Spieth relying on experience in bid for Masters repeat

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AUGUSTA, GA. >> Packing for a three-week road trip reminded Jordan Spieth that winning the Masters wasn't as easy as he made it look.

Driving down Magnolia Lane made it all seem possible again.

Among the clothes he packed was the green jacket that had been hanging in his closet at home in Dallas for much of the year. Only the current Masters champion is allowed to take it with him from Augusta National.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is actually ... there's a possibility that I don't have this back at my house anymore' when I was leaving home," Spieth said Tuesday. "It kind of fired me up a little. Just the jacket itself provides a little motivation, which is cool. But at the same time, it's not easy. It's not easy to get."

Spieth last year joined the short list of wire-to-wire winners at the Masters, setting the 36-hole record, tying the 72-hole record and never letting anyone get within three shots of him after the opening round. It was the first step in a year that saw him win the U.S. Open and make a spirited bid for the Grand Slam.

No one is overlooking the defending champion, not when he started the year with an eight-shot win and stayed at No. 1 in the world until two weeks ago. Still, he hasn't been in serious contention in more than two months.

A year ago, Spieth had a victory and two runner-up finishes when he arrived at Augusta National. He knew his game was sharp, and he knew he could play Augusta National from having played in the final group as a Masters rookie the previous year.

What inspires him now are the memories.

"We've already done it," he said. "It's not like I'm chasing my first major. We have two major championships now. So we feel like there's an advantage if we can get into contention against those who are searching for their first. ... Sure, I'm putting pressure on myself to contend this year, just like last year. And I feel like I'm in form, as well. But it's also going to be a lot of fun walking these fairways, reliving those memories with the crowds and the roars, the echoes."

Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02) are the only players to win back-to-back at the Masters.

And Spieth hasn't cornered the market on major victories.

Jason Day, who replaced him at No. 1, won the PGA Championship in August and became the first player to finish at 20-under par in a major. Rory McIlroy already is a four-time major champion and going after the career Grand Slam at the Masters. Adam Scott, 2013 Masters champion, won twice in Florida.

"There are probably 10, 12, 15 guys you could make a good case for that have a real shot at winning this tournament, even with the standard of golf that high," Scott said.

Spieth knows nothing but success at Augusta National. In just two appearances, he has yet to have a round worse than par. He had the lead with 11 holes to play as a Masters rookie in 2014 until Bubba Watson chased him down. No one came close to him last year in his four-shot victory.

Horton Smith is the only player to have won the Masters twice in his first three appearances. Jack Nicklaus, the standard against whom everyone is measured at the Masters, won three times in a four-year stretch early in his career. The exception was a runner-up finish in 1964.

Spieth isn't a prototypical power player, though an immaculate short game goes a long way at Augusta National.

"I love courses where you have to use your imagination and a lot of feel, so I just kind of had a unique eye for it, I guess — a passion for it. A place that you come back to play every single year in a major, this is the only one. You already have a ton of focus on the golf course and really dissecting, giving it your all that week in a major.

"It sticks with you."

Parts of this week are a new experience for the Masters champion. He now walks up a flight of stairs at the clubhouse to the newly renovated locker room reserved for champs. He shares a locker with Arnold Palmer. He put on his green jacket Tuesday evening for the Champions Dinner, where the 22-year-old Texan had barbecue on the menu.

That will be the last time he wears his green jacket this week — unless he wins again on Sunday.


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