THREE-TIME MA­JOR CHAMP SPI­ETH FINDS FORM AF­TER TOUGH YEAR

Golf Asia - - GOLFING PROFILE - BY JIM SLATER

Jor­dan Spi­eth has strug­gled all year with putting woes and swing is­sues, but the three-time ma­jor cham­pion is find­ing his form just in time for the Ry­der Cup. The 25-year-old Texan qual­i­fied for the US squad that will de­fend the tro­phy against Europe in France but he hasn't won since cap­tur­ing last year's Bri­tish Open, be­set by trou­bles in all ar­eas of his game.

"I got pretty far off in my golf swing from the Play­ers on," Spi­eth said, start­ing down a wrong path for weeks in May and June. I spent lit­er­ally two months nail­ing in the wrong thing and I was try­ing to climb back out of it. And that's un­usual. I never had that in my ca­reer. I've been work­ing the right di­rec­tion back, just like with the putting. The putting started to im­prove around the Play­ers, af­ter the Masters, but the swing got off. So it has been a year of hav­ing them both not on at the same time and I know they are both on the rise, and that feels good."

Spi­eth made a break­through at the North­ern Trust event, the start of the US PGA sea­son-end­ing play­offs that lead into the Ry­der Cup. "I re­ally found kind of the setup that I used to putt with. I've been search­ing for it for a long time and I found close to 100 per­cent of it," Spi­eth said. "I had been mak­ing a lot of progress over the last month with the put­ter and the re­sults came through."

Spi­eth went back to videos, an­a­lyz­ing and study­ing head and body po­si­tions in de­tail to find sim­ple ar­eas where his pre­ci­sion move­ments have al­tered. "I went to to try and search for it, and it's al­ways the sim­plest stuff

with us," Spi­eth said. "But it was more chal­leng­ing than I'd like this year."

'More fun this year'

Spi­eth, the 2015 Masters and US Open cham­pion, still shone in the ma­jors de­spite his sea­son of strug­gles. He was third at the Masters, shared ninth at the Bri­tish Open and shared 12th at the PGA Cham­pi­onship in try­ing to com­plete a Ca­reer Grand Slam.

"Ac­tu­ally I had more fun this year than 2016, I would say. This year, I've done a great job of rec­og­niz­ing and be­ing pa­tient," Spi­eth said. I wasn't hav­ing much fun for the first three months of the year, and since then, it has not been a bother to me, the re­sults or any­thing. I've re­ally kind of em­braced how I feel, like I'll be bet­ter than ever go­ing for­ward be­cause of what I've learned this year."

It's that hint of con­fi­dence, sens­ing a bet­ter fu­ture af­ter grind­ing his way through a dif­fi­cult cam­paign, that makes Spi­eth a force and one of the world's topranked tal­ents. "Feel like I stepped into the play­offs with my game in the best shape it has been this en­tire year," Spi­eth said. "I feel like through­out the swing I know where it's at, where it needs to be."

Spi­eth matched the Masters tour­na­ment record of Tiger Woods in win­ning the green jacket three years ago and be­came the youngest US Open cham­pion since 1923 the same year. At a time when older stars such as Woods and Phil Mick­el­son re­main fac­tors and big hit­ters like Dustin John­son and Bubba Wat­son win of­ten, Spi­eth leads a new gen­er­a­tion of US stars.

"The game's in a cool place right now," Spi­eth said. "You have a mix­ture of Tiger and Phil play­ing awe­some golf, DJ be­ing num­ber two in the world, Bubba back to win­ning a few times in a year. And then you have your mid-20s play­ers that are able to com­pete in any tour­na­ment as well. It shows what golf's all about. You can play when you're eight years old and you can play when you're 80."

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