Spieth ready to tackle Palmer Invitation­al

- Steve DiMeglio

Former No. 1 and 3-time major champ resumes quest to win again.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jordan Spieth couldn’t wait to get back to work last week.

The former world No. 1 and threetime major champion had taken three major steps forward in his quest to regain residence in golf ’s elite neighborho­od after falling from the upper ranks at a steady – and alarming – rate the past three years.

His fall was so dramatic – he hasn’t won since the 2017 British Open – that he didn’t qualify for last week’s World Golf Championsh­ips-Workday Championsh­ip, the first WGC event he wasn’t eligible for since 2013.

But having tied for fourth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, finishing in a tie for third in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and notching a tie for 15th in the Genesis Invitation­al in three consecutiv­e weeks, the 11-time winner on the PGA Tour went to the range with gusto. He also decided to add this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitation­al to his playing schedule for the first time in an effort to keep his momentum humming.

“I didn’t feel rushed to try and get out and grind,” Spieth said Wednesday before his pro-am round at Bay Hill. “I was able to really take a couple days of rest without itching, like I had to go back and find something. Instead, I knew what I needed to do, knew what I needed to continue to work on, but I needed to go about the right process and rest and recover, which is as or more important than anything else. I feel good. I feel excited to go work on what I’m working on and continue to try and fine-tune it and have kind of every tool in the toolbox.”

Spieth’s recent run vaulted him from 92nd in the world rankings just over a month ago, his lowest position since 2013, to 62nd. He held at least a share of the lead in Phoenix and Pebble and he no longer felt lost inside the ropes.

“Just feel a lot more comfortabl­e on the golf course, settling into rounds, and getting more comfortabl­e in contention,” he said.

Now he’s in a win-win situation at Arnie’s annual bash.

He loves Bermuda grass. Loves windy conditions. Loves tackling difficult courses. He’ll get all three at Bay Hill. This could be the perfect prep for the PGA Tour’s flagship event next week.

“Honestly, I haven’t had much success at The Players Championsh­ip, so being able to get some reps and continue trying to work hard on the game leading into The Players could really help next week, as well,” he said.

But Arnie’s comes first, and Spieth had to put in a crash course to learn the course while still concentrat­ing on the work with his swing. The course is 7,466 yards of potential trouble, especially on eight holes where water comes into play. The rough is thick and healthy, the fairways thin.

“Just have to be patient on a very difficult golf course,” Spieth said. “Try and learn it as best I can. It seems like a course where course knowledge can go a long way, given the difficulty of it and especially on and around the greens.

“With a lot of risk-reward and a lot of different ways to play holes, and with such a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway to be able to hold greens, I think you have really no choice but to just pick a shot, trust what you’re doing and if you pull it off you’re going to be in business and if you don’t, then that’s an execution error and you move on. If I can kind of just go about it really patiently this week, I think I’ll find that kind of blend that I still kind of need right now.”

 ?? ORLANDO RAMIREZ/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Jordan Spieth sandwiched a tie for 3rd at Pebble Beach around a T-4 in the Phoenix Open and a T-15 in the Genesis Invitation­al.
ORLANDO RAMIREZ/USA TODAY SPORTS Jordan Spieth sandwiched a tie for 3rd at Pebble Beach around a T-4 in the Phoenix Open and a T-15 in the Genesis Invitation­al.

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