IRVING, Texas (AP) – Jordan Spieth is back home, at the tournament he and his father have hopped a fence to watch and at the TPC course where as a 16-year-old he played his first PGA Tour event.
Now 22 and the No. 2 player in the world, Spieth has the same ranking he had going into the AT&T Byron Nelson last year –though he has since reached No. 1 and then fallen back to second behind Jason Day, who has won seven of his past 17 tournaments.
“I’m looking to get that back … definitely there’s some motivation there. He’s playing his game. He believes his game is better than anybody else’s and he’s on his game,” Spieth said.
“What he’s doing right now, I think I can win the next two events and I’m still not going to surpass him in the World Rankings. He’s separated himself and that bothers me and it motivates me.”
Day went wire-to-wire for a four-shot victory at The Players Championship last week. Day, who got his first PGA Tour victory at TPC Four Seasons in 2010, won’t play the Nelson for the third year in a row.
Spieth played the first two rounds at The Players with Day, who was 15 under during that span and won with the same score.
But Spieth missed the cut in his first tournament since squandering a five-shot lead on the back nine at Augusta in April and missed the chance to win consecutive Masters titles.
What Spieth revealed after making a 15-foot birdie putt on his last hole at The Players was that he felt as if he was beating himself up on the course too much, and needed to do a better job being positive and having more fun.
Being at home seemingly provides the perfect opportunity for that to happen, but Spieth admitted it might not be that simple.
“I can hit either extreme this week, trying so hard to play so well in front of so many friends and family and if you’re not quite doing it, which I hadn’t, I haven’t in the past four years, it can be really tough to kind of hold it together,” he said.
“At the same time, if I can engage with my friends and family, and kind of smile more, it’s only going to help me on the course if I’m approaching it like it’s just another round with friends.”
This will be Spieth’s sixth start at the Nelson, his fourth since turning pro. He tied for 16th in 2010, still by far his best finish there, and then missed his high school graduation ceremony the following year after making the cut again and tying for 32nd.
He was playing for Texas in the NCAA tournament during the 2012 Nelson, but hasn’t missed his hometown event since turning pro, finishing no better than 30th.
“To be coming to my sixth event, it’s bizarre,” he said. “It really is kind of an odd feeling.”
North Texas is also home to defending Nelson champion Steven Bowditch, the Australian who this season has missed five consecutive cuts and seven of the past nine.
“Hopefully I can turn it around this week,” Bowditch said. “I’ve got great vibes back here, again playing in front of friends and family … and bring back some great memories.”
TPC Four Seasons was a saturated, soggy mess last year after heavy rains in the weeks leading up to and during the tournament. The course played as a par 69 the final three rounds after the difficult par-4 14th became an easy pitch-and-putt par 3 with a temporary tee box because of the flooding on the low-lying hole.
Bowditch, who led all four rounds last May when he had 27 birdies and won by four strokes, might be the only person at TPC Four Seasons who likes the weather forecast, which calls for a strong chance of showers and heavy rain during Thursday’s first round.
“It’s too dry for me this year,” Bowditch said with a grin. “This course is in fantastic shape, best I’ve seen it.”