Defending champion Jordan Spieth will call on his feel for links golf and some imagination to overcome a recent form slump and contend for The Open Championship this week.
The 24-year-old ventured out onto the Carnoustie layout for the first time on Monday afternoon, spending a lot of time with caddie Michael Greller and club selection from the tees.
The three-time major winner has missed three cuts in seven tournaments since he fired a final round 64 to storm into third place at the Masters in April.
On the eve of his Open defence he confessed to trying to be too technically correct in the past few months, which ultimately was to the detriment of his game.
“I feel like I'm in a position now with every part of my game, I kind of attacked the places that really needed some strong work. That combination with an Open Championship, the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me to kickback into shape.” – Jordan Spieth
“My chances this year, yeah, my game feels good,” he said. “But I needed a break. I was kind of dragging along, playing cut-line golf for a while, and playing a pretty heavy schedule, and I needed to kind of get away from the game, which I did.
“I feel good about the way I did it and the coming back to it.”
“And coming to an Open Championship requires a lot of feel and imagination, and I think that's what I needed a bit of in my game. I'd gotten very technical and very into making everything perfect instead of kind of the way that I normally play.
“So this week kind of provides that opportunity where you don't know how far the ball is necessarily going to go off the tee. You need to play the spots, and then you have to use your imagination from there … hold the ball, ride the wind, a lot of different scenarios based on where pins are and the distance that you have.”
Spieth, who won the Open by three shots at Royal Birkdale last year, hasn’t won a tournament since, which was starting to frustrate the young American on the course.
“Over this last stretch, I didn't let it get to me off the golf course,” he said.
“Certainly on the golf course, if I'm not playing well, you can tell, and if I'm playing well, you can tell. So you probably saw more of the not playing well because I wasn't playing as well.
“But I didn't let it affect me out from the game. Instead it was actually fueling me. I was enjoying the work even though I knew it wasn't there.
“I was leading the Travelers after round one, but I knew the game wasn't really at a consistent, sustainable place. I'm usually a little more confident after leading a round. But I kind of knew it wasn't.
“I didn't get ahead of myself. I wasn't down on myself that I didn't play well the next couple of days. Instead, I knew there was work that needed to be done and things weren't firing on all cylinders to win golf tournaments. I know what that feels like, and I wasn't feeling that way.”
But he believes his improved game and the fact he’s playing The Open will combine to see him emerge from his form slump.
“I feel like I'm in a position now with every part of my game, I kind of attacked the places that really needed some strong work,” he said. “That combination with an Open Championship, the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me to kickback into shape.”
Before heading out onto the course for the first time, Spieth returned the Claret Jug to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers in a small ceremony on Carnoustie’s 1st tee.
"It wasn't an enjoyable experience, but it's done," said Spieth of handing the trophy back.
"Hopefully it will only be out of my possession for a week. That would be ideal. The traditions of The Open are very special, even if you're on the wrong end of that one.”