Spieth back to defend title that set up landmark season

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 7:41 PM

(Reuters) - Twelve months ago, Jordan Spieth learned the art of closing the deal when contending for a golf title and the floodgates have certainly opened for the young American since that lesson.

Dominant victories in successive weeks at the Australian Open and then the Hero World Challenge in Florida at the end of last year paved the way for a landmark 2015 PGA Tour campaign that yielded five wins, including two at the majors.

While Spieth knows it will be challenging for him to build on that success next season, the world number one was in an upbeat mood on Wednesday as he prepared to defend his Hero title this week in the Bahamas.

"This is a very easy week for us," a smiling Spieth told reporters at Albany Golf Club in New Providence while preparing for Thursday's opening round in the elite 18-player event hosted by Tiger Woods to benefit his foundation.

"With (just) 18 guys and we're traveling to some of the coolest courses to play ... this has been just a great kind of cap on the year, a celebration of the year almost.

"But it's still world ranking points, it's still a nice purse and a quality field that you need to really practise to try and beat. I was pleased to validate that Australian win so quickly last year and gain some momentum."

Spieth won the first two majors this year - the Masters and U.S. Open - and came close to recording the first ever calendar grand slam of the four professional majors, with his worst finish a tie for fourth at the British Open.

He ended the 2014-15 PGA Tour season with record earnings of $12,030,465, eclipsing the previous mark of $10,905,166 by Vijay Singh in 2004, before being voted Player of the Year.

All that success was underpinned by his storming performances at the 2014 Australian Open, which he won by six shots, and the following week at the Hero World Challenge, where he coasted home by a massive 10 strokes.

"Those two wins were really big because I just learned how to close mentally, to get into the lead and then on Sunday actually bring what I felt like was my best stuff of the week," the 22-year-old Texan recalled.

"Those Sunday evenings (earlier in 2014) were tough for me when I didn't close them out. Makes you really appreciate now that you can."

Asked how he could possibly match his remarkable 2015 campaign next year, Spieth replied: "I'm not sure yet ... I believe I can get better certainly in different specific parts of my game and I can grow mentally as a player as well.

"I don't know if it will lead into the same kind of accolades that this year brought forth, but I can certainly finish next season feeling like I'm a better player than I was in 2015."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine)