Date: November 26, 2017
Author: John Huggan

Huggan: Once a champion, always a champion

He finished like a champion, a proud defending champion. At the end of a frustrating week on the greens at the Australian club in Sydney, Jordan Spieth rounded off the 102nd Australian Open with a more characteristic flourish. Holing from 12-feet after a spectacular approach over water to the distant green, the two-time winner of the Stonehaven Cup made an eagle that hoisted him to six-under par for the tournament and confirmed a comfortable top-ten finish. 

All in all, not quite as good as previous years – his Australian Open record coming in was first-second-first – but not bad given his obvious problems with the shortest club in his bag over the first three rounds at least. 

“It was a great finish, it was nice,” said the three-time major champion. “I felt like I hit a lot of really beautiful shots that weren’t necessarily rewarded today based on just trying to judge the cross winds. (coach and temporary caddie) Cam (McCormick) was getting frustrated in himself. We were talking through the shots and I said cross winds are a caddie and player’s worst enemy. It would have been the same struggle no matter who was on the bag. That’s all it was today.  I really felt like I shot 62 but it was 67. I had so many looks (at birdie).”

Indeed, Spieth’s fourth tour of the premises was, in its own way, just as annoying as the previous three. 

“I had tons of chances and I thought I could maybe make four or five birdies going into 18,” he said. “Then who knows? But the wind never picked up like it was forecasted, so that wasn’t going to help me. I needed it to really blow today.

“That said, the second round was really tough on my chances. That was where I threw myself out a bit. We had the easiest scoring conditions and a very good golf course. So to shoot even par was frustrating. I came back nicely the last two days though, played nicely.”

In the longer term, Spieth confirmed McCormick’s view that the pair had learned much that will be beneficial to both over the next few months. 

“We picked up quite a bit, stuff that’s personal between the two of us,” he said. “I was voicing a lot more than I would have ever voiced to (regular caddie) Michael (Grellar). I would have just said, ‘okay, get over it Jordan and go,’ but I thought it was important for Cam to hear how I was feeling hole after hole, day after day and about different situations. We actually made a lot of progress in that sense, or at least have a good starting point to make some progress this off-season.”

As ever, Spieth was coy about the possibility of him return for what would be a fifth successive visit Down Under 12 months from now, when the 103rd Australian Open will be played at The Lakes. 

“I’d love to explore it,” was his initial response. “Like I’ve said every year, I try and figure out what’s going on next week, let alone a year from now. But I’ve been pretty open the last few years about exploring all options. And coming out of the off-season the way I did it this year has been very successful for me in the past.”