high this week. I feel great about the state of my game right now,” said Spieth, coming off a 73-72 weekend in the Texas Open that took him from a tie for second to a tie for 30th. “I feel like my recent results aren’t a tell of where my game is actually at, and I feel I’ve made a lot of strides in the last couple of days in the tee-to-green game. It’s just a matter of trust in the stuff that I’m working on, and I don’t feel like I have to play well.”

Doug Ferguson is an Associated Press writer.

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