Jordan Spieth readies for home game but Masters looms large

The three-time Major winner will tee it up in this week’s Valero Texas Open before going in search of a second Masters Green Jacket at Augusta National

It would be easy to think that Jordan Spieth is somewhat distracted as he prepares to do battle at this week's Valero Texas Open.

After all, in just over seven days' time the American will be bidding to try and win his favourite tournament on his favourite course: The Masters at Augusta National.

A welcome return to form over the last few months has seen Spieth's odd tumble for the year's first Major.

And with Augusta almost upon us, Spieth is 14/1 with William Hill to add to his victory in 2015 and become a dual Masters winner.

But if having one eye on Georgia rather than Texas seems understandable, let's not underestimate Spieth's ability to keep focused on the task in hand.

Spieth is a proud Texan. This event means a lot to him. And you can be sure he'll be trying his hardest to give himself the perfect Masters send-off by winning at TPC San Antonio.

If that sounds like an easy line to trot out, check out Spieth's past as his record in events played the week before a Major is quite something.

Looking back to 2015, Spieth warmed up for what would be a momentous week for him at Augusta National with a second place in another Texas event, the Houston Open. That runners-up finish provided the perfect springboard as he went on to win The Masters by four shots.

Later that season there were question marks when he decided to contest the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic one week before the Open Championship. Would he not have been better honing his game on the links?

None of that bothered Spieth. He scored a brilliant win in the John Deere and came with a shot of making the play-off at St. Andrews.

Fast forward and before Spieth took third place at the 2018 Masters he finished third again the week before at the Houston Open.

Spieth is the 10/1 favourite with Paddy Power to win the Valero Texas Open. For those wanting to back him, history should offer reassurance that he'll be giving it 100%.

Inevitably, with Augusta so close, the 27-year-old was bombarded with Masters questions during his Texas Open press conference on Tuesday.

Here's what he said about this week and the big one coming up.

On coming to San Antonio after playing in last week's WGC Dell Match Play

"It's kind of very convenient, we were only about an hour, hour 20 away. Spent kind of the weekend hanging in Austin and then came down I guess Sunday evening and tested. So, excited for this week. Obviously leading into next week, so trying to just keep progressing, keep working on what I'm working on and try to get myself in contention and have a chance to win on the weekend."

On this week's course - TPC San Antonio

"The golf course here is really challenging. It's very rare you get to play it without a 15-mile an hour wind and it looks like we're going to get that again this week. It's just a really difficult driving golf course. You can't make many mistakes off the tee, you've got to be hitting fairways because it's not just like bunkers on one side. A lot of holes you have that rocks and that brush off both sides of the fairway. So you've got to drive it straight in the wind and then from there, you know, it gets dicey in different places you miss around these greens. So you can feed balls into holes and make birdies, but if you miss the spots, you can get into some trouble. Tee to green it's just a very fun challenge.

"The closing holes are awesome. You've got an opportunity, you've got a really tough par 4 in 15 and then you go to 16, that kind of cool hole with the bunker in the middle, and then two birdie opportunities to finish. You just get kind of a mix and match of trying to stay alive for some of the course and then trying to take advantage of other parts of the golf course.

"The tournament itself, I've loved it. I've felt a lot of support here, a lot of University of Texas support coming from Austin and just a lot of Texas in general. Texans like to root for Texans is what I've found over the years here, whether it's Ryan Palmer, guys that I've been paired with in tournaments like this in the past. It's a blast to play in the state of Texas, I've always really, really enjoyed that extra support."

On the state of his game going into this year's Masters compared to the last couple

"I think definitely in a better place, feel good tee to green. Trying to continue to progress and get even better and tighter, especially with wedge distance control. I've driven the ball really well the last few tournaments on some pretty difficult driving golf courses.

"But for me, I've got to get a lot of work in on my short game. I've hit the ball better the last few tournaments than I did even on the West Coast, but just kind of lost a little confidence at THE PLAYERS after not seeing any putts go in. Kind of started to feel a little bit better throughout it throughout the Match Play, but just got some work to do on my stroke and then just dial in some short game shots that I may just have taken my mind a little off of with a lot of swing work.

"Just fine tuning the short game is going to be kind of No.1 priority. Any kind of technique work on the swing, try and kind of get that out the next couple days and then spend the next 10 just in game mode, similar to what I've done in previous years.

"But yeah, I feel in a better place than leading into the last couple Masters. You know, you go there, I expect it to be a very different Masters than what we've seen in the last couple. Rumours that I've heard already are that it's already firm and fast two, three weeks out from the golf tournament. I think it will play significantly different and I'm looking forward to that challenge."

On feeling a level of comfort when arriving at Augusta

"It's normally Monday for me when I get there. Drive down Magnolia Lane, for me it's like, "It's go time." Almost like regardless of form, regardless of if you just won or if you've missed the previous cut, it really makes no difference to me in my confidence level when I pull into Magnolia Lane. It's just such a unique golf course in that it's a lot of shot-making versus what you get in a lot of other places. And then the greens require just so much imagination, it almost just feels like a totally different game sometimes there. You know, I've had chances to win after, like I said, missing the cut in the previous week, like I think in '14 and '16, and I've come in off of a couple seconds and played well as well.

"So I'm looking to build up a little bit to be able to taper down next week as far as the amount of golf balls hit and the amount of focus on technique so that when I get there, I can just kind of go through the gates of Magnolia Lane, go down that first day and just say, all right, we're here to play this week."

On playing this year's Masters so soon after the last one in November

"I think this one feels almost like a normal Masters. I kind of forgot that we didn't play it last April and I kind of looked at last November as just a bonus, like a bonus Masters. I think once we're on the grounds, the fact that it wasn't a full year, but with patrons allowed, I think once you start seeing crowds in the practice rounds like other years, it will start to almost again feel like November was just the odd man out and it will feel like just a normal Masters just leading into it.

"I think all players are really excited that we were able to play it and be able to play two Masters in five or six months. I mean, that hopefully will never happen again. As many times as we can go play a tournament on that golf course, I'm going to be excited. It might feel a bit odd to be there so soon, but guys take a lot of different trips and the only one I kind of feel bad about for is Dustin (Johnson). Unless he were to repeat, he didn't get the jacket for more than five months unless they let him keep it until next November. That's kind of a bummer for him."

READ MORE: A look at Masters champion Dustin Johnson's hopes of glory in the 2021 Majors

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