Date: November 24, 2015
Author: Robert Grant

Spieth warns amid McIlroy’s dramatic comeback

While world No.1 Jordan Spieth was praising Jason Day as a "big time threat" during a break in practice for this week's Australian Open, on the other side of the world newly-crowned Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy was devising his own plot designed to unseat his key American and Australian rivals.

Recovered from an ankle injury he suffered while playing football last July, McIlroy returned to action with a blast, clinching his third Race to Dubai in four years last weekend.

Neither he nor Day will be at the Australian this week but Spieth was determined to return to defend the tournament he says boosted him to world prominence.

Spieth and Day have formed a close friendship, to the point where the Australian has even invaded his dreams.

"I played a lot of golf with Jason this year and what a nice guy he is," Spieth said in Sydney on Monday. "At the end of the year, I've played with him so often I have dreams of him saying `Jords, have a good day today'.

"I'm certainly jealous of how far he hits the ball and how great a ball striker he is.

"What a fantastic mental game: he's extremely confident in who he is and how he plays and he's a big time threat. He's as big a threat as any."

Spieth played nine holes at The Australian Golf Club on Monday and declared his game is now much stronger than the one which gave him a disarming six-shot win – including an unlikely course record final round 63 in tough conditions – at last year's Australian Open.

He enjoys the three-way contest which has developed but is reluctant to use the word rivalry.

"There was so many comparisons this year with so many different people: there was me with Rory, Rory with Jason, me with Jason," he said. "Golf's in a good place for young players who are fearless and want to perform on the bigger stages.

"I am pleased to be one of the many but it's tough to call it a rivalry. It's more just good fun for us doing what we love to do."

McIlroy, meanwhile, showed he is back to his most intimidating form and has promised the coming years will be "my time."

"I had a big lead in the world rankings and you see Jordan and Jason play the way they did. Fields are so deep, you can't let up at all," McIlroy said.

"Tagging along with that, you know, this is my time to capitalise on my career. The next 10, 15 years is my time.

"Whether it's Jordan Spieth or Jason Day or anyone else, I have certain objectives throughout the year and it doesn't matter who it is, I just want to play the best golf possible.

"I know if I do play to my best or close to my best then I am able to win big tournaments.

"I really can't be doing silly things like playing football in the middle of the season to jeopardise even six months of my career. It's a big chunk where I could make some hay and win a major or two.

"I'm not sending a message to anyone," he said. "I'm just going out there to play my best. I had goals and objectives which had nothing to do with Jordan Spieth or Jason Day."

Back in Sydney, Spieth has warned he needs to keep an eye on local star Matt Jones, who won the Houston Open last year.

"He's a good Aussie who's had some strong performances in some big events especially later in the summer," Spieth said. "We're going out for a practice hit tomorrow and I'd look to him to be a threat."

"He's always capable of posting something like eight or nine under in a single round," Spieth said. "He's got a lot of firepower and that's what you need on this course. You need to take advantage of opportunities because you're certainly going to have some."