JORDAN Spieth spent Saturday evening learning about Australian history and used Sunday to write himself into it after the US star won his second Australian Open in a thrilling playoff.
Finishing tied with Aussies Cameron Smith and Ash Hall after the regulation 18 holes, an ice-cold Spieth drained a three-metre putt on the first playoff hole to claim victory at Royal Sydney.
The Texan had his name engraved on the Stonehaven Cup again, two lines down from when he won the Australian Open in Sydney in 2014.
Overnight leader Geoff Ogilvy had looked in great position to win but was left to drown his sorrows after coming unstuck on the third-last hole, via a trip to the trees that saw him take a lethal double-bogey.
Spieth became the tenth player to win the title twice, and only the third foreigner to win multiple times. But when informed Gary Player had won seven Australian Opens, Jack Nicklaus six and Greg Norman five, Spieth quipped: “Geez, I feel pretty poorly about two, with those guys …”
Spieth may not be finished with the engraver quite yet, though.
The 23-year-old is in high demand around the world but after three straight years of travelling to play in the Australian Open, Spieth said he rates Sydney as one of his favourite cities and plans to return.
On Saturday afternoon after his third round, Spieth and his girlfriend Annie climbed the bridge and learned about the history of Sydney’s settlement, which appealed to the self-confessed “geography nut”.
Sightseeing is one thing but what could realistically see Spieth continue to be a regular at the Australian Open is his habit of using the tournament as a valuable psychological tool for his wider professional career.
In 2014, Spieth admitted he used his dominant last round of 63 to understand how to close out a tournament and he did just five more times in 2015; including two Majors.
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On Sunday Spieth had to claw back from a “frustrating” first nine that saw him trail by as much as four strokes, and make a series of clutch plays down the stretch. He only drew level with the leaders on the third last hole — via a long putt — and then nailed 2-3 metre putts on 17, 18 and the first playoff hole to win.
“I had a chance coming here last year on 18 and didn’t hit a great putt. Today I had that same chance with a very similar putt in the playoff and capitalised. I drew back a little on that and said: “This is our time to close this one out”,” Spieth said.
But it was putting the ball into those spots on the greens that meant the most to Spieth, after a 2016 season that saw him begin to doubt his swing under pressure.
His meltdown at the US Masters wasn’t in his mind, Spieth said, but he conceded he’d learned valuable lessons at Royal Sydney about trusting his swing when the butterflies began to kick in.
“I didn’t have much confidence in my swing today in the last couple of holes in regulation. But I was able to calm down in between and said “let’s go ahead and prove to ourselves we can hit clutch shots — swings — when it matters. We know we can make putts, let’s make some clutch swings when it matters. It had been a little while”,” he said.
“It is very hard to do, you can’t practice being nervous. You can’t get on the range and say “okay, get nervous and we’ll hit some”. It doesn’t work that way. It just comes through experience.
“To hit those two shots right where I wanted to hit them (in the playoff), and then to make the putt, was really big going forward.
“It is something I can draw on next year. I can look back on the way this one was finished.”
Asked if he’d back in 2017, Spieth said he wasn’t certain but he “planned to”.
“How can you argue with coming here and the confidence we have got out of this event?,” he replied.
“I have cut out a lot of overseas travel this year but still came here because that is how important this event is to us. I haven’t gone anywhere else.”