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Reigning champion Jordan Spieth motivated to win back Masters’ green jacket

jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Jordan Spieth is going to miss the green jacket.

A little-known fact about the Masters is that the tournament champion must return his jacket to Augusta National Golf Club when he returns the next year.

That’s where Spieth finds himself this week. After winning last year’s Masters in memorable fashion – tying Tiger Woods’ four-day scoring record and becoming the second-youngest champion after Woods to win the tournament – Spieth is back at Augusta National, where he will turn in that size 44 green jacket.

His quest to win another begins Thursday.

“The jacket provides a little motivation,” Spieth said. “Which is cool, but, at the same time, it’s not easy to get. I didn’t take it for granted, whatsoever.”

Spieth’s Masters victory came in the midst of one of the more dominant seasons in recent PGA Tour memory. After winning at Augusta, he went on to claim the U.S. Open. That kindled talk of winning the grand slam, but he fell short at the British Open (finishing fourth).

Let’s just go ahead and play what I consider my favorite course in the world.

Jordan Spieth

In all, he won five times, earned more than $12 million in prize money and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world.

Winning at Augusta, however, sent Spieth on his way.

“Let’s just go ahead and play what I consider my favorite course in the world,” Spieth said. “Have fun playing the Masters.”

Spieth, of course, is among the favorites this week. Jason Day, who took over from Spieth as the world’s No. 1-ranked player last week, rates as a slight favorite, followed by Spieth, Rory McIlroy, two-time champion Bubba Watson and 2013 winner Adam Scott.

Spieth, 22, has experienced nothing but success in his two previous Masters. He tied for second in 2014 in his first try before going wire-to-wire to win last year.

This season has been bumpy for Spieth. He won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January, but has just one top-10 since then (tying for ninth at the WGC-Match Play) and missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open.

Spieth won five tournaments and more than $12 million in 2015.

But, like most golfers of Spieth’s stature, the season doesn’t really begin until the Masters.

“I hope to get off to a good start,” said Spieth, who will play Thursday and Friday with Paul Casey and amateur Bryson DeChambeau. “If I don’t, then I’m going to have to reach down deep and really stay patient and let the birdies come to me.”

Spieth enjoyed his time with the green jacket in the months since he won at Augusta. He’d wear it around the house, sometimes while grilling food for friends. He’s not sure he appreciated it enough while he had it, though.

“Just hanging out in it for the first couple of times where everything’s dialed back,” he said. “When you’re with your friends, who are so excited. ... But at the same time, they are not going to sit there and ask you all these questions about what it’s like. They’re just going to give me crap about it – they are my best friends.

2 Spieth’s world ranking (behind Jason Day)

“I could have taken advantage of having it more than I did. But you learn. The next time I’ll do it a little better.”

Spieth is appreciating everything about being a Masters champion at Augusta this week. He hosted the annual Champions Dinner on Wednesday night (Texas barbecue, featuring beef brisket as the entrée and a warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream for dessert). He still pinches himself over his inclusion in the newly renovated Champions Locker Room.

“It was an experience that I tried to soak in as I was walking up the steps,” he said. “Trying to make that experience last a life time. Because how often do you go in and see your name in the Champions Locker Room at Augusta National for the first time?”

The ultimate symbol of winning at Augusta is, of course, that green jacket. Spieth said he felt a tinge of regret when he pulled itout of his closet in Dallas and packed it for the trip to Augusta.

“Wow,” he thought to himself. “There’s a chance that I won’t have this back at my house any more.”

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