Golf | Spieth tempers Valspar expectations

Miami – World number one Jordan Spieth
heads into his Valspar Championship title defence hoping another solid showing
at Innisbrook will boost his momentum for the Masters.

The 22-year-old Texan’s playoff triumph on
Innisbrook’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbour, Florida, last year was the
first of five US PGA Tour wins in 2015 that included two major titles and
propelled Spieth to the top of the world rankings.

He admitted on Wednesday that after
launching 2016 with an eight-shot victory in the Tournament of Champions in
Hawaii he had put expectations on himself that were “too high”.

He went on to finish fifth in his debut in
a regular European Tour event in Abu Dhabi and second in Singapore before
missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

He wasn’t a factor in last week’s World
Golf Championships event at Doral.

“We’ve had a win this year already,
but obviously the last few PGA Tour events weren’t up to par with how we were
doing before,” Spieth said.

But he noted that he was still ahead of
where he was at the same point in 2015, and with characteristic calm he said he
would continue to try to build methodically toward his title defence at Augusta
National next month.

“All I’m looking to take out is some
momentum from what was strong and to build on what I need to do to improve from
last week and I’ll be ready to go,” Spieth said. “I’m looking at it
from the face we’ve already won this year, so now it’s time to build this
momentum right into this major.

“Obviously you want to set high-end,
borderline unrealistic expectations for yourself because if you get anywhere close
to it you’re going to be there,” he added. “But there’s a balance
that I need to find. It has been a learning experience this year.”

Spieth said one thing largely missing so
far this season is success on the greens.

“Really need to get my putter going,”
he said. “They haven’t quite gone in yet — but they will.”

Spieth will play alongside Henrik Stenson
and Bill Haas in the first two rounds.

Stenson, who had six runner-up finishes
worldwide last year, finished one shot outside the three-man playoff among
Spieth, Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair at Innisbrook.

“I think it’s a good golf course for
me,” said the Swede, who had knee surgery in December and has opted out of
the WGC Match Play in two weeks to rest for the Masters. “I played it for
the first time last year and got to hit some good iron shots into the greens
and that seems to suit my game pretty well.

“A win at the right time is definitely
huge for your confidence and why not make it here?” he added. “It
kick-started last year for Jordan and I wouldn’t mind getting a win.

“It’s been a little while and I came
close a few times last year so I feel like I’m ready for one.”

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