Jordan Spieth in ‘fantastic place’ heading into 2018

Jordan Spieth celebrates on the 16th after his birdie putt during the final round of the Open at Royal Birkdale. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jordan Spieth celebrates on the 16th after his birdie putt during the final round of the Open at Royal Birkdale. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Jordan Spieth has revealed how his favourite quote from former US President Theodore Roosevelt about “the man in the arena” helped him silence his critics as he overcame a second potential final-round major meltdown to become Open champion last summer.

The newly-engaged Texan starts his 2018 campaign today in Hawaii, where his rivals in the $6.3 million 
Sentry Tournament of Champions include two other major winners from last year, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and US PGA title holder Justin Thomas, as well as world No 1 Dustin Johnson.

Spieth is excited about a year that has seen excitement levels rise considerably in the game on the back of Tiger Woods making his promising return in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December after a ten-month injury lay-off.

The 24-year-old felt he accomplished a lot of his goals for 2017, the main one being his Claret Jug success at Royal Birkdale, where he was in danger of suffering a repeat of his last-day collapse in the 2016 Masters before showing great resolve to win by three shots after covering the final five holes in five-under-par.

“I’m in a fantastic place compared to where I was last year,” confessed Spieth, speaking in his press conference for this week’s PGA Tour event at Kapalua, where the field also includes 2015 Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler and last year’s DP World Tour champion, Spaniard Jon Rahm.

“If you get yourself in position enough times, it will go your way, like it did at the US Open for me at Chambers Bay [where he made it back-to-back major wins after winning The Masters in 2015]. And sometimes it will go the other way, like it did at the 2016 Masters, and I wasn’t prepared for the other way.

“The stress that it put on me for a lot of the rest of the year inhibited confidence in my own game and my ability. It shouldn’t have, but I think that 2017, [winning] the Open, just did wonders for me individually. And not only my view of myself, but my view on being the man in the arena.”

While annoyed with himself that he was unable to remember the exact quote, Spieth said that view had been formed from the words of Roosevelt from a speech entitled “Citizenship In A Republic” that he delivered in Paris in 1910.

In essence, Roosevelt said that only someone who had experienced both “error and shortcoming” and the “triumph of high achievement” after having their face “marred by dust and sweat and blood” was in a position to know if they had delivered and not any critics.

“That quote from Teddy Roosevelt is my favourite quote from all time,” insisted the world No 2. “It’s about the man that puts it on the line every day, that pretty much I should only care about myself putting it on the line every single day, recognising what’s going to come with it. And, in sport, nobody’s perfect.

“You’re going to get criticised. But it’s not the critic that matters, it’s the man that’s actually there risking everything, that’s going to fail, that’s going to learn and make adjustments. I feel like I’m in a great place of who I am and what I’m doing going forward. And starting 2018 I’m kind of ready for anything. I’m ready for failure, for success, and everything in between.”

While an absentee this week, when the field is made up of PGA Tour winners in 2017, Woods is optimistic about playing a “full schedule” this year, when his first appearance is likely to be in the Genesis Open in Los Angeles next month.

“The unknowns for 2018 are very exciting right now and the major question is, what’s it going to be like with Tiger back,” said Spieth, who got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Annie Verret, on Christmas Eve. “I think because of the way that the Hero went and the confidence that he’s talking with, the place that he’s at in life right now, I think he’s in the best position he’s been in in a few years to come back and be a regular out here competing. I would call that the forefront of the excitement in golf right now.”