Tuesday 25 October 2016

'Second-season syndrome' has Spieth chasing Major remedy

Published 19/07/2016 | 02:30

USA's Jordan Spieth reacts after a double bogey. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
USA's Jordan Spieth reacts after a double bogey. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Jordan Spieth is struggling with 'second-season syndrome' and the longer he goes without a Major win, the more the outside pressures increase.

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The questions keep coming, and the two-time Major winner keeps saying he's getting close, but on the course he has yet to find the complete answer to restore himself to the top of the game.

It is easy to forget that Spieth is only 22, has only been out on Tour only since 2013, and set a ridiculously high standard last year.

Masters champion, US Open champion, finishing just outside the play-off for the British Open at St Andrews, and second at the USPGA - those results show how well the kid can play this game.


And, of course, he ought to have turned the 2016 Masters into a procession, but shed a five-shot lead and lost out to Danny Willett.

At Oakmont last month, Spieth was an also-ran, and in Troon, he was irrelevant in terms of the outcome.

On July 27, the day before the US PGA starts at Baltusrol, he turns 23, and by then will again have been grilled on his prospects for the last Major of this season.

In simple terms, Spieth felt the love all through 2015, but a combination of his results and the Olympics controversy has left him open to judgements he has never experienced.

Pádraig Harrington, a three-time Major winner, knows all about the process of striving to achieve, then hitting the heights and having to deal with the massive scrutiny of every aspect of his game. Don't get me wrong - these guys live for the glory days, and they can cocoon themselves within their camp from the outside clamour.

The challenge is to find ways to cope, and avoid negativity seeping into the psyche.

Harrington sees a relative downturn in form as almost inevitable following a big success, or, in Spieth's case, a string of victories.

He said: "I think everybody who wins Majors, everybody who has a little purple patch, is trying to live up to what they perceive they did, and what the public thinks they did, which isn't always the same thing.

"It's far from the truth many times. There are very few players who have won Majors that have actually played better afterwards.

"Really, it is definitely a millstone to be carried," he added. "Essentially, winning Major championships is really difficult. Winning multiple Majors is even tougher.

"If you have it in your head you're going to win 18 Majors, it's easier to keep winning after you've won one.

"If you have in your head that one is a good thing, it's very hard to win a second one. It's very hard to win a third.

"I think for any player - you just have to go through all the guys that have won Majors - very few of them have played their best golf afterwards. Most of them were playing their best golf just before they won a Major."

Read more: Six things we learned at Royal Troon

After that, Harrington believes that it's a case of the players meeting their own expectations.

"It might have been different in Jordan's case and Rory's case. Maybe when they started off they believed they were going to win many Majors.

"I certainly started off just trying to keep my card. To win a tournament was great.

"But I had a good head on me to realise to talk always in the plural when it came to Majors, but certainly deep down inside me, three was my ceiling.

"Even though I'm trying to break that, it's a hard thing to do," added Harrington.

Spieth definitely thinks in terms of winning more Majors, and he will soon have the answer to whether 2016 is going to offer up one more on his CV.

"If you win a Major, it would be pretty amazing if you had enough to fill up two hands by the time you're done," he said.

"Just getting three Majors in my career would be special," he said. "The PGA Championship could become one of the most special weeks I've ever had. So that's what we're focused on is grinding for that.


"Then we have the play-offs, the FedEx Cup Championship, which is also there's obviously incentive there.

"There is a big focus on the end of this year. I've got to avenge the 2014 singles match in the Ryder Cup that I lost for the team, and I'm going to go back and try to avenge that the best I can," added Spieth.

Jason Day and Rory McIlroy fall into the same category as Spieth in looking for the key that opens the door to their best form.

McIlroy is trying to stay patient, especially after being asked if it was a matter of 'keeping the faith'.

"Bar the missed cut at the US Open, my results have been decent the last few times I've played.

"I mean, the win at the Irish Open, fourth at Memorial, I had the missed cut (Oakmont), but then third in France, and it's a top-five here (Troon). So it's not that much wrong," he said.

Irish Independent

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