Masters 2021: Jordan Spieth searching for ‘next step’ at Augusta National

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Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy with their caddies at Augusta National
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are both one major away from completing the career Grand Slam but only the Northern Irishman can achieve it this week
Date: 8-11 April Venue: Augusta National Golf Club
Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and BBC Sounds. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website from first drive to last putt on all four days. Daily highlights on BBC Two. Click for full coverage details

Jordan Spieth has got a “monkey off my back” by ending a four-year winless run but knows he must improve further if he is to win a second Masters this week.

Before winning the Texas Open on Sunday, Spieth’s last triumph had been the Open Championship in 2017.

“It’s pretty awesome when I look back and think there’s a next level I’ve been at that I’m still searching for right now,” said the 27-year-old.

“It’s about refocusing here and taking the next step.”

Victory last week was the 12th of his career and followed three top fives earlier in 2021, proving that he is rediscovering the form that helped him win the Masters and US Open in 2015, before picking up the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale.

Since those three major titles, Spieth lost his game and dropped out of the world’s top 100.

“I was humbled to an extent,” said the American after arriving at Augusta National on Monday.

“I never felt like I ever got ahead of myself. I never felt like I was out there overly confident. But I think you get humbled a little bit.

“I just got further off than normally professionals get, and so it has been a climb back.”

Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, was, in 2006, the last player to win on the PGA Tour and immediately follow that with a Masters victory.

“I certainly wouldn’t mind that this week, if that’s what you’re asking,” said Spieth with a smile. “I also like to step back and think I’m 27 and a lot of people’s careers get started at 27 in this sport. Phil [Mickelson] was 31 or something [33] when he won his first major.

“I like the progress that I’m making. I don’t feel like I have the control of all facets of the game that I want to have yet, but I feel like I’m working in the right direction.

“Will that make a difference this week? I don’t know. But I’m going to try to be just a little better than I was last week.”

Spieth has an excellent record at Augusta. He was joint second on his debut in 2014 and followed his 2015 victory by again finishing joint runner-up in 2016, although he did throw away a five-shot lead to hand England’s Danny Willett the title, and he was third in 2018 after a closing eight-under-par 64.

“I love being here,” he said “It’s my favourite tournament in the world.

“I think the patrons play such a massive role into this tournament, the echoes, the roars down in the valley, and especially come the weekend, it won’t take many people for it to feel close enough to normal to be a fantastic event.”

The Masters will be the first major since The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 to allow spectators to attend and an estimated 7,500 patrons were present for Monday’s practice day.

Those who were allowed in could watch defending champion and world number one Dustin Johnson play nine holes with Rory McIlroy, who will be making his seventh attempt to complete the career Grand Slam by winning at Augusta National.

The Northern Irishman, who won the last of his four majors in 2014, also worked with swing coach Pete Cowen, a new addition to his team, on Monday.

“Just go back to the simple process of practising to improve,” Cowen said of working with McIlroy. “There’s no getting better in the past so we’ve got to move forward.”

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