SYDNEY, Australia -- One year, two major wins, a FedEx Cup victory and $22 million in on-course earnings removed from his previous visit to The Australian Club, Jordan Spieth still feels able to call the closing 63 with which he claimed the 2014 Australian Open, “one of the best rounds I’ve ever played in my life.”
Which is no surprise to any of those who witnessed the then 21-year-old Texan’s dismantling of the Jack Nicklaus design in blustery conditions that provoked defending champion Rory McIlroy to claim his successor’s final-round performance was nothing short of “awesome.”
But a lot has happened to Spieth since that special round, most recently visits to two of Australia’s finest courses, Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne. Unlike Tiger Woods, who professed “admiration” for Melbourne’s famous Sandbelt courses without ever taking a look at any of them other than the one he was playing that week, the Masters and U.S. Open champion is a golfer, not just a professional golfer.
“They were two of the last places to play on my bucket list,” he said. “They were great and unique, and I really enjoyed them. I really do love Oz, and I love this course and the city.”
The rest of 2015 hasn’t been too shabby either. While Spieth was quick to dispel any impression that he may already have had the best year of his still-fledgling career, he is also mature enough to know that such an eventuality is distinctly possible.
“I don’t know if I’ll actually raise the bar on what I accomplished in this year. I don’t know if that is realistic,” he said. “You have to approach every year believing you can actually do better. I could go without missing a cut. I missed four this year. I like playing on weekends, so there’s ways to improve on that.
“Plus, there’s a chance it can all come together and I can improve on the last year. I believe that, otherwise there would be no point in me setting lofty goals. I believe that my best is forward. I believe that my prime is ahead of me. I have to believe that, but I actually do.
“Having said that, if I had to pick the three most lucrative tournaments for me to win, I won all three. That was the plan and it just came together. If I could somehow duplicate that year for the rest of my career I would be pretty pleased.”
Next year, of course, Spieth will likely have a first opportunity to win an Olympic Gold Medal in Brazil. Unlike the player he calls “the man to beat this week,” Adam Scott, the American claims a real enthusiasm for the world’s biggest sporting event.
“Winning a gold medal has got to be up there in my mind with a major championship,” he said. “I’ve been asked the question: green jacket or gold medal? But that’s not fair. I think next year I’m going to approach it as a fifth major and I’m going to prepare like it is. I’m going to go down there and take care of business.”
Only one question left the always courteous and thoughtful defending champion almost lost for words. Hosting a clinic for youngsters after his pre-championship press conference, Spieth was asked by a 7-year-old if he believed in God.
“I do,” he said.
“Well I don’t,” responded one of Australia’s younger atheists.