MEMO Australian Open field: defending champion and World Number One Jordan Spieth says he hasn't peaked yet.
The 22-year-old dual major champion tees off in the final group of tomorrow's 100th Australian Open three behind leader Matt Jones but with every intention of holding the trophy aloft for a second time.
Speaking after returning the best round of the day, a 4-under-par 67 that included a hole out eagle at the difficult 17th hole, Spieth said his game had felt better each day and there was still improvement to come.
“We’ve been working on some things,” he said of he and Dallas based Australian coach Cameron McCormick who is in Sydney with him.
“They’ve just gotten a little bit easier day to day and my putting’s been just a slightly better day to day, and so I do believe that I have yet to peak at this tournament.
“I don't know if it will be good enough but I think that I’ll peak tomorrow.”
Given Spieth's extraordinary Sunday in 2014 it would be brave to predict a repeat performance but he showed after a poor start to round three he is capable of extraordinary things.
At 3-over through four holes it would have been easy to write off his chances but he more than righted the ship starting with a birdie at the par-5 5th.
“To be in a position starting the day to make a bit of a move and then to just completely fall out of it in the first four, completely out of sync, disinterested - not disinterested but just lazy in my decision making and my swings, and to completely rebound there really making that up and down on 5 for birdie was key,” he said.
“When I finished the round I thought I’d either be tied or one back and it looks like I may be two or three.
“Either way, it’s a lot better than I was through four holes today. Great fight back, one of the best fought rounds I’ve had that I can remember.”
Spieth said caddie Michael Greller was pivotal in turning things around, a blunt pep talk on the fifth fairway crucial in the fightback.
“I hit my tee shot on 5 and when I got to the fairway he met me there and said, 'All right, get yourself to even par by the time you step on 18, even par for the day by the time you step on 18 tee box. That way we can birdie that hole, shoot under par and move on.'
“He said 'Enough with this crap. No bad talk, no bad self talk, believe in it, let’s hit some greens. You’ve got some easy holes coming up.'
“That’s all I needed to hear to really help turn it around. I was trying to turn it around in my head anyways and it was fantastic from there; just great golf, to go 7 under with a bogey from there, from the 5th hole on.”
With Jones at 10-under, Spieth at 7-under and next best Rhein Gibson at 5-under Spieth says it will be hard not to get caught up in a match play mindset in the final group which he knows that can be dangerous.
“It might be a bit difficult depending how the start is, but I’ve now seen with enough competitive Sundays that so much happens in 18 holes, so many scores flip and flop,” he said.
“If he gets off to a hot start and I don’t, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I was able to turn today’s round around. We’re capable of going on some pretty cool runs just as he is.
“But that’s going to be something that’s going to be a challenge for me, is playing the golf course and playing my own game instead of looking at what he’s doing and what he’s at.”
Sunday sets up as an intriguing battle between Spieth and lesser known local Matt Jones. Jones has won just once in his professional career, the 2014 Houston Open on the PGA Tour, but Spieth says he is a player to be reckoned with.
“Matt Jones is a person who - I was actually interviewed before this week started- I was asked on the podium outside of the top three names in the field, four names in the field, who’s a guy that you would look out for this week and I said Matt Jones,” he said.
“For me, Matt Jones has played the best golf for three rounds, he’s played better golf than I have and I have to somehow not only play better golf, but play better golf by multiple shots in order to win the tournament tomorrow,” he said.
“No matter where you’re ranked in the world, he’s played this golf course better than I have up until now and I’ve got to somehow overcome that.”
And for golf fans, watching that battle unfold tomorrow will be fascinating to say the least.
Photo: Justin Falconer
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