Jordan Spieth close to rejoining major contenders

Jordan Spieth reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 15th hole during the Masters Tournament Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Jordan Spieth reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 15th hole during the Masters Tournament Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

Credit: CURTIS COMPTON / AJC

Jordan Spieth did not win his second green jacket on Sunday. But his play this week at Augusta National announced to the rest of the world that Spieth is back in the mix for major championships.

Spieth shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday and finished tied for third at the 2021 Masters. He faced astronomical odds to make a run at title, starting six shots behind eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama. And any hopes of a miracle comeback were dashed with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6.

He wound up tied for third, his best finish in a major championship since tying for third at the 2019 PGA Championship. It was his best showing at the Masters since he finished third in 2018.

“I’ve made a lot of good progress, but I feel like that road ahead is still significant for me,” Spieth said.

Spieth repeatedly showed his imaginative flair throughout this week. There was a birdie at No. 8 on Saturday, where he recovered from a place last scouted by Alister MacKenzie. On Sunday he played his second shot at No. 13 off the pine straw, knocked it on the green and made birdie. He smartly played around a tree at No. 15 to set up a strategic approach, but settled for a par.

“I just didn’t have a great start,” he said. “Then it was just kind of the story of the week. I hit some good putts, burned a lot of lips, certainly struck the ball well enough to win the golf tournament, and they didn’t go it. Certainly had them go in here plenty of times.”

All in all, it was another good week for Spieth, who has finished in the top five in four of his last six stroke-play events, including last week’s win at the Valero Texas Open.

“It’s still a little ways to go,” Spieth said. “One of these days, it could just — like before, I’ve been saying it’s not necessarily one day going to click, but it’s getting to where it could just kind of start to click and really feel that momentum, and that will get me want to go out and nail it as much as possible.”

Spieth continues to be a work in progress from a mechanical standpoint.

“Structurally, it’s still not matching up where I want it to and I feel like I’m doing a significant movement to try and get there,” he said. “I still have a little bit of the old tendencies, but I get it in a better striking position, with the wrists in a better place, the club face and the shaft plane in a much better place, which is why I’m able to contend.”

And his putting, normally a strength of his game, wasn’t in top form this week. He averaged 1.68 putts per hole during the four rounds this week, slightly worse than the 1.65 averaged by the rest of the field.

“I struggled a little bit with it,” he said. “That’s continued work as well, but I made some really good putts late (Sunday), other than 18, and I thought that was a good confidence boost off of last week.”

He was also admitted that he was tired by the end of the day. That helps explain his bogey on the 18th hole, where he left his chip short and missed the putt that would have given him a solo third place.

“I felt some mental fatigue for sure and made a couple bonehead mistakes over the weekend just from maybe the long stretch,” he said. “But all in all, certainly another good finish here.”

Now Spieth can get focused on his crusade to complete the career Grand Slam; he gets an opportunity to add the missing piece of his crown at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, May 20-23.

“I have a good stretch coming up here in May and June and I’m excited for what’s to come,” he said.

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