Jordan Spieth comes to Royal Birkdale rested, ready, and reflective

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JULY 18: Phil Mickelson (L) chats with Justin Thomas (C) and Jordan Spieth (R), all from the United States during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 18, 2017 in Southport, England. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JULY 18: Phil Mickelson (L) chats with Justin Thomas (C) and Jordan Spieth (R), all from the United States during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 18, 2017 in Southport, England. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Rested and ready, oddsmakers’ favorite Jordan Spieth says he’s looking forward to this week at Royal Birkdale.

Jordan Spieth said in his press conference at the Open Championship that he has seven tournaments left to play in the 2017 season, this week through the Tour Championship.

After his vacation, which was part of three weeks off, he’s rested enough to get through the challenge of  Royal Birkdale and then finishing off the golf year in good form.

He said his week in Cabo recharged his batteries.

"It was just kind of nice to breathe deeply for a week straight out there and then come back with a little fire and a little longing to get back to work. I went away not wanting to touch a club. And then after a few days’ time of resting, you start to want to bring it back."

2015 is finally in Spieth’s rearview mirror

However, his season is already a success, he believes, with two victories and some seconds and thirds, only three missed cuts and his worst finish T 35 in 17 events, but he’d really like to have another major.

Of course, so would everybody else.

"If you don’t necessarily have a major year it’s disappointing, for sure. That’s where your legacy is left. That’s where you’re really trying to go down in history."

Perhaps the best thing for Jordan Spieth is that he has finally been able to put the 2015 season behind him.  While that sounds a little crazy, he could spend the rest of his life trying to replicate one of the best seasons ever for any golfer, and that’s a lot of luggage for anyone to carry from tournament to tournament. Finally, he’s not stuck in his recent past, but he can always use it as a benchmark for his game.

"Last year I was pretty caught in 2015, and this year I’m not. This year I recognize that that kind of year, hopefully, we can have another one or two like that."

Royal Birkdale- the weather factor

Turning his attention to Royal Birkdale and The Open, Spieth’s theory is that the weather often takes half of the field out of the tournament. While that is great if you are on the lucky half of the tee times, it is not so good if you are on the bad weather side of the tee times. It can eliminate half of the competition, and he has already been stuck in the bad half.

"Most of the time there’s at least a group that gets the worst weather, and it’s almost impossible to win in that circumstance at an Open Championship. So, nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down, play as well as you can, and see what happens after two days."

While that can make the Open Championship an easier major to win in theory, Spieth suggested, he added that it isn’t in practice because of the skill set required.

"I’m not saying it’s easy based on competition or anything like that.  I’m strictly saying that because a lot of the time some of the field is thrown out, and you’re actually playing against a smaller field. Your percentage chances go up."

Will he get the good weather or the bad weather?  No one knows until they tee it up on either of the first two days. He could get bad weather on both Thursday and Friday and be packing his bags Friday evening.  He could get great weather both days, or the least worst weather, which works just as well.

He’s taking the long view, that it will balance out.

"I plan on playing 30 of these, and I guarantee you it will end up being 15 and 15 at the end of the day. I was in the bad end last year."

Spieth’s Birkdale game plan

Jordan Spieth is preparing as though none of the bad stuff will happen, working on keeping his ball-striking where it has been recently and fine-tuning his short game. His short game will come in handy, and of course, there’s the adjustment to slower green speeds at Royal Birkdale because of the wind.

"I like the golf course, it’s very cool. It’s a very tough but fair test, one that’s demanding off the tee. And if you get that part done, into the greens and on the greens, you can play kind of to the center of them and putt to the corners."

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The greens are not crazy, he noted, adding that it is more about ball control in the crosswinds that are predicted.

He was hoping conditions on Wednesday would mimic the early rounds of the tournament to give him a chance to test out his game plan.  He’s a fan of the graduated rough.

"With the winds that we’re going to have, if it’s very difficult to hold a fairway, if you hit a really good shot and it creeps into the rough, there’s very little rough, you’re still fine. The further off line you hit it, for the most part out here, the more trouble you’re going to be in."

In addition, the number of sharp doglegs at Royal Birkdale makes it a placement course more than a bomb and gouge course.  More like a Hilton Head or Colonial than Quail Hollow or Congressional.  At least that’s the pre-tournament thinking. Of course, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson could change a lot of minds on that, depending on how they play.

The bunkers, he noted, are placed so that you have to figure out whether you want to hit over some and lay up in front of some, and sometimes a golfer needs to do both on the same hole.

"It’s going to be very difficult for you to fly them but leave them short of the next set of bunkers. A lot of risk/reward options off the tee out here, and if you choose for the risky, and you still hit a good shot, it really will reward you."

Muirfield v Royal Birkdale v St. Andrews

So far, Spieth’s favorite course is Murifield, primarily, he thinks because it was his first British Open.

"The Open in St. Andrews was pretty fun, going for three majors and having a good chance, making a long putt on 16 and just not quite finishing it off. But what an amazing experience to contend in an Open at St. Andrews. This is right up there, Birkdale, the golf course. I think the golf course is certainly a better test than St. Andrews is. So if we’re going to rate golf courses, I’d put this right below Muirfield."

Next: Royal Birkdale champions, 1954-2017

Regardless of what happens this week or in the remaining weeks between now and the end of the 2017 PGA TOUR calendar, he says it is still a good season.  Winning this week would make it a great one.