Spieth slumping? Think again

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[September 12, 2016]  By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange

Jordan Spieth defends two titles next week, and he needs a little help for one.

Spieth captured the 2015 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and wrapped up the FedExCup with his fifth victory of the year.

However, he is barely out of the coveted top five spots in the FedExCup standings at No. 7 this time. Anyone ranked No. 1 through No. 5 would capture the season-long championship with a win in Atlanta. Still, if Spieth repeats in the finale, there is a reasonable chance he will take home the cup again.

The top five are Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott of Australia, Jason Day of Australia and Paul Casey of England.

"Obviously (I'm) trying to repeat as the guy standing on the 18th green at East Lake," said Spieth, who tied for 10th in The Barclays, tied for 21st in the Deutsche Bank Championship and finished ninth in the BMW Championship -- the first three events of the playoffs.

"The Tour Championship is the Tour Championship. It's our last chance of that season to make an exclamation point to cap off a year, to make a significant impact, and there's certainly incentive in the FedExCup and the Tour Championship itself.

"It's a very significant event that we put up there in the top -- right below a major championship. It's extremely high importance."

That said, Spieth has something else on his mind.

The Ryder Cup is the following week at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., and he is well aware of the fact that Europe has beaten the United States the last three times and six of the last seven.

Spieth knows which cup he would rather win.

"Ryder Cup," he said when asked. "I got (a FedExCup). I don't have the other one yet.

"I think I've mentioned this before, that the Ryder Cup in 2014 prepared me for what happened in 2015. I felt like each hole I played was a back nine of a major championship hole. It's played with that much passion, that much intensity. There's nothing like it in golf. There's nothing like the Ryder Cup.

"So I can't even imagine what it would be like on a winning team, but we are going to go ahead and try to bring that feeling to ourselves and to our country."

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Spieth captured the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by eight strokes in January, and it appeared 2016 was going to be something of a repeat of last season.

However, his only other victory came in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational in May, although he did finish in the top 10 on eight occasions. That is a career season for many players, but all the talk has been that this has been a down year for Spieth.

"I think it's been a really good season," said Spieth, who has eight wins on the PGA Tour at the age of 23. "If I have a season like this and I'm out here for 20 more years, that's 50-some-odd wins, so I'm certainly OK with that. ...

"Honestly, with the way this year has gone, which I thought it's been a pretty great year, it actually makes me really put in perspective how special last year was, because it's not going to be the norm. No one wins two majors a year for their entire career and a FedExCup. That just doesn't happen. It puts it in perspective.

"It helps me appreciate how special last year was."

Unfortunately, Spieth's 2016 season will be remembered most for his back-nine meltdown in final round of his title defense at the Masters, where he blew a five-stroke lead and tied for second behind Danny Willett of England.

Spieth doesn't beat himself up over it.

"With the close call at the Masters, I had a chance to win that one," said Spieth, who hit two balls into the water on the 12th hole at Augusta National en route to a quadruple-bogey 7 that was the lowlight of his collapse.

"I had ladies at grocery stores coming up and putting their hand on me and going, 'I'm really praying for you. How are you doing?' And I'm like, 'My dog didn't die. I'm doing OK.' I'll survive. It happens. It was unfortunate timing.

"I laugh about it now. I really do. ... I'll be back."

When you look at it closely, Spieth really hasn't gone anywhere.

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